SRSAN’s Story


story_2001Several  people were able to take the Leadership course given by The Leadership Today Society of Alberta.

Those 38 people and the PDD South Board met on September 12, 2001 to talk about future meetings. Everyone believed that a regional group should continue to meet. The group also talked about:

The group met again on November 9, 2001 in Blairmore, Alberta. We picked:

Sandra Mak, the top person of Leadership Today, helped the group to make plans for the future and talked about what we thought was important. We wrote our ideas on flip chart paper.


We set another date to meet on February 15, 2002 to talk more about how SRSAN would work. On the next meeting on March 27, 2002 we had a facilitator from Community Development help SRSAN pick its vision and mission.

Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association (SAIPA) said they would support SRSAN to:

SRSAN held the first self-advocacy conference, “Let’s Get Connected” at the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel. About 100 people came to the conference.


SRSAN held their second self-advocacy conference titled “Building Stronger Connections”.


On September 22, Clarence (Butch) Marsh passed away suddenly in a tragic accident. Clarence was a great man who worked very hard to see self-advocates be part of the community. He helped in the community and was a good role model for others. At that time, Clarence was Chairperson of SRSAN. Clarence often said “Anyone can learn at any age, people just need a chance.” He was a very good leader and advocate. He will be missed very much by his family and friends.
SRSAN held their third self-advocacy conference titled “Overcoming Challenges” which was an emotional tribute to remembering Clarence and Jim Marsh.


SRSAN held their fourth self-advocacy conference and the first Clarence Marsh Memorial Award was presented to Lana Rutledge.


Self-advocates supported by Peak Vocational and Support Services express their desire to volunteer their time to help SAIPA. Several advocates come in on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to put together the SRSAN newsletter which is later named “The Ripple”. The Ripple gives other self-advocates inspiration and tools to use when speaking up.


The sixth annual conference took place. It was titled “Advocating Your Choices Today”.
Melodie Scout received the Clarence Marsh Memorial Award for all her hard work in promoting self-advocacy and demonstrating her leadership skills. Clarence would be proud.
SRSAN presented a plaque to Judy (Coe) Brown to recognize all of her hard work and dedication. They said, “It has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.”


SRSAN had been working for seven years and it was time to have a retreat. The retreat was to renew, refresh and review what SRSAN does and stands for. It was a two-day retreat and SRSAN revised their mission, vision, values and established two-year goals.

“Who You Are Makes a Difference”  marked the seventh annual self-advocacy conference for SRSAN. Two awards were presented: the Clarence Marsh Memorial Award that went to Virginia Fawcett and an Ally Recognition Award established by Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association (SAIPA) was awarded to Karen Vloo, a support staff that works at Taber Special Needs and supports the self-advocacy group Dynami. Both Virginia and Karen make a difference!


“RESPECT YOU, others and the community!”  marked the eighth annual self-advocacy conference for SRSAN. Two awards were presented: the Clarence Marsh Memorial Award that went to Edmund Zaiser and an Ally Recognition Award was awarded to Laurie Harvey, a support staff that works at CORE Association in Medicine Hat and supports the self-advocacy group CORE Masters. Both Edmund and Laurie make a difference!
SRSAN held its first Walk and Roll for Self-Advocacy. On June 5th, 2009, people gathered at the Lethbridge City Hall where they listened to Rodney Barrows and Lana Rutledge talk about their experience as self-advocates. Representatives from the City of Lethbridge spoke and Bridget Pastoor, MLA for Lethbridge East,  helped to start off the walk and roll. People had signs showing their support of the event and the messages they wanted community to see. People walked to Galt Gardens and had Tom Cain conclude the event. He spoke of SRSAN inviting other minority groups to join us next year. To celebrate the event, people gathered for a BBQ at the Elks compound.


In 2010, SRSAN held its second retreat. SRSAN decided on goals for the next two years and elected their new executive members. These members consisted of a group that was elected by the SRSAN membership . In 2010, SRSAN had over 70 members who helped vote in the election!
In 2010, SRSAN changed the name of the Walk And Roll for Self-Advocacy to the Citizen Walk About. This was to include all citizens who believed in self-advocacy.
Like past years, SRSAN again gave out the Clarence Marsh Memorial Award to a hard working self-advocate. In 2010, Colleen Handell was the deserving winner!
SRSAN also worked hard to get involved in their communities in 2010 by meeting with ministers, participating in “Community Awareness Day” and making presentations about what SRSAN does!


In 2011, SRSAN got even more involved in the community! SRSAN held the third annual Citizen Walk About with more than 100 people attending! This walk included people of all different cultures, backgrounds and diversities. SRSAN also participated in Pink Shirt Day to raise awareness about bullying.
SRSAN continued to have regular meetings and met in locations across the south region. These areas included Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Brooks, Taber and Pincher Creek.
SRSAN showed support for AACT, ACDS and SADAT by attending their annual conferences.
SRSAN also handed out its Clarence Marsh Memorial Award to Ray Remington.


SRSAN participated in two rounds of the social policy framework development through the Government of Alberta, created a voters package that went out to all of SRSAN and SAIPA contacts for the provincial election, hosted their fourth annual Citizen Walk About and their third planning retreat! They also voted in a new executive!


On April 25 and 26, SRSAN held its ninth Self-Advocacy Conference, titled “Opening Doors in Community.” Advocates and allies alike gathered at the Sandman Hotel; the keynote speaker for this conference was Valerie Cade, an acclaimed speaker, consultant and author. Her speech, “There’s a Hero In You!” inspired attendees to believe that anything is possible, all while making participants laugh and cry. Advocates got the chance to attend breakout sessions regarding sex, finances, dance, healthy lifestyles and employment.


Advocates shared their questions, comments and stories during focus groups held by PDD in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. People asked PDD lots of questions, and talked about wanting to go back to school, find meaningful work and  more ways to be included in the community.

SRSAN also held its fifth annual Citizen Walk About.

Advocates made a presentation in Lethbridge about who SRSAN is. Advocates received an opportunity to share personal stories with PDD program branch CEO Jillian Carson and the Assistant Deputy Minister at the time.

Self-advocates from SRSAN and representatives for Albertans Advocating For Change Together (AACT) helped organize the provincial self-advocacy summit. Advocates made a presentation on the importance of advocating to the government. They discussed meeting tips and techniques and how to create a strong and effective letter-writing campaign.


On September 25, SRSAN held its sixth annual Citizen Walk About.NoticeBoard-Unlimited

SRSAN made their voices heard about the government’s Safety Standards legislation for people with developmental disabilities. Many advocates felt the standards were unfair and an invasion of privacy. Advocates wrote letters to then Minister Heather Klimchuk, discussing their questions, concerns and solutions that might work.

The information from these letters were used in a community discussion that took place on February 27th.  Included in the discussion were self-advocates, employees from PDD, Public Health as well as the Environmental Public Health Inspector and Administrator for the south zone. Each person got a chance to make a presentation before the whole group was allowed to ask questions and give answers. Advocates also met with MLAs in the south region to discuss the safety standards.

SRSAN was given an awesome opportunity to participate in a mixed abilities production called Unlimited in partnership with Lisa Doolittle, U of L drama professor and Pamela Boyd, artistic director of Momo Mixed Ability Dance Theatre in Calgary. From March 17 to 21, the actors with and without disabilities packed the University Theatre, inspiring tears, laughter and a greater understanding of meaningful inclusion.

On May 28 and 29, advocates held the 10th annual Self-Advocacy Conference, Humour Me: Dealing With Every Day Life at the Medicine Hat Lodge. Topics included Healthy Eating, Zumba Fitness, Budgeting and The Right To Love. More than 130 people attended!


This proved to be an exciting year for SRSAN. With the 2015 provincial election sweeping change across Alberta, a new government brought many changes to the lives of self-advocates.pic 5

Listening to the voices of self-advocates across Alberta, the government held a province-wide consultation about PDD Safety Standards through an online questionnaire, and an open house style meeting. The consultation team came to Lethbridge March 7. 116 self-advocates, service providers and community members attended the consultation and provided information on their safety concerns and what could be done better. More than 200 self-advocates also provided their opinions through the online questionnaire, focus groups, and other means.

On April 1, the government announced it would repeal the entire Safety Standards regulation and come up with a better solution during a second phase of consultation. Advocates were thrilled to finally have their voices heard, realizing the true power of self-advocacy.

In June, Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir announced the government would no longer use the Supports Intensity Scale for people with developmental disabilities. Self advocates from Lethbridge and Medicine Hat came together to participate in a focus group to determine how to better support people with developmental disabilities. The feedback from this session was sent to Minister Sabir, and published in letters to the editor in newspapers across the south region.

That September, SRSAN’s celebrated the 7th annual Citizen Walk About under the theme, “Celebrating who we are and where we come from” to recognize disability pride. Despite heavy rain, self-advocates and the community shone as people shared their stories, gifts and talents!

SRSAN also decided it was time to change its mission, vision and values. Angie Irvine, a registered psychologist with experience in disability services, helped facilitate discussions with the SRSAN executive and a focus group. They discussed SRSAN’s successes, what was important to SRSAN, and what people wanted out of the group. Read the new mission, vision and values here.

Melody Scout presenting at “Speak Out” in Calgary


With its new mission, vision and values in place, SRSAN was ready to take action! The group got three unique opportunities to meet with important decision-makers in the province:

Other important highlights:


2018 is proving to be another busy year for SRSAN! In May, the group presented its 11th Self-Advocacy Conference with the theme, “Weaving Your Own Path.”

For SRSAN members, this topic is extremely important.

“For most self-advocates, weaving your own path is important because [people with disabilities] often don’t get to make decisions,” says Ben Rowley, member of the conference planning committee. “A lot of people with disabilities are sheltered so it’s hard to learn and grow. This is about showing people that they can achieve their dreams, even though it might take a little
longer to get there.”

But, the conference wasn’t just for those with disabilities! There was something for everyone! The conference provided 140 participants with the tools to begin weaving their own path; several speakers shared thoughts on various topics including:

Several self-advocate speakers also shared inspiring stories and tips.

SRSAN was also fortunate enough to strengthen its continued relationship with Indigenous people, by having dancers and drummers provide a world class performance during the gala evening. We can’t thank them enough!

In July, SRSAN received a visit from Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services, for their important plain language work on the improved AISH application.

“We were excited AISH wanted to hear from us,” said Melody Scout. “I liked helping put the form into everyday language so it’s easier for people with disabilities to fill it out.”

“Improving Access to AISH Supports” – Lethbridge News Now – July 16, 2018

Community Development