Algonquin College’s Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD), under the leadership of Toni Connolly, is a recognized leader in the province of Ontario. It was one of the first post-secondary support services in the province that was set up to support the independence and academic success of students with disabilities through the promotion of campus accessibility and supporting accommodations. The CSD has been at the forefront of a number of provincial initiatives such as the Reduced Tuition Fee Policy for Students with a Disability, the Interpreter Fund for deaf and hard of hearing students, the Transition Support Program for students on the autism spectrum and the provision of 24-hour attendant care services in their residences.
Under the leadership of Jason Harps, Bona Building & Management Company has demonstrated accommodations and promoted accessibility in the workplace. As a public speaker Jason has promoted the benefits of a diverse workforce and how it manifests itself in improved morale and self-worth for all involved. Jason and Bona Building & Management Company have been involved in fundraising and community awareness events such as an information evening for a local elementary school on traumatic brain injury and concussion awareness.
The Steering Committee for Employees with Development Disabilities was established 23 years ago. Today, it provides job coaching for four individuals with Down’s Syndrome who work at the CRTC. From its inception it was ahead of its time, promoting inclusion in the workplace long before there were any employment support programs for people with disabilities. Steering committee members are volunteers who provide daily support and weekly job coaching classes. The committee has done a lot of work to create a supportive environment focusing on abilities and knocking down attitudinal barriers through the education of other staff. The committee continues to be a model for other government department programs and for those starting employment equity programs of their own.
Justin Clark, with the support of his lawyer David Baker, won a landmark legal victory in 1982. His case helped to bring the rights of people who were institutionalized to the forefront, and played an important role in changing public attitudes, so that the right of people with disabilities to live in the community is accepted throughout Ontario today. Justin is a pioneer who demonstrates what people with disabilities can achieve, given appropriate supports. From his learning of Blissymbolics through becoming a student and eventually working at ComputerWise, Justin has demonstrated that accessibility and inclusion are achievable goals.
Roger Côté has been supported by l’Association pour l’intégration sociale d’Ottawa (AISO) since 2007 and throughout this period has been employed in many workplaces: the Byward Market, Hardini Centre, Centre du travail Laro and Compass Group. Earlier in 2014 he took on a customer service role at L’Express Canteen. Roger prides himself on offering the best customer service and despite the busy canteen environment, with multiple demands, he is able to make time for every customer. During his tenure there has been an increase in the number of regular customers, a testament to his outstanding work ethic.
When Ben Delaney was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2008 at the age of twelve he had two very important goals: to survive and to thrive. The cancer was in his left knee and his treatment included the amputation of the centre of his leg and the reattachment of the bottom portion of his leg (and foot) to his left thigh – rotationplasty. Ben was referred from the amputee clinic to the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre’s Recreation Therapy program and today wears a prosthesis and walks with assurance and agility. Over the last five years Ben turned his love of hockey into a passion for sledge hockey and in 2014 he was the youngest member of Canada’s bronze medal winning team at the Paralympics in Sochi. Not content with that pinnacle, Ben continues to climb, although now it’s rock faces with his buddies. He has been and continues to be an inspiration to family, friends and strangers as he willingly shares his story and his insight.
In 2009, Joey Desjardins sustained a spinal cord injury, as a result of a motocross accident, that left him paralyzed. Over the next few years with the help of his family and friends he remained motivated and determined to rebuild his life. An athlete at heart, Joey has taken to adaptive sports in a big way – hand cycling, sledge hockey, cross country, alpine and water skiing. Additionally, he has become a motivational public speaker on injury prevention, helping to ensure youth live healthy, safe lifestyles. Joey is a speaker with Parachute-Preventing Injuries and Changing Minds, Changing Lives; an Ambassador for both the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Hand Cycling Club of Ottawa; and a junior board member at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. For the last two years, Joey was the winner in his category at the Army Run half-marathon. He is currently studying business at St. Lawrence College.
Jim Dewis comes from a curling family but it wasn’t until 6 years ago that he was able to curl himself. In 1951, Jim was paralyzed by polio. Now he skips recreational curling teams with the Capital Wheelchair Curling Club (CWCC), participates in Bonspeils, is involved in the running of the club and in the organizing of the Cathy Kerr Memorial Bonspeil. Jim is a tireless advocate, making wheelchair curling readily accessible to those with physical disabilities, and a keen promoter of the Give it a Go community initiative.
Jan Ditchfield founded Won with One in 2009 and continues, as a member of the Board of Directors, to be actively involved. Won with One empowers people living with disabilities by using triathlon as the catalyst for change. Their triathlon team is made up of athletes who are blind, visually impaired or physically-challenged and their guides. For the past five years, Jan has worked to create opportunities for the team by advocating for the inclusion of paratriathletes within the Ottawa triathlon community and beyond. The team now participates in triathlon events all over North America. Jan is also very involved in securing financial support and sponsorships for the athletes to continue to participate in the sport.
The first person you meet at Y’s Owl MacLlure Cooperative Centre is Jordan Edwards. Jordan is a seven-year employee who doesn’t let his disability (Asperger’s Syndrome) hold him back. He is ready to help and champion the education of others on his disability while being totally professional in his role at reception. He has ably represented Y’s Owl at a number of provincial and federal events and he is a mentor to others at the centre.
Mike Gifford is the president of OpenConcept Consulting and has worked most of his life to shape a free, open and accessible Internet. With the Web increasingly becoming one of the main points of contact with citizens and customers, the ability for organizations to easily meet the relevant accessibility standards has become a customer-service issue. At the same time, recent website design and web content delivery systems have been created with little or no consideration given to people with disabilities. Mike understood that something had to be done to fix the accessibility problem at the source. In 2008, he began building a community of global experts in accessibility to help shape the Drupal 7 Content Management System. He has continued to spearhead the accessibility improvements in Drupal since 2009 and is now an official Core Accessibility Maintainer. This work has made it considerably easier for over a million Drupal websites to meet accessibility requirements. Mike is also deeply involved in raising awareness on accessibility issues and regulations and participates in talks, conferences and events to help spread the word for a more accessible world.
Sam Graham does not let his physical disability stop him from doing whatever it is that he wants to do. His is a wheelchair basketball athlete at local, provincial and national levels, a coach and an active community volunteer in his home town of Beachburg. His leadership on and off the court is clear; his positive attitude and passion for inclusion allows children with disabilities to feel accepted in sport and in life. Currently, Sam is a social work student at Algonquin College, the head coach of the I Love to Play Wheelchair Basketball program (a joint venture of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre and the City of Ottawa) and for the past two summers a camp counsellor at the East Seals Merrywood Camp.
As a young man living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Scott Haycock’s physical limitations are not insignificant – neither is his spirit nor his determination to help others with disabilities. In 2009 he was one of the founding members of the Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League (OPWHL). This league now provides competitive hockey opportunities for 40 community members playing on four teams over an eight-month season. Scott is totally involved as league treasurer, equipment manager, game-day volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, proposal writer, elite tournament team captain and logistics prime. He also finds time to volunteer with the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) in their Kanata office and the OCTC School. Scott has been involved in Camp Merrywood too; in 2011 he initiated the peer support counsellor position which provides employment for youth like him each year. He returned to the camp in the summer of 2014 as a volunteer.
After acquiring a spinal cord injury in 1983, Collinda Joseph became interested in issues affecting people with disabilities because of the barriers and negative attitudes she was encountering. Collinda has been involved in various initiatives and committees related to disability issues at the national, provincial and local levels. As a volunteer, Collinda has given a number of presentations on disability awareness, the issues facing people with disabilities and the role human rights have played in improving the lives of Canadians with disabilities. Currently working as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Office for Disability Issues at Employment and Social Development Canada, Collinda contributes her knowledge and experience to the development of social policy and inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian society. When not working, Collinda actively participates in competitive and recreational sports as an athlete and coach.
For the past seven years Jimmy Lavoie has taught the special needs class at Gisele Lalonde High School. He constantly goes above and beyond to ensure his students have access to everything necessary to reach their potential. A few examples of his dedication are: the purchase of a dog that he is training to be a therapy dog in his spare time. Through daily contact with the dog students have overcome their fear of dogs, learned to care for the dog and through taking the dog on daily walks have become more aware of their environment. Jimmy also set up a class co-op opportunity when he realized that some of his student would not qualify for the regular co-op program. He has introduced regular gym classes and started a Best Buddies program within the school. Jimmy encourages his student to integrate into their community through class outings and weekly grocery shopping trips for the supplies they need to make their own lunches each day.
Spearheaded by Dean Mellway, Director of the READ (Research, Education, Accessibility and Design) Initiative, Carleton University hosted an International Summit on Accessibility in July 2014. The conference brought together three levels of government, academia, the private sector and the most accessible university in Canada. The conference goals were to promote access and inclusion for persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. Two areas of special emphasis at the conference were employment and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines; conference delegates were immersed in the principles of employment and online accessibility and how to push the envelope.
For more than 30 years, Shelley Ann Morris has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for fellow citizens and to demonstrate, through her dedication and leadership, the importance of promoting ability, accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of everyday life for those living with disabilities. Shelley Ann is a volunteer advocate to a woman with disabilities through Citizen Advocacy, a co-host of a weekly radio show by, for and about people with disabilities and an assistant organizer of radio camps for adults. In addition she is a community volunteer who can be found helping at Bluesfest, Jazz Fest, Folk Fest and the Grassroots Festival. People with disabilities attending these events have all benefitted from her knowledge and advocacy for appropriate accommodations. In her spare time Shelley Ann is a triathlete, writer and blogger.
The Ottawa Blind Bowling Club was established in 1949 and continues, under the leadership of Club President Roger Gervais, to offer a networking, social and challenging sport program for people with visual impairments. The club members are involved in weekly bowling sessions, provincial tournaments, bowling banquets, bingo bowling, craft sales and fundraising. There are currently 20 members with a visual impairment, each supported by sighted volunteers, who very much enjoy the opportunities the club provides to get them out each week to bowl and socialize.
Creating opportunities today for independence tomorrow is the guiding principle and touchstone for developing volunteer placements at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre. Making the Centre fully accessible physically, emotionally and socially was the foundation on which Rachel Stoparczyk, Coordinator of Volunteer Resources, established the goal of including volunteer candidates who could “do the job”. The Centre staff worked collaboratively with external agencies to provide peer and job coach support and to introduce optimal interview practices. Staff throughout the organization support all volunteers with various abilities, providing additional training and coaching as needed. These experiences have helped change perspectives: seeing individuals as part of the team rather than as clients. The volunteers have a sense of fulfillment through being engaged in meaningful service and being able to share their personal experiences and triumphs with younger people with disabilities. The number of volunteers with disabilities has increased significantly in the last eight years with 12% of the current team self-identifying as having disabilities.
As a person living with several identified challenges, Christina Ranieri has developed into a strong advocate both for herself and for others with disabilities. This drive led her to develop and run CISDEP (Christy’s Integration Skills, Day and Educational Programs) for people with disabilities. This program promotes an inclusive, positive and safe environment for participants to grow socially, emotionally and academically.
Through YouthNet’s Pens and Paint program Kamilla Riabko learnt how to use visual arts and creative writing to cope with the stress and obstacles she faced related to her physical disability and mental health. Having benefitted from the therapeutic effects of art, Kamilla wanted to give back to her community and use her creative talent to assist other youth facing the challenges of living with a mental illness. As a speaker she has inspired youth to embrace art. As a program facilitator she has led eight sessions of Pens and Paints, mentored other youth facilitators and promoted the program in high schools. Kamilla was a member of YouthNet’s Youth Advisory Committee and a dedicated volunteer with the Talking About Mental Illness program run by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Despite her physical challenges and mental health struggles she maintains an unwavering commitment to her art, teammates and our community’s youth.
Yvonne Robertson is a tireless volunteer. For the past nine years she has been an assistant coach with the Ottawa Rhythmic Cats, the oldest and largest special olympics rhythmic gymnastics club in Ontario. During that time she has worked with many athletes with special abilities instilling in them a love of the sport. Yvonne also created a program to develop older, more advanced athletes, into junior leaders who coach and mentor beginner classes. Four years ago she developed a new interest, dragon boating and knew that this was something that she wanted to introduce to athletes with exceptionalities. Yvonne set up a new club, Dragons for All, that allows people with disabilities to experience fresh air, open water, working together and belonging to a team.
Since 1988, Richard Ruest has improved the lives of people with disabilities in our community through his education activities, advocacy, professional career and leadership. As a lead presenter at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre Richard made a remarkable impact as an injury survivor, speaking about how youth can reduce risk in their lives and prevent serious injury. As an Accessibility Consultant with the University of Ottawa he has worked to provide better access to students with disabilities. For the last nine years Richard has worked as a Community Link Worker with VHA Health and Home Support.
A team at Bruyère’s Saint-Vincent Hospital is adapting conventional technology to help residents with mobility disabilities to communicate, use technology and maintain their independence. By customizing technology, Assistive Technologist Bocar Ndiaye and volunteer Yih Lerh Huang, have found simple solutions to complex communication challenges. Bocar and Yih Lerh have been able to combine high-cost health care devices with low-cost hobbyist parts such as capacitive touch sensors, infra-red light sensors and gyroscopes, and in conjunction with Wheelchair Technicians, Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists have been creating life-changing projects on a shoestring budget. Today, several of the 336 patients at Saint -Vincent Hospital, the province’s largest Complex Continuing Care program, are using open source software and hardware and everyday objects (such as headbands), to remain connected to family and friends. Bocar and Yin Lerh share their work through open source software with the hope that other hospitals will be able to use their solutions to help others.
Stephen Sisson is a skilled graphic designer, a mentor and job coach assistant who has worked at ComputerWise for the last 12 years. He is a strong community advocate, promoting social inclusion and awareness by representing Ottawa Foyers Partage and ComputerWise as an ambassador at various community events. When Steve is not assisting and inspiring others or accomplishing assigned tasks and contracts, he focuses on developing personal blogs and websites. Through his use of social media, Steve highlights his passion for local sports teams, interests in community events and love for his family and friends. Steve is quick to offer assistance to staff and peers at ComputerWise, sharing his knowledge and interpreting new information.
Donna Thomson is an author, blogger and speaker. She is the Special Advisor for Caregiving at Tyze Personal Networks and Saint Elizabeth Healthcare, the International Advisor to the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship as well as the co-founder of Lifetime Networks Ottawa, a PLAN affiliate. Donna is an instructor at the Advocacy School in Ottawa, teaching families how to employ best practice advocacy tools when advocating for care. She is also the mother of two adult children, one with a severe disability and is the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom, a book that explores how people with disabilities and their families can have a life that they value.
Carl Toole started teaching in the Developmental Services Worker Program (DSW) at Algonquin College in 1982. During this time, he also continued his work as Coordinator for Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports and, every summer, as Camp Director of the Easter Seals Merrywood Camp. His excellence in teaching has been recognized with many awards including: the NISOD award from the University of Texas, the Laurent Isabelle Award for being the most outstanding teacher at Algonquin College, as well as the Students Award at Algonquin College, which is a highly prized award given out by the Students Association to the top professor at the College. Carl’s teaching extends beyond college walls; he also presents at conferences throughout North America about Crisis Intervention, Self Determination, and Recreation for Persons with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities. Carl’s website is an online resource for front line workers and students wishing to develop recreation activities for person with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities.