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Moving forward on accessibility

A new conference organized by the Society of Graduate and Professional Students explored accessibility and inclusion.

[Atul Jaiswal]
PhD candidate Atul Jaiswal speaks at the inaugural Accessibility and Inclusion Conference hosted by the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. (Supplied Photo) 

A new conference on accessibility recently hosted at Queen’s attracted international attention.

"I had the idea to host this event through discussions of diversity and inclusion that I was fortunate enough to be a part of throughout the University," says Rosie Petrides (Artsci’18), Equity and Diversity Commissioner with the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS). "I wanted to highlight the ways in which individuals who identify as having disabilities can become more integrated and feel more included within the greater Queen's community. I am quite thankful for the incredible keynote speakers that agreed to be a part of this initiative.”

The inaugural Accessibility & Inclusion Conference, hosted by the SGPS, attracted dozens of students, staff, faculty, and community members to campus on Saturday, and plenty of interest from around the globe as accessibility practitioners and those with accessibility challenges followed along on social media.

[The Forward Movement aims to bring the Accessible Icon Project to Canada]
The Forward Movement aims to bring the Accessible Icon Project to Canada, replacing the traditional accessibility icon on the left with the icon on the right. (Supplied Photo)

The conference featured five speakers, including Katherine Kerr, an Ambassador for The Forward Movement, the founder of Wheelchair Basketball Quinte, and Co-Founder of the Quinte Adaptive Sports Community. She was joined by Jennifer Tomasone, Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, who spoke about the “Revved Up” exercise program – an adapted exercise program service that promotes physical activity for those with mobility impairments and developmental disabilities.

“The Accessibility & Inclusion Conference gave us the opportunity to continue the very important discussion of how to make our society more inclusive,” says Ms. Kerr. “As a Queen's graduate, I was grateful to be able to step back on campus and present initiatives that I feel will make a very strong impact on how we further the discussion of inclusion.”

Attendees also heard from Karen Kelsey, a representative of Lime Connect – a global not-for-profit organization that works with high potential university students and professionals with disabilities, in order to connect them to scholarships, internships, and careers – and lawyer David Lepofsky, a Canadian lawyer and disability advocate.

The conference’s final speaker was Atul Jaiswal. Mr. Jaiswal is a PhD candidate in Rehabilitation Therapy here at Queen’s and the International Commissioner for the SGPS. He spoke about his research with adults who suffer from deafblindness, and how assistive technology can be instrumental in helping them feel included. He also talked about the importance of attitudinal change and discussed different strategies that could help to change attitudes of people towards disability.

“The conference is still gaining attention and traction, even days later,” says Mr. Jaiswal. “People found it to be meaningful, and we received great support from the Equity Office and the Accessibility Hub. We hope to organize more conferences like this in the future.”

For more information on accessibility at Queen’s, please visit the Accessibility Hub website