Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/
Still More Media Reports Reveal Disproportionate Harm to Ontarians with Disabilities Due to the Ontario Government’s Failure to Effectively Plan for Urgent Disability Needs in its COVID-19 Emergency Efforts – and – Federal Government Announces Disability COVID-19 Advisory Panel, So We Offer Our Advice
April 23, 2020
Here are yet more helpful media reports that illustrate how people with disabilities are disproportionately suffering the consequences of the Ontario Government’s failure to effectively include the urgent needs of people with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning. Our ongoing advocacy efforts are showing some signs of success, but the battle remains an uphill one. We remain tenacious as we join in that battle!
Below you will find:
* An excellent April 22, 2020 City TV news report by reporter Pam Seatle, on the Ford Government’s failure to effectively plan for the COVID-19 needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
* A great April 22, 2020 report on CBC Radio Kitchener Waterloo by reporter Paula Duhatschek on the cruel impact on one individual with disabilities of the Ford Government’s unjustified and inexplicable closure of the Adaptive Devices Program during the COVID-19 crisis as a supposedly non-essential program. We commend the individual who brought that issue to CBC.
* An earlier superb April 11, 2020 Canadian Press report by reporter Michelle McQuigge that appeared in a number of media outlets including the Globe and Mail, on the Federal Government’s announcement of a federal advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.
We also set out below the Federal Government’s actual April 10, 2020 announcement of its federal disability advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. We commend the Federal Government for Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough’s acknowledging:
“We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.”
We first learned of the Federal Government’s plans in this regard at the same time as did the public – when it was publicly announced. It is good that the Federal Government has recognized the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. However, as we noted in the April 11, 2020 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, 95% of the problems people with disabilities face in this crisis are within provincial responsibility, and are not the responsibility of the Federal Government.
It is very important for the Federal and provincial governments to also directly reach out to, hear from and follow the advice of anyone with the best front-line experience with the impact of COVID-19 on the grassroots disability community. That would include, for example, the ten experts that were interviewed on the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and people with disabilities organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.
In the federal sphere, we offer these recommendations:
* The Federal Government pledged in the fall 2019 federal election that it would apply a disability lens to all its decisions. Beyond creating a new advisory panel, it is important for the Federal Government to let us and the entire public know what it is doing and has done since this crisis began to apply that disability lens to all its decisions in the COVID-19 crisis.
* The new federal disability advisory group should itself watch the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and disability, and advocate for the recommendations made there.
* The Federal Government should immediately make public the work of its new federal disability advisory group, when it is meeting, what it is recommending, and what actions the Federal Government is taking as a result to protect people with disabilities during this crisis. Openness and transparency by our governments is especially important during a crisis like this one.
We are not recommending that the Ford Government create a similar advisory panel. It would take the Government too long to set it up, and risk being a distraction. Instead, the Ford Government should immediately reach out to the grassroots disability community to learn about the hardships they are facing during this crisis. The Ford Government should also recognize, as has the Federal Government, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. As we have been urging for weeks, the Ford Government should quickly develop and make public a comprehensive plan of action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities as part of its emergency COVID-19 planning.
Our non-partisan campaign is substantially fortified when individuals bring to the media their personal stories about the hardships and barriers they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis due to their disability. The AODA Alliance remains ready and willing to provide broader comments to the media on these issues, as we do in the stories set out below. To help you with this, you can get more background, check out and widely share:
* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.
* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.
* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.
* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.
* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.
* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.
There have been an inexcusable 448 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
There have been 29 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.
We are sending you more AODA Alliance Updates than usual because of the influx of important news that is important to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are doing our best to stay on top of the rapidly changing events, and to effectively advocate for efforts so that people with disabilities are equally served by government emergency COVID-19 planning.
City News April 22, 2020
Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/22/advocates-say-coronavirus-planning-leaves-out-people-with-disabilities/
Advocates say coronavirus planning leaves out people with disabilities
BY PAM SEATLE AND DILSHAD BURMANPOSTED APR 22, 2020
Disabilities advocates say their community has been overlooked in the government’s COVID-19 planning
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the province to provide in-home testing for people with disabilities
No plans have been announced but Minister of Health Christine Elliott says those with disabilities will be accommodated
As the country continues to wage battle against the novel coronavirus, vulnerable populations have been highlighted repeatedly — including seniors, those with compromised immune systems, and more recently, those living in low-income neighbourhoods.
While there is no doubt all of those groups are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, disabilities advocates say their community is also a large and highly vulnerable group that has been entirely overlooked by the government in many areas.
“People with disabilities in Ontario number at 2.5 million. [They] are facing, really, a triple whammy during this COVID crisis, beyond what everybody else is facing,” says David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA).
Lepofsky says the problem includes the following issues:
- People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to contracting COVID-19 and also likely to suffer it’s most severe medical impacts
- A combination of government neglect and failure to plan is making them even more prone to getting COVID-19 than they already are
- If they do get the disease and have to visit a hospital, they face serious existing accessibility barriers in the healthcare system
“The solution is as clear as it is obvious as it is missing. We need the Premier and the Government of Ontario to say ‘we gotta plan. We gotta include in our emergency planning for COVID, specific plans to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable’,” says Lepofsky.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is also calling on the Ford government to address the needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
“They are worried and concerned that they’ve been left behind,” says Horwath.
She says there is no plan to ensure that people with disabilities will get tested if they begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 and there are concerns in the community that they will not have access to testing like everybody else.
“We’ve asked the government to put in place a plan to have testing available for those folks — that would include ensuring that they can get tested at home,” says Horwath, adding that this would help mitigate the issues of barriers to transit and navigating public spaces for those with mobility issues.
“Let’s not leave these folks out. Let’s do some proactive testing, let’s get to people in their homes and let’s give them the peace of mind that others are able to get by having mobility and being able to go out to testing centres and get that testing done.”
However, testing and care are not the only ways in which Lepofsky says people with disabilities are falling through the cracks.
He adds that thousands of children with disabilities are being left behind as the government implements online learning — which is not accessible to many such students. Plus, he says people with disabilities who live independently at home but still need assistance, are being overlooked as well.
Wendy Porch, the head of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, manages a program for about a thousand Ontarians who live independently but need assistance with daily tasks such as eating, getting washed and dressed.
She agrees with Lepofsky and says the people she works with have been ignored.
“The folks that we work with have not been considered a priority in any of the priority populations that we’ve seen defined,” she says. “There has been no particular guidance that’s been released around people with disabilities living at home.”
In addition, she says when the issue is raised with authorities, they are told they’re “just not there yet.”
“There’s no attention paid to this population at this point,” says Porch.
Making matters arguably worse is that those who care for people with disabilities at home are not receiving any government assistance with personal protective equipment (PPE), despite being essential workers with close physical contact with clients.
“Our program … is not a medically oriented program, but the people who receive these supports at home, they see the same personal support workers that work in long-term care facilities and they’re certainly at risk. But because they’re at home, it seems as though they’ve fallen through the cracks,” she says. “Because we were named as an essential service, if we could be included in the kind of supply chain relationships that exist between the Ministry of Health and some of these suppliers [of PPE], that would go a long way towards solving this problem for our folks.”
In addition to these worries, Lepofsky says one of his biggest concerns is what he calls the province’s “secret plans” on how patients will be prioritized should critical equipment such as respirators fall into short supply. He says the government’s plans to ration critical medical care if such a situation were to arise leaves out those with disabilities.
In an open letter, the province responded to such concerns saying all will be treated equally.
“We believe that a human life cannot be valued differently. As such, Ontario Health has been asked to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as human rights and key community experts, to make certain that any medical protocols that may be required during this outbreak do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous communities and racialized people,” they said
Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked about the issue at the province’s daily briefing on Wednesday. She said the government is willing to accommodate everybody.
“If people need to be tested, we can take the testing to them, especially people with disabilities who maybe have significant mobility challenges,” she said. “We want to make sure, if they need to be tested, that they will be tested and if they need care that they will receive the care that they need, including hospital admissions or if they’re doing self-isolation — making sure that they have the supplies and equipment and assistance that they need.”
At this time, the province has not yet put forth a definitive plan for at-home testing and care.
CBC News Kitchener Waterloo April 22, 2020
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/man-stuck-hours-daily-on-floor-while-province-closes-assistive-devices-office-1.5540041
Man stuck hours daily on floor while province closes Assistive Devices office
Michael Wilson says wheelchair broke while awaiting a replacement, then COVID-19 hit
A Kitchener man has spent nearly a month stuck in his apartment after his wheelchair fell apart and a replacement has been delayed.
Meanwhile, the province has shuttered its Assisted Devices Program office, which helps people access funds to pay for their wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Michael Wilson, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around, receives a replacement every five years, paid for through the province’s program.
This year, he says he was due for a new wheelchair but that the process was delayed after the province initially rejected his application and he had to file an appeal.
Wilson was still using his old wheelchair on March 24 when he left his apartment to stock up on essentials. The motor and wheel fell off mid-trip, he says. Without a functional wheelchair, Wilson been unable to venture out for grocery or banking trips, and has mostly been eating delivery pizza. He also can’t comfortably change positions or move himself around his apartment.
“It’s awkward,” he said.
Office not processing applications
Although the province pays most of the cost of devices provided through the Assisted Devices Program, it’s up to individual vendors to supply them. Corrinne Cave, who is with a local home care company working with Wilson, said she couldn’t comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. But she says her business’s operations have been complicated by the fact that the program office was closed due to COVID-19 and is no longer answering the phone or processing new funding applications.
“We’re trying to figure out a balance on how to get these [devices] to people who do need it” while also considering what costs they can absorb, she said.
France Gélinas, NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP, told CBC News that vendors and people with disabilities have been left in a tough position following the closure of the office. She says the program itself has long been due for an upgrade, so that people who need new wheelchairs and other devices can get them based on need rather than “arbitrary” rules.
For the time being, Gelinas says the office should at least have someone around to pick up the phone. “Right now, to not even be able to talk to them … I don’t understand it,” Gelinas told CBC News.
“It is disrespectful, it is causing a lot of real hardship to people who often have severe disabilities, depend on those wheelchairs, to anything else to live their lives, and now they’re stuck.”
Pandemic creates urgency
Ontario disability advocate David Lepofsky agrees. He says assistive devices are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, now people have been told to physically distance and can’t ask their friends and neighbours for extra help.
“The first thing [the province] should do is immediately re-open the assistive devices program and declare it essential,” said Lepofsky. “The second thing they should do is … essentially do a short-term surge to try to clear the backlog that will have now been created.”
Province ‘evaluating options’
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province couldn’t comment on individual cases. She said vendors will still receive payments based on historical invoices and can dispense and repair devices for clients who are eligible. “We’re currently evaluating options to provide greater continuity of services under the assisted devices program during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
He says they should replace wheelchairs more frequently, before safety becomes an issue. He thinks the program should also be more cautious about rejecting applications and requiring appeals for needed devices like wheelchairs, especially when it comes to situations like his.
As of Monday, Wilson was still without a wheelchair. But after CBC News contacted the vendor and province about his story, Wilson was told his wheelchair would be delivered Wednesday. When it arrives, he says, he looks forward to finishing up the errands he started back in March.
The Globe and Mail April 11, 2020
Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-federal-government-names-group-to-ensure-disabled-canadians-included-2/
Federal government names group to ensure disabled Canadians included in COVID-19 response MICHELLE MCQUIGGE
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday March 26, 2020.
Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canada’s disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS figure
The COVID-19 pandemic takes a particularly heavy toll on Canadians with disabilities and more efforts are needed to ensure they’re included in national efforts to respond to the crisis, the minister overseeing accessibility issues said Friday as she appointed an advisory group to take on the task.
Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said disabled residents have been sounding alarms about a host of concerns related to the outbreak, which has already killed at least 550 Canadians and sickened a minimum of 22,000 others. In a statement announcing the advisory group, Qualtrough said greater efforts are needed to ensure disabled voices are heard during a troubling time.
“For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19,” Ms. Qualtrough said in the statement. “Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.
“As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.”
Ms. Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canada’s disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak.
Early public-health messages and briefings at all levels of government often failed to include accessibility measures, such as sign language interpreters for the deaf or simplified messaging for those with intellectual disabilities.
Since then, more concerns have been raised about access to overtaxed health-care resources, the availability of educational supports for disabled students, and the greater vulnerability of those living in confined settings such as prisons, homeless shelters and long-term care institutions. At one assisted living facility in Markham, Ont., the executive director confirmed an outbreak had infected 10 of 42 residents and two staff members. Shelley Brillinger said news of the outbreak prompted the rest of the staff at Participation House to walk off the job, leaving residents without the care they need.
“Our residents are the most vulnerable in society,” she said. “… They don’t have a voice, and my message would be it’s our responsibility to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and ensure that they have the care that they deserve.”
The 11-member advisory group, consisting of academics and organization leaders spanning a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, has been tasked
with apprising the government of the barriers their communities face and ensuring their needs are adequately addressed.
Committee member Bonnie Brayton, executive director of the DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, said the issues before the group are matters of equality and fundamental access to human rights.
She said the proliferation of the novel coronavirus has laid bear many systemic issues that dogged the community for decades, but have taken on increased urgency as the disease continues to spread.
“What the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that the question of equality rights for people with disabilities apparently is still on the table in the legal system, in the health system, and I think in the soul of Canadians,” Ms. Brayton said in a telephone interview. “It’s the last piece of our really becoming the country we need to become in terms of human rights.”
Other advocates welcomed the federal governments’ recognition of the need for action, but expressed reservations about the impact such a move could have. David Lepofsky, founder of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a long-time crusader for accessibility rights, said federal governments do not have jurisdiction over most of the programs with the greatest impact on the lives of disabled residents.
“Only provincial governments can take 95 per cent of the action people with disabilities desperately need to avert the disproportionate hardships that the COVID-19 crisis inflicts on them, including the horrifying risk that their disability could be used as a reason to deny them medical services during rationing,” he said. “We’re disproportionately vulnerable to get this disease, to suffer its harshest impacts and then to slam into serious barriers in our health care system.”
Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of the Arch Disability Law Centre, shared Mr. Lepofsky’s concern. He said there is currently no uniform approach to disability inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis. While he applauded the federal government for acknowledging as much, he expressed hope that the advisory group would continually seek input from those without seats at the government table. “The disproportionate impact of this pandemic on persons with disabilities is undisputed, but it is playing out very differently across different provinces, territories, cities, and towns,” Mr. Lattanzio said. “We need voices from people with disabilities who are on the ground and who understand the complexity and nuances of what is actually happening.”
April 10, 2020 Announcement by Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough
Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/statement-by-minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-disability-inclusive-approach-to-its-covid-19-pandemic-response.html
Statement by Minister Qualtrough on Canada’s Disability-Inclusive approach to its COVID-19 pandemic response
From: Employment and Social Development Canada
April 10, 2020 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, today issued the following statement:
“From the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has taken significant steps to curb the spread of this virus and to reduce its impacts on the health of Canadians and our economy.
We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.
As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity. This includes through more formal communication channels and touch points with the disability community.
To this end, we are establishing the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, comprised of experts in disability inclusion. This Group will provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis; disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps; and strategies, measures and steps to be taken. Areas of particular focus will be equality of access to health care and supports; access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation; and employment and income supports.
From the onset, our Government has worked hard to ensure that the interests and needs of persons with a disability are being taken into consideration in our decisions and measures adopted in response to COVID-19. We have put a disability lens on decision-making and have been consulting national disability organizations and other stakeholders. We are also working with other levels of government. We are making strides on accessibility of public announcements and Government of Canada communications.
But we know that there is much more to do.
We have heard the concerns expressed by individuals and organizations for persons with disabilities, as well as their recommendations for ensuring a disability-inclusive approach to this pandemic.
Rest assured that as we support Canadians through this crisis, our Government is unequivocal in our commitment to the rights of every citizen and the value of every life, including the right to equal access to medical treatment and care. This is in keeping with our Government’s commitment to “nothing without us”, and in line with the principles and objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Accessible Canada Act.”
April 10, 2020 Federal Government Backgrounder
Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/backgrounder–covid-19-disability-advisory-group.html
Canada.ca Employment and Social Development Canada
Backgrounder : COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group
From: Employment and Social Development Canada
During this time of public health and economic crisis, in the spirit of “Nothing Without Us” and the Accessible Canada Act, and in recognition of Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that it considers, respects and incorporates the interests and needs of persons with disabilities into its decision-making and pandemic response.
Persons with disabilities face unique and heightened challenges and vulnerabilities in a time of pandemic, including equality of access to health care and supports, access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation and employment and income supports. Additional vigilance is also required to protect the human rights of persons with disabilities during these times. This necessitates a disability inclusive approach to Government decision-making and action.
The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action by announcing the establishment of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG). The CDAG will advise the Minister on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis on disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps and on strategies, measures and steps to be taken.
Co-chaired by Minister Qualtrough, the Advisory Group will be comprised of individual experts from the disability community:
Co-Chair: Al Etmanski, is a writer, community organizer and social entrepreneur. He was welcomed into the world of disability in 1978 when his daughter was born. He led the closure of institutions, segregated schools, and sheltered workshops in BC, founded Canada’s first Family Support Institute, and initiated the precedent setting right-to-treatment court case for Stephen Dawson. In 1989, he co-founded Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) with his wife Vickie Cammack. PLAN lobbied into existence the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Mr. Etmanski sparked a national conversation about ‘belonging,’ and was instrumental in establishing a grass roots alternative to legal guardianship and expanding the legal definition of capacity. His last book, Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is a national bestseller. His forthcoming book is The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He blogs at aletmanski.com.
Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. Mr. Adair offers a depth of provincial and national experience in the spinal cord rehabilitation field. As a former Ontario government employee, national task force leader and Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society, he has nearly three decades of expertise in non-profit management and strategic leadership. Prior to joining Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, he was Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society for 13 years. His involvement in providing services to people with disabilities includes serving as the Director of the International Year for Disabled Persons, the Executive Director of a national task force that designed a system to coordinate cancer control efforts throughout Canada, and the Founding Executive Director of Wellspring.
Neil Belanger, Executive Director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS). Mr. Belanger has over 30 years of experience working within in Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous disability and health sectors. Since 2013, BCANDS has been the recipient of eight provincial, national and international awards, the most recent being the Zero Project International Award presented to the Society in Vienna, in February 2019. He also serves in a variety of disability related advisory roles, some of which include: Canada Post’s Accessibility Advisory Committee; Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction; Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility; Minister’s Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group and Board Member with Inclusion BC. He is a member of the Lax Se el (Frog Clan) of the Gitxsan First Nation and resides in Victoria with his wife and two children.
Diane Bergeron, President, CNIB Guide Dogs and Vice President, International Affairs.As President of CNIB Guide Dogs, Ms. Bergeron brings lived experience to the position. As a guide dog handler for more than 35 years, she raises her voice to challenge stigma and support equal rights. In addition, as vice president of International Affairs for the CNIB Foundation, she is actively engaged in regional, national and international initiatives that enable people impacted by blindness to live the lives they choose. Before joining CNIB, Ms. Bergeron held senior roles with the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton.
Bonnie Brayton, A recognized leader in both the feminist and disability movements, Ms. Brayton has been the National Executive Director of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) of Canada since May 2007. In this role, she has proven herself as a formidable advocate for women with disabilities here in Canada and internationally. During her tenure with DAWN Canada, Ms. Brayton has worked diligently to highlight key issues that impact the lives of women and girls with disabilities. Since 2016, Ms. Brayton has served as a member of the Federal Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE, formerly known as Status of Women Canada), Minister’s Advisory Council on Gender-Based Violence. She also presents regularly to Parliamentary and Senate Committees, at public consultations and has represented women and girls with disabilities in both Canadian and International spheres.
Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL). Ms. Carr was previously the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). She had been working with the NBACL for 21 years, the last 16 as Executive Director. She also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of New Brunswick.
Maureen Haan: Ms. Haan has been the President & CEO of the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) since 2012. CCRW is the only national organization with the sole vision of equitable and meaningful employment for people with disabilities, in operation for over 40 years. Under her leadership, CCRW has seen an increase in direct program service throughout Canada, as well as a more transparent, stream-lining of understanding the business case of hiring a person with a disability. She has been very active in the cross-disability sector, currently focusing on employment issues. Ms. Haan has been involved with numerous committees and groups that increase awareness of and access for the disability sector and the Deaf community, including involvement with civil society on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and co-development and leadership of the pan-Canadian Strategy on Disability and Work.
Hélène Hébert, President, Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (REQIS). Ms. Hébert is the president of Reqis, a provincial organization defending the collective rights and promoting the interests of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Its mission is also to contribute to the development and influence of its members through networking and knowledge exchange. She is also a member of VoirDire, a bi-monthly publication serving the deaf population of Quebec since 1983.
Dr. Heidi Janz, University of Alberta, Assistant Adjunct Professor with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Dr. Janz specializes in the field of Disability Ethics and has been affiliated with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre since 2006. She was previously the Curriculum Coordinator for an emerging Certificate Program in Disability Ethics in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. In her “other life,” Dr. Janz is a writer and playwright. Dr. Janz is also Chair of the End-of-life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).
Rabia Khedr, CEO, Disability Empowerment Equality Network Support Services and Executive Director, Muslim Council of Peel. Rabia is a community leader who helps others with issues of fairness and justice that affect persons with disabilities, women and diverse communities. She was recently the Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Khedr created the Canadian Alliance on Race and Disability, which represents persons with disabilities and organizations at local, provincial and national meetings. She is also a member of the Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is a motivational speaker and documentary commentator and has been awarded many awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Dr. Michael Prince, Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. He teaches courses on public sector governance and public policy analysis in the School of Public Administration and the School of Public Health and Social Policy. As a policy consultant, Dr. Prince has been an advisor to various federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal government agencies; four Royal commissions; and, to a number of parliamentary committees federally and provincially. An active volunteer, Dr. Prince has been a board member of a community health clinic, a legal aid society, a hospital society and hospital foundation, the BC Association for Community Living, and the social policy committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.