A local teacher has been honoured with a national award celebrating her work advocating for people with disabilities. Diane Dewing has lived in Kemptville for over 25 years and taught at both South Branch and Kemptville Public School. She and her family moved to the area from Chibougamau, Quebec, to access schools, as well as the services of Community Living, for their intellectually disabled daughter, Jessica. “We came to North Grenville because of the leadership in Community Living North Grenville,” says Diane, who remembers former Executive Director of Community Liv- ing, Ted Shuh, as a champion. “Sandra [McNamara] has that same wonderful vision of inclusion,” she says of the current Executive Director.
Throughout her 37-year teaching career, Diane has been an advocate for people with disabilities, both within the school system and in society at large. She pushed for the closing of Ontario’s institutions for people with disabilities in the mid-late 2000’s, and argued for the need for them to be integrated into the community. “North Grenville stood above the rest in placing people in appropriate housing,” she says.
Diane has also been a leader in developing an inclusive education system in Ontario through her work with the El- ementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF). She has worked hard at advocating for the integration of children with disabilities in the classroom and providing them with the tools they need to succeed. She believes that separating those with disabilities from the regular student population limits both parties in a significant way. “We are all richer as people with diversity,” she says. “How we see our world is based on what we see in school.”
Diane has worked with many teachers to help them help their students with disabilities. “You always have to have your eyes open for barriers for people with disabilities,” she says. “It’s often as simple as a different chair. Even the smallest thing can make all the difference.”
Advocating for those with disabilities in the workforce is also a cause Diane has championed over the years, ensuring that their needs and interests were well reflected in the labour movement. She participated in the Disability Rights Working Groups of both the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and is a founding member of the Disability Caucus at the EFTO.
On December 3, 2018, Diane was presented with the Carol McGregor Award for Disability Rights Activism from the CLC, named after an outstanding disability rights activist who passed away in 2006. It is awarded to a member of the CLC who has made a significant and lasting impact on the community by promoting and defending the rights of person with disabilities.
Diane is very honoured to have received this award, and notes that she couldn’t have done it without the wonderful support of the community in North Grenville. “North Grenville is the heart of everything I have done, regionally and provincially,” she says.
In August, 2018, Diane began a new position as the president of the OTF, representing 180,000 teachers across all school boards in Ontario. Even in her new role, she continues to champion people with disabilities, as she has named Community Living Ontario as the OTF Charity for 2018/19.
Although her work is based out of Toronto, she is still passionate about the North Grenville community and comes home as often as she can. “We have a wonderful community,” she says.