Carleton Creates Canadian Accessibility Network

June 26, 2019

Building on its reputation as Canada’s most accessible university, Carleton University is launching the Canadian Accessibility Network the first entity of its kind in the country.

The announcement follows the historic passage of the federal government’s Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. The bill sets groundbreaking accessibility standards for the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, programs, services and information are accessible to everyone.

“As a campus community that has been dedicated to supporting people with disabilities since our inception, we are excited to see the Accessible Canada Act bring accessibility to the top of our national agenda,” says President Benoit-Antoine Bacon.

“Carleton exemplifies the many ways accessibility can be embedded into everything we do, but we know there is so much more we can do within our own community and beyond. We are excited to launch and lead the Canadian Accessibility Network and we call on all our current and future partners to work together, through the network, to create a more accessible and inclusive world.”

“When talented people work together for a common cause, great things can happen, and that is the promise of the Canadian Accessibility Network,” says Yazmine Laroche, deputy minister, Public Service Accessibility, Treasury Board Secretariat. “I am so excited by the possibilities the network will provide for collaboration on removing barriers and building greater accessibility for Canadians where they work, learn, play and live. Congratulations to Carleton University and all of the partners of the network.”

The Honourable Raymond Cho, Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, expressed support for the foundation of the Canadian Accessibility Network at Carleton. “I am proud that this initiative is spearheaded in Ontario, where accessibility is a priority as exemplified by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA),” said Cho. “I am equally pleased that such an ambitious undertaking is led by Carleton University, the most accessible university in Canada. My ministry is looking forward to working alongside Carleton as a Canadian Accessibility Network partner to advance accessibility in Ontario and Canada.”

Ontario’s Minister of Seniors and Accessibility, Raymond Cho, toured Carleton University in 2018 to get an inside look at how it is pushing the boundaries of accessibility and inclusion.

Carleton University has a long history in accessibility and is regarded among the most supportive universities in North America for students with disabilities. For example:

  • The Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ) initiative joins expertise from across all academic disciplines and service departments at Carleton with individuals and organizations committed to accessibility. READ will serve as the headquarters for the new Canadian Accessibility Network.
  • Through its Research and Education in Accessibility, Design and Innovation (READi) training program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Carleton brings together students from across more than seven disciplines and three universities to use theory and practice to develop accessibility solutions.
  • Carleton University’s Disability Research Group is an interdisciplinary team from scholarly and professional backgrounds that aims to raise awareness about disability and technology through virtual exhibits and multidisciplinary research.
  • The Transforming Disability Knowledge, Research and Activism project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, focuses on engaging women and girls with disabilities in disadvantaged communities in Vietnam.
  • The Paul Menton Centre (PMC) fosters equal access to university experiences for students with disabilities while maintaining academic standards by providing academic accommodations and support services.
  • From Intention to Action (FITA) supports students to manage their mental health and improve academic performance by helping them navigate personal stressors impacting their education.
  • Led by Carleton, the David C. Onley Initiative for Employment and Enterprise Development is an Ontario government-funded partnership between four post-secondary institutions in Ottawa dedicated to supporting students with disabilities in their employment readiness and career aspirations.

By leveraging strengths of individual stakeholders within a national network of partnerships, the Canadian Accessibility Network is creating collective regional and national capacity. A number of organizations and individual stakeholders from across Canada representing diverse sectors have already expressed interest in the Canadian Accessibility Network, such as the Rick Hansen Foundation, Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, National Educational Association of Disabled Students, and several universities and organizations across Canada.

Through the Canadian Accessibility Network, Carleton will work with partners to promote a more accessible and inclusive Canada and build on the goals of the Accessible Canada Act.

To learn more about the Canadian Accessibility Network, visit:

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Change In Ontario Law Creates Uncertainty For Service Dogs In Schools

“Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified?” By Bailey Martens

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Cadarette was a C student, struggling to stay in school in Windsor, Ont. until Vincent came along. The specifically trained golden Labrador helps the teen manage his post-traumatic stress disorder, and gain better focus in classes.

Cameron scratches his arms and legs until they bleed; Vincent is able to interrupt his self-harming behaviour by nudging the teen’s hand. The service animal also keeps the teen safe at night, waking him from night terrors and bringing him water bottles to help him catch his breath during an anxiety attack.

Two years later, Cameron holds an average of 95 per cent in Grade 9 and is able to have relationships with his peers. “He can meld into the school system and not be an outcast,” said his mother, Nicole McMillan.

But a recent change in Ontario’s Safe and Supportive Classroom Act is making McMillan and other families with students who use service animals nervous.

Vague nature of new section concerns dog handlers

A new section on service dogs, which was approved in April, notes that the education minister may create policies and guidelines, and require school boards to comply with them or create their own based on the minister’s parameters.

A draft policy is underway, the Ministry of Education told HuffPost Canada, that will “set out the framework and required components of board policies across the province resulting in greater consistency, transparency and clarity of process when requesting that a student be accompanied by a service animal in school.”

“We are committed to ensuring every student in Ontario has access to safe and supportive learning environments,” said a ministry statement, which noted that it’s aware of 39 of 72 school boards with active policies on service animals.

Still, the vague nature of the new section has left service dog handlers with more questions than answers.

“Nothing is actually changing because they’re just passing a bill that says the minister could do something,” said Deanna Allain, an Ontario-based service dog trainer and lobbyist. But the concern comes in the unknown: “The minister could ban all service dogs, that’s that’s how specific this legislation is.”

Emily Write has been working with her diabetic alert service dog Kailey for six years. Kailey is scent-trained to alert her handler to dangerous changes in blood sugar levels.

Write is nearing completion of her masters degree from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute For Studies In Education, and has been doing a required teaching placement at a Catholic school.

“I realize that we can’t just have anyone bring a dog in a school and that the dog does need to have appropriate training levels,” Write told HuffPost Canada. But the new addition in the law is not the way to go about it, she said.

With a lack of clear expectations, it provides no information on the process to bring a service dog to school. “Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified, and who is going to monitor that? Because we don’t have a certification process,” said Write.

Uneven requirements across Canada

Currently, Ontario only requires a note from a medical professional outlining the need for a service dog. This is contrary to provinces like British Columbia, which mandates a certification test, or Alberta, where certification is voluntary. There’s no national standard or consistency across provincial laws, which becomes problematic when more public places are requesting proof of certifications. An increase in fraudulent registries and copycat harnesses and ID cards doesn’t help either.

Then there’s the issue of reporting complaints. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that governs service animals does not have a formal complaint process. Write wonders why new service dog legislation would be implemented if it has no clear path to enforcement.

McMillan has fought complex policies before. Cameron’s service dog was initially denied by both the Greater Essex Public School Board and the Windsor-Essex County Catholic School Boards because they couldn’t recognize Vincent’s international training credentials from Florida.

The public school board has its own service dog policies and was considered complaint with the AODA. McMillan took their case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which said the issue was settled through mediation in 2017.

Cameron now attends a private school with Vincent by his side.

“All I want for him is an education that he has the right to,” said McMillan.

She feels the new section in provincial legislation can open doors, “but it’s also left room for interpretation, which in the long run, I think you’ll see some battles from families trying to … get their service dogs in schools that are adequately trained for their children.”

“It encourages empathy.
Emily Write

McMillan fears that families will go “school-district shopping” as they try to place students in schools with better service dog policies, as it appears the act’s new section would allow districts to have varying policies.

As a teacher in training, Write points out that service dogs benefit the whole classroom. “It encourages empathy,” she said. She noted how students she worked with, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12, recognized when the classroom was getting too loud through Kailey’s changing body language and would respond accordingly.

“As an educator, that’s not something I ever knew: that by bringing a service dog into a classroom that it would not just benefit me but also benefit my students,” said Write.

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