The final day of the International Summit on Accessibility, sponsored by Carleton University with support from the Province of Ontario and City of Ottawa, featured a session on assistive technology and a closing presentation by Rick Hansen. These presentations rounded out four days of informative programming and the announcement of the new Susan Scott Parker Scholarship.
“It has been a great pleasure to meet all of our delegates and speakers from Canada and around the world and to see all of the great conversations and networking during these last four days,” said Suzanne Blanchard, Carleton’s associate vice-president (Students and Enrolment) and university registrar and co-chair of the summit. “I had the opportunity to join some of the sessions and the passion and dedication I saw at the summit to create accessible and inclusive communities was very evident. The diversity of our participants has brought the conversation about accessibility to a higher level.”
The Susan Scott Parker Scholarship was announced on the third day of the summit. It will be awarded annually to a registered disabled undergraduate student at Carleton who has demonstrated financial need and academic achievement, with preference given to female students. This $1,000 award was initiated by Fran Harding and funded through generous donations from her and other Ottawa club members of the Canadian Foundation of University Women (CFUW). The scholarship is named in honour of Susan Scott Parker, a Canadian advocate for the rights of disabled persons in the United Kingdom.
The final day of the summit began with a presentation entitled The Future of Assistive Technologies featuring representatives from Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design, including the session chair, Rafik A. Goubran, professor and dean of the faculty.
“The idea of designing a system for accessibility or a smart home requires a lot of expertise in engineering, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medicine, but more importantly, expertise from the users who will end up using those devices,” said Goubran. “There are so many examples of failures because people who think they have solutions come together and come up with great products, but nobody touches the product because it doesn’t have the functionally the actual user needs. Any work related to this area involves a partnership.”
The next generation of assistive technologies is increasing in functionality while becoming more intuitive to use. As well, increased intelligence, portability and flexibility will enable increased access to assistive technologies throughout an individual’s daily life.
The summit closed with a keynote presentation by Rick Hansen, CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation who left attendees feeling both motivated and inspired.
“I tend to compare this summit to one that I helped put together a long time ago called Independence ’92,” said Hansen. “I think this conference would be aptly named interdependence–interdependence being that signal of strength, maturity and the capacity of how we’ve evolved to not be alone in our fears and self-determination to recognize that together we are stronger and that no one gets anywhere on their own. Imagine the magnitude and the potential inside of that notion.”
Following his speech Hansen presented the Difference Maker Award to Jody Mitic, Canadian forces veteran and Ottawa city council candidate. This recognition has been given to deserving recipients around the globe. The award recognizes individuals in communities world-wide who work towards a more inclusive world by breaking barriers.
With the theme of Making it Happen – From Intention to Action, the summit features experts from around the world, providing a key opportunity for service organizations, governments, the post-secondary sector, hospitals, and others who want to review best practices and create action.
More than 480 registrants from North America, Japan, the United Kingdom, Ghana, Nigeria and several other countries were in attendance to hear presentations from leaders in accessibility, including communications expert David Berman and David Goldbloom, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
About Carleton University: Carleton is a leader in accessibility, with the only 24-hour Attendant Services program in North America. Committed to achieving barrier-free accessibility for persons with disabilities who are studying, visiting or working at Carleton, the issue is an integral part of the university’s strategic plan. Carleton has a variety of other services, groups and committees on campus devoted to providing the best experience to all members of our community. Carleton’s Paul Menton Centre has recently launched a new organization called the READ Initiative (Research, Education, Accessibility and Design) geared to increasing programs and research in the areas of disability, universal design, accessibility and inclusion.
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