Steering Committee for Barrier-Free Canada:
Brief Bios of the Steering Committee Members:
Donna Jodhan is the founder of Barrier-Free Canada. She is passionate about making the world more accessible for the children of tomorrow. She works on removing barriers to education and job opportunities. In 2000, she started a charter challenge with the Federal Government to ensure that Canadian government websites are accessible to persons with disabilities, which culminated in a landmark victory in 2012. Donna is a motivational speaker, presenting to academic and professional audiences across Canada. She also takes on community leadership roles, and spreads her positive energy through motivational writing on her Sterling Creations blog.
- President, Sterling Creations, Toronto, Canada (since 1994)
- Past Communications Director of the Canadian Blind Sports Association
- Past President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
- Member of the Elections Canada Advisory Group for Disability Issues since February 2014.
- Backbone Magazine – one of Top 15 Digital Media experts (2011)
- Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) National award (2010)
- City of Toronto’s Unsung Hero Award (2008)
- IBM Innovation award – IBM Canada
- Royal Bank Training & Technology Appreciation award
Penny Bennett is the current President and chair of Barrier-Free Canada. She lives in Kingston. She is a senior citizen who is deafblind. In 1984 Penny obtained a diploma in business management from the British Columbia Institute of Technology and since that time Penny has enrolled in several courses ranging from several communication courses to obtaining a instructor certificate in adult literacy. Penny is an active advocate for equal rights for all. Encouraging society to do the right thing goes a lot further than calling people out for doing the wrong thing. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.
Michelle Buckland is a seasoned and passionate Learning and Development Specialist, Accessibility Advisor and an award-winning Motivational Speaker. She has been in the Training and Development field for over 20 years which includes numerous training methods (e.g. blended, instructor-led, hands-on, e-Learning, digital, etc.) where she has worked in a variety of industries such as Government, Manufacturing, Education, and Consulting to name a few. As an Accessibility Advisor, she uses her expertise, advocacy, and accessibility legislation to help ensure compliance and provide services to organizations and the community to build and sustain accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. With this background, she has founded EMBRACE to provide optimal learning solutions and help build an accessible culture for employees, customers, communities and individuals who all hold unique capabilities and unique needs. Her speaking engagements have been given to diverse audiences in which she has a passion for helping others embrace their full potential – through professional development and as a motivating force for people who are striving for presence.
Michelle attended Ryerson University where she received her Bachelor of Applied Arts majoring in Technology, her Certificate in Training and Development (Adult Education) with Honors, a Certificate of Completion of a 6-week Management Consulting Training Program, as well as completed courses encompassing e-Learning, digital learning, and accessibility legislation/standards.
- Michele Edwards Memorial Award for Advocacy of People with Disabilities – 2017
- Toastmasters International Speech Contest 1st Place – 2010
- Celestica Merit Award – 2004
- HOPE Award presented by Toronto City Mayor for delivering Public Awareness to a Canadian Top Best Employer – 2001
- Management Consulting Training Program – 1999
- Promote Diversity within the Government Sector – 1994
- Ambassador for Epilepsy Toronto – 2003 to Present
- Articles of Hiring People with Disabilities
- Advocate at Queen’s Park
- Education Representative at Annual Buskerfest Event
- Featured in the media to Promote Education and Awareness of Recruiting People with Disabilities (PwD) and Integrating an Inclusive Workplace Environment – 2003 and 2007
- Distinguished as a Guest Speaker through Speakers’ Bureau – on behalf of a non-profit agency – for United Way Campaign 2011 to 2015 (Audience Size: 25 to 250)
- Ambassador for ‘Accessible’ Learning in the Workplace and Community – Ongoing
- Certificate of Achievement: Competent Leader – Toastmasters International – 2006
Anthony Tibbs is a lawyer at Merchant Law Group LLP in Montreal, Canada.
He is a graduate of McGill University of Montreal and practices both Civil and Common Law. Prior to this he completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours), graduating magna cum laude from the University of Ottawa. Anthony is also the Treasurer of Braille Literacy Canada, Chairman of Media Access Canada, and a past president of Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians.
My name is Charlene Young, and I have been completely blind since birth. I have a very rare eye condition called Degenerative Anophthalmia, where the eye starts to form and then it degenerates due to lack of blood supply. Currently, there is no treatment option for regaining eyesight, but only cosmetic options. I have had prosthetic eyes since I was a baby.
I grew up in Rosetown, Saskatchewan and graduated high school in June of 2005. I stayed on in Rosetown for a few more years and did additional schooling, taking the Computer Works course through the Great Planes Community College. I then graduated from the Office Administration Program through Saskatchewan Polytechnic in May of 2016. I moved to Saskatoon in 2010, where I worked for five winters as a seasonal Highway Hotline Clerk for the Ministry of Infrastructure for the Government of Saskatchewan. I also worked as a part-time/casual Switchboard Operator for the Saskatoon Police Service since 2011. I have recently started a new job as the Assistive Technology Specialist for Vision Loss Rehabilitation, a CNIB organization in Saskatoon.
I am a strong advocate for persons with disabilities. I believe in equality for all people and work on breaking down barriers relating to misconceptions and stigmas that people like myself face on a day-to-day basis. I have been a member of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) since November of 2015 and I am currently the Secretary for the AEBC Saskatoon Chapter. I am also one of the founding members and a Director At Large for Barrier Free Saskatchewan. I look forward to bringing my skills to the board for Barrier Free Canada.
Louise Gillis is the Current President of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.
In 1997, Louise became involved with the CNIB following sudden vision loss and served on their Advisory Board, Sydney District for many years. She became a member of the CCB Sydney Chapter in 1998 and served CCB at all levels and on several committees advocating for accessibility for blind/vision impaired Canadians. In 2010, she was elected to the position of National President and re-elected in 2014 and 2017. Louise has won several advocacy awards and believes in improving the lives of all Canadians.
Louise has served on a number of committees such as Library Committee; Media Access Canada (MAC), Coalition of Blind Rights Holders (CBRH) — of Canada; Consumer Access Group (CAG); WBU — World Blind Union; WBU — Women’s Committee, ILNS — Independent Living Nova Scotia; Society for Accessible Transportation — Sydney; Marine Atlantic Accessibility & Inclusive Advisory Committee; She represents the blind community at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Innovative Medicines Canada / Médicaments novateurs Canada, International Federation on Aging (IFA), and CADTH (Canadian Agency on Drugs & Technology in Health), Louise formed the first curling team for persons with vision loss in Nova Scotia out of Sydney Curling Club. She is a member of the Sydney Harbour Dragon Boat Club and her summer activities include hiking and Dragon Boat paddling.
Albert A. Ruel, Get Together with Technology (GTT) Program Coordinator, Canadian Council of the Blind
Since experiencing total sight loss, and consequently my ability to work as a labourer in the Pulp and Paper industry in 1990, I have lived my passion in the field of access technology for people who are blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind primarily, as well as in the cross disability sector.
- Since June 1992 I have enjoyed a varied career in the not-for-profit vision loss and cross disability rehabilitation, technology training and advocacy sectors.
- I hold a Social Service Worker Certificate from Vancouver Island University and a Personnel and Supervisory Management Diploma from Douglas College along with 27 years’ experience working in the above noted fields.
- I am passionate about helping people connect with their needs. Most importantly, I am solution-focused, flexible, have a positive attitude and have a great sense of humour.
Betti-Jo Ruston is a federal public servant with over 20 years of experience in domestic policy and international affairs. As a parent to a child with physical and intellectual disabilities, she has become a passionate supporter of eliminating barriers to the full participation of persons with disabilities in Canadian society. She is eager to work with others to identify and concretely address the gaps in programs and services as a means to eliminate the poverty and marginalization faced by many across Canada. Caregivers of children and adults with disabilities face unique challenges and Betti-Jo works to profile this reality. She is focused on concrete, small actions that will hopefully over time lead to a more inclusive Canada for her son and others.
Lorne Mackenzie was the Senior Regulatory Affairs Manager for WestJet Airlines based in Calgary Canada before being placed on inactive status effective October 30, 2020 due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. Lorne started his 28 year career in commercial aviation in 1992 as City Ticket Office Manager for Canadian Airlines in Beijing China. He remained in China in a variety of capacities for several years before returning to Canada to oversee Airport operations and policy development with Canadian Regional Airlines and Air Canada after the merger, finally joining WestJet 16 years ago to help launch international destinations for the first time in WestJet’s history. In Lorne’s previous capacity, he provided oversight of all of WestJet’s Accessibility related policies and programs. In addition, he supported ensuring passenger related regulatory compliance, and participation in bilateral air agreement negotiations. Lorne remains current chair of IATA’s Accessibility Working Group and participates on the Passengers with Disabilities Task Force and remains on the Plain Language Technical Committee supporting Accessibility Standards Canada.
Sean is an accessibility and universal design industry expert and an inclusion collaborator. After breaking his neck in 2004 from a diving accident, he now utilizes a wheelchair to optimize his independence. Sean attended university with a focus in mathematics. As an entrepreneur, Sean developed proprietary internationally recognized accessibility standards and used them to launch Universal Access. Today Universal Access is a self-sustaining profitable business. Sean has dedicated the better part of his professional career committed to bettering accessibility and inclusion in society. As the co-founder of Included by Design, Sean’s goal is to create communities where all people feel comfortable conducting daily tasks, participating in social events, and contributing to their economic well-being as though spaces were designed to accommodate all people regardless of their unique characteristics. He currently sits on three boards of not-for-profit organizations to ensure they continue moving the needle in the right direction. In addition, Sean is an advisor on two advocacy committees, as well as provides workshops and speaks at different engagements on accessibility and inclusion.
- Heart of the Community award.
- Social Economy Leader award.
- What’s Next YYC
Megan has an innate passion for social justice, inclusion, and equality. She has been an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities her whole life. Megan has been involved in many equality-seeking initiatives, including the organization of the inaugural Manitoba Judicial Roundtable, bringing judges together from all over the world to discuss the importance of access to justice. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Winnipeg’s Legal Help Centre and volunteered with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). During law school, Megan also worked with the International Humanitarian Law Division of the Canadian Red Cross, ARCH Disability Law Centre, and the Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA). She was also a Student Fellow with the Global Health Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa and a clinic placement student at South Ottawa Community Legal Services. Megan has had the privilege of speaking to a variety of groups on human rights issues and was honoured to speak about disability rights at WE Day. Megan is a practicing lawyer, currently specializing in the areas of human rights, labour, employment, and administrative law. She is proudly from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She loves musical theatre and has had the opportunity to sing and travel with a number of choirs.