Evening honours advocate Geraldine Braak

Library event recognizes resident for years of service helping blind and disabled

An evening honouring Geraldine Braak, a longtime advocate for the blind and disabled, will be taking place at Powell River Public Library on Thursday, November 30.

The library will rename its audiobook collection in honour of Braak and a plaque will be unveiled, commemorating her years of service as an advocate and voice for blind and disabled people locally and across Canada.

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"She's a great person to honour; she really did work for accessibility," said assistant chief librarian Rebecca Burbank. "I hope it inspires other people in Powell River to do great things."

Among her roles, Braak served as Canadian Council of the Blind national president for eight years and held executive positions for the World Blind Union, a United Nations-based organization representing 180 countries and millions of blind and partially sighted people.

She also served on Transport Canada's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation, advocating for accessibility on modes of public transport such as buses and trains.

Braak's many local achievements include bringing handyDART, a transportation service for disabled people, to Powell River. It is that accomplishment she is most proud of.

"It was very important and it took a lot of work and a Royal Commission hearing to establish it," said Braak.

Locally, Braak was also instrumental in establishing low-income housing for the disabled, traffic lights for the blind, curbs accommodating people with disabilities and a better selection of talking books at the library. She has been an executive director of Powell River Model Community Project and started a White Cane Club in Powell River, which coincides with White Cane Week each February and raises awareness of visual impairment.

Event organizer Donna Rekve said she believes it is important to recognize Braak.

"She's done so much for this community; it's just unbelievable," said Rekve. "She has accomplished so much in her life."

Braak was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1997. She also received an honourary Doctor of Law degree from Malaspina University-College in 2000 and was appointed to the Order of Canada that same year.

Former City of Powell River mayor Stewart Alsgard, who will emcee the event at the library, remembers working alongside Braak on many issues during his time as mayor.

"She certainly is an outstanding member of our community," said Alsgard, "an example of what can be done when one puts in a great effort for the best aspects of the community and society at large."

This year, to commemorate Canada 150, a book entitled They Desire a Better Country: The Order of Canada in 50 Stories was released and Braak's story was chosen alongside other well-known Canadians, including astronaut Chris Hadfield and musicians Oscar Peterson and Celine Dion.

"It's still a total shock to me," said Braak.

Currently, Braak is working on national programs with Canadian Council of the Blind.

"My hope for the future is the recognition that people with disabilities do know what is going on in life," said Braak. "They are equally intelligent and just have a different way of doing things. That recognition should be there. Not just locally, but everywhere."

Braak said she is proud of her community's support of her goals.

"Powell River is an outstanding, united community and everybody is always ready to help," she said.

The November 30 library event honouring Braak will be open to public from 7 pm.

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak

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