12 people were elected to CWDO's board on June 13, 2017 with election of Officers on June 19th.
MICHELE GARDNER - Toronto, Ontario (President)
Interests: ADD/ADHD, mobility, mental health, parenting, attendant services, housing, aging and disability and human rights
Background: Michele received her Social Service Worker Diploma with Honours at Humber College in 1991 and a Bachelor of Social Work Degree at Ryerson in 1998. Michele is a Registered Social Worker and works in her field full time in a non-profit organization that provides housing and support services for adults with mental health disabilities. In addition, she has been involved in social activism for disability rights and other marginalized communities for over 26 years. Michele founded a support group called Single Parents with Disabilities on Facebook which has approximately 200 members and growing. Michele had a son in 2003 and is a member of the Parenting with a Disability Network through the Center for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) and is on the Direct Funding Program as a Self-Manager of her own Attendant Care. Michele has recently participated in Project Re-Vision's Theater Performance: Small Acts of Saying. Michele has had numerous stories and articles published and has appeared in film and in many documentary television shows regarding disability and parenting with a disability. Her most recent was in partnership with CILT, was on the show called AMI This Week on the television channel Accessible Media Inc. on the topic of Nurturing Assistance.
MELISSA GRAHAM – Toronto, Ontario (Vice President)
Interests: Human rights, accessibility standards, housing, mobility, intersectionality
Background: Melissa Graham is an activist, blogger, and public speaker based out of Toronto who has been active in the disability community for more than a decade. She is the founder and one of the key organizers for the Toronto Disability Pride March, an ongoing annual event which began in 2010. She has written for publications such as Abilities magazine and The Monitor. Melissa is involved in disability issues throughout Ontario with a strong focus on intersectionality of movements, and grassroots approaches to change that work from the bottom up. She can often be seen at social justice events or enjoying the occasional wheelchair bungee jump.
TRACY ODELL - Scarborough, Ontario (Treasurer)
Interests: mobility issues, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, vision disabilities, hearing disabilities and Deaf culture
Background: Tracy Odell is a life-long advocate for independent living and the right of people with disabilities to live in the community. She has served on CWDO’s board of directors since 2009. Tracy has assisted in founding numerous supportive housing programs with attendant services, is credited with the establishment of "Nurturing Assistance," has published articles and appeared in videos to raise awareness of issues relating to disability. Tracy has a Masters degree in Critical Disability Studies, and received the John Lord Participatory Action Research Award for her Major Research Paper, “Not Your Average Childhood.” She has a B.A and B.Ed. in English and Special Education. Working full time and self-managing her attendant services, Tracy lives with her husband in Scarborough. They are proud of their two grown daughters, who have inherited the advocate gene, and their talented granddaughter.
SHAWNA LARSON, Thunder Bay, Ontario (Secretary)
Interests: mobility, chronic pain, mental health, accessibility standards, employment, parenting with a disability
Background: Shawna is a 33 year old married woman, living with Cerebral Palsy since birth. She originally hails from North Bay Ontario, where she was quite the young advocate for persons with disabilities. Shawna spoke every year, helped fundraise for the Easter Seals Telethon, and enjoyed every summer on the beautiful water of Lake Sesekinika at a beautiful camp run by Easter Seals. Shawna has never let her lack of mobility stop her from achieving any goal. In 2008, she graduated from Lakehead University with a double degree under her belt: a B.A. in Social Welfare, and an H.BSW. She now lives as a Registered Social Worker, working for Confederation College, both as an instructor and resource advisor for those seeking employment. Shawna looks forward to being a part of a growing team of passionate advocates!
TIFFANY GERVASI - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Membership Secretary)
Interests: Accessibility standards, human rights, recreation, mobility, chronic pain and brain injury
Background: Tiffany is a registered kinesiologist with an honours and graduate diploma in kinesiology from Lakehead University and a diploma in Recreation Therapy from Confederation College. She is an individual who lives with a physical disability. Tiffany has experience working in not-for profit organizations and has an understanding of working with individuals who have disabilities. Tiffany believes that recreation and physical activity is important and modifying it to include all is important to her and she has started to help individuals to gain access. Tiffany was able to work with the Canada Games Complex and design a fitness guide that was designed for individuals who have spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
TERRANCE J. GREEN - Ottawa, Ontario (Member at Large)
Interests: Disability Law, strategic planning, education, housing, recreation, transportation
Background: Terrance has advocated for over four decades, with advocacy groups, and on his own, to enhance and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Starting in Nova Scotia with the Blind Rights Action Movement and the Canadian Council of the Blind, and a newspaper called Touchstone, uncovering and removing barriers. Employed with Transport Canada, he received an award of excellence for his work in equity in human resources planning.1992, in Ottawa, most of his activities were issue driven; i.e., Federal, Provincial and municipal elections, transportation, education, and audible pedestrian signals. In 2001, as a lawyer, his areas of interest became access to justice, transportation, education, and community or social participation.
PAT SEED - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Past President)
Interests: strategic planning, technology, marketing, information technology and communications, aging and disability, attendant service quality committee, built environment, education, employment, fundraising, housing, mental health, recreation, and transportation
Background: Pat holds her B.A. in Speech Communications. She has taught and continues to teach Speaking with Confidence and Public Speaking to Broadcasters and other Professionals. She is also a professional Public and Motivational Speaker, as well as a Writer. Pat is totally blind from birth. She originally used a white cane for mobility, but has been travelling with Guide Dogs at her side since November of 1996. Pat has worked for Bell Canada and Confederation College. She also was employed as the Information and Referral Coordinator of the Thunder Bay Independent Living Resource Centre for seven and a half years. Pat began her Professional volunteering career for non-profit organizations, her Parish church, and other organizations in 1980. She still volunteers today and is now a Consultant and Resource person in many areas for many organizations. Pat is currently the Senior Technical Support and Resource Person for IDEAL Registered Online Conferencing, A member of the Steering and Logistics Committees for the Thunder Bay Leadership Forum 2007, a member of the Business Women's Network of Thunder Bay, as well as many other organizations. "If you think you can, you might; if you Know and Believe you can, you Will!" © May 2004 by Pat Seed.
LINDA HUNT - Brantford, Ontario
Interests: mobility, transportation, human rights, attendant services, accessibility standards
Background: Linda holds a Diploma in Business Administration. She is an Accessibility Consultant and Advocate for all things related to accessibility.
Linda is the Chair of Operation Lift, an organization committed to the accessible transportation needs of persons with disabilities. She is Past Chair of the Brantford Accessibility Advisory Committee and is a member of the Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant Review Team. Linda has held several leadership volunteer positions for local, regional and provincial organizations over the past 25 years.
Linda first became a person with a physical disability in 2004. Since then, she has been an active and engaging speaker to groups on a variety of accessibility topics. She has a passion for community projects that enhance accessibility and allow persons with disabilities to be active and engaged members of their community.
Linda has more than 25 years of experience in senior management roles with the provincial and federal governments, private companies and a national health charity. In addition, she and her husband have operated a family business for over 25 years.
CHER McCULLOUGH - Thunder Bay, Ontario
Interests: accessibility and general disabilities
Background: Born in New Brunswick, Cher came to live in Thunder Bay at a young age with her adopted family and has lived there ever since. She is a graduate from St. Patrick's High School where she enjoyed playing basketball and met some lifelong friends. While working for a new Tim Horton's, Cher advocated for accessibility features like automatic doors which were installed, ensuring that the Tim Horton's would be accessible for people with disabilities. Cher has had opportunities to work with people with vision impairments, providing support and mobility assistance. Cher lives with her two children. In her free time, Cher enjoys reading and TV dramas. Cher joined CWDO to learn more about issues that matter to people with disabilities and to help people get the information they need to live, work and play in the community.
SAM SAVONA - Toronto, Ontario
Interests: Accessibility standards, attendant services, transportation mobility, speech and electing people with disabilities to all levels of government
Background: Sam Savona has worked for the full equality of people with disabilities for many of years. He has been active on numerous committees, advisory boards, boards of directors, and worked for an organisation, which advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. He also advocated successfully in bringing accessible taxi service to the city of Toronto, and wheel-chair-accessible bus service to Pearson Airport.
Sam has been a constructive critic of the Toronto Transit Commission for many years because he believes it must be accessible to all. One of his major achievements thus far is that he, along with his fellow activists, convinced local politicians to begin to retrofit the conventional public transportation system for wheelchair accessibility. As a result, Sam was one of the first people in an electric wheelchair to board the subway unassisted. Sam is the first person to successfully be appointed five terms by the Toronto Transit Commission to its Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit. He has filled the Chair position when asked, and was elected for one year. Sam as also sat on the city of Toronto’s Disability Issues committee as Co-Chair.
In the summer of 97, Sam ran in the Federal Election as a candidate for the New Democratic Party in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding. He placed third out of five candidates, and brought up the support vote for the NDP three percent.
In 2013, Sam was honoured the medal of Ontario’s Good Citizenship for his advocacy work on accessible transit in Toronto. In 2009 an accessible playground was named in his honour, and in 2007 was given the City of Toronto Unsung Hero Award for his advocacy work within the disability community.
JEFFREY STARK - Kanata, Ontario
Interests: IT, assistive/adaptive technology and accessibility
Background: For the last 20 years, technology has been Jeffrey’s focus both professionally and personally. Professionally, Jeffrey is widely respected as an expert in his field of interest and has been a guiding voice in a number of accessibility initiatives in Canada. He has provided training for developers, publishers, technicians and a wide variety of other audiences across Canada on topics such as accessible application design, web accessibility and adaptive computer technology. Jeffrey manages a program which continues to be a driving force in the fields of accessibility and adaptive computer technology and has been internationally recognized for the unique services provided to persons with disabilities, injuries and ergonomic requirements. In his personal life, Jeffrey has been advocating for accessibility and inclusion within Canada. Jeffrey strongly believes in the need for institutionalization of accessibility requirements into all areas with an IT component. There are internationally recognized standards that developers need to follow in order for a system to be accessible. This is a little like the accessibility standards in the build environment (i.e. doorways have to be a certain width to accommodate a wheelchair, ramps, signage, contrasting colors etc). The same exists in web content, applications and other systems. Accessibility means that people with and without disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with information, services and applications. The adoption of accessibility standards, guidelines and best practices ensure that systemic barriers are eliminated prior to individual accommodations. Jeffrey is very aware of the technology that is deployed across Canada in the general public. He regularly volunteers his technical services in the general public to persons with disabilities and families of persons with disabilities who require technological accommodations.
DAVID WOODS - London, Ontario
Interests: Learning disabilities, mobility, chronic pain, employment, education and transportation, activity pacing and balanced living.
Background: David has multiple invisible disabilities, including a learning disability, dyslexia, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuralgia, osteoarthritis, an acquired brain injury, depression, tinnitus, obstructive sleep apnea sleep disorder, and degenerative disk disease, and even so has been able to obtain graduate level professional education. He completed his Master of Education in Counselling Psychology from the University of Western Ontario. David works in private practice providing counselling services to individuals and couples seeking assistance in overcoming their challenges. Previous activities include University of Guelph President’s Task Force on Students with Disabilities, University of Guelph Senate Subcommittee creating Policies on Student’s with Disabilities, City of London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, and a variety of politically inclined nominations advocating for people living with disabilities, before beginning with CWDO.
Last Updated: June 20, 2017