By Susan Hickman
Some of the world’s most progressive minds in the field of accessibility will gather in Ottawa this summer to attend a first-of-its-kind summit organized by Carleton University.
The International Summit on Accessibility 2014 will take place at the Ottawa Convention Centre from July 12 to 15.
“The whole world is tilting towards accessibility awareness,” says Larry McCloskey, director of Carleton’s Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities. “New provincial legislation (the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA) will make Ontario the first in the world to be fully accessible by 2025. Ottawa wants to be the most accessible capital in the world and Carleton has a long tradition of putting in place accessibility.”
Adds Suzanne Blanchard, associate vice-president (Students and Enrolment) and summit co-chair: “The strengthening of legislation and public awareness supporting the full inclusion of persons with disabilities mark this as an ideal time for us to actively pursue accessibility initiatives within Carleton and beyond.”
McCloskey notes Carleton has “a culture of accessibility,” with its strategic plan for accessibility for disabled students, a round-the-clock Attendant Services program and a new initiative, Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ), recently launched by the Paul Menton Centre.
“Carleton students have shown an interest in disability,” says READ Acting Director Dean Mellway. “We identify issues in the community and then find the appropriate experts at Carleton, regardless of the discipline they are in, and act on those issues under the READ initiative.”
Carleton will emphasize its solutions-based approach at the summit. “It’s time for people to take advantage of the knowledge available around accessibility and make a difference for people with disabilities,” says Mellway.
The main theme of the summit, “Making it Happen: From Intention to Action,” reflects organizers’ objectives to embrace progress towards complete accessibility.
“The calibre of people participating in our panels and workshops will ensure that we provide our participants with the tools they need to push the accessibility agenda in many different settings,” says Blanchard. “Our participants will have an opportunity to connect with leaders from around the world, celebrate best practices and participate in collaborative dialogue to create action towards accessible and inclusive communities.”
The conference is developing three secondary themes of innovation, technology and accessible communities. Participants will address issues of accessibility in education, communication, employment, recreation, mobility, health and the physical environment, with a special emphasis on employment.
Summit co-chair Darryl Boyce, assistant vice-president of Facilities Management and Planning, adds: “There is definitely an emphasis at the municipal, provincial and national governmental and organizational levels to improve accessibility for individuals in our community to work, to get around and to participate as regular contributors to our communities and organizations. The conference brings together many different organizations to talk about the programs and initiatives that are actually out there making a difference that others can model.
“This can create an environment where we all can move more quickly toward change and toward an environment that will create a more accessible world in the end.”
Summit speakers include Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley and Rick Hansen of the Rick Hansen Foundation, which focuses on improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries.
For updates on the conference: Carleton.ca/accessibilitysummit
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