The Plot Thickens

I received an email from the manager of Mobility Plus. In it, I was told that the difference between them and Toronto’s TTC Wheel Trans is that Wheel Trans buses do not have seat belts. I am not sure where Mobility Plus is getting their information, but someone isn’t doing their homework. Wheel-Trans vehicles have seat belts. Attendants who are “non-registered riders” are permitted to stand, without a seatbelt, just as they would on a conventional service vehicle (TTC bus).

Mobility Plus says that they are following the guidelines of the Highway Traffic Act regarding seat belt usage, but if they are bound by it, then why isn’t Wheel-Trans?

Mobility Plus talks about wanting to ensure the safety of everyone concerned. They have repeatedly said that my attendant standing endangers other people on the vehicle. It is interesting to note that Mobility Plus has acknowledged that customers who can provide a letter of medical exemption are not required to wear a seat belt when on the bus. Following their logic, doesn’t that mean that anyone on the bus with such a customer is at risk? What is the difference?

Mobility Plus has offered two options: have the driver stop whenever needed (totally impractical since he or she would need to stop every few seconds), or have an OT evaluate me and make recommendations. Sigh.

I sent them my thoughts and requested a face-to-face meeting. The reply I received failed to acknowledge a single point I raised. I’m agreeing to meet with an OT to prove my needs once again. Stay tuned.


In early January, I moved from Toronto to Newmarket. I have severe Muscular Dystrophy and use an electric wheelchair. It took a lot of planning to ensure that I would be able to function in my new home and community.

I applied to Mobility Plus, York Region’s specialized transportation service, in December. Shortly after I moved, I was visited by an Inspector who needed to confirm that I am unable to use a minivan because of my height and chair size. I soon received my registration card and was on my way…or so I thought.

I booked a ride to go to a medical appointment and when the bus arrived, I boarded. My attendant took up her usual position beside me. The nature of my disability requires that I have neck and head support as well as assistance balancing to facilitate my breathing. I was shocked when the driver of the vehicle said my attendant had to sit and wear a seatbelt at all times. After explaining my needs to her, the driver made a phone call and said she couldn’t proceed unless the attendant sat down. Even if my attendant was sitting a couple of feet from me, the driver stated she couldn’t undo her belt to assist me. It’s interesting to note that on the Mobility Plus application, one of the questions asks if the applicant requires an attendant to travel with them, and why. If the accompanying attendant cannot assist the applicant, why would they require an attendant? It boggles the mind. I had no choice but to disembark and miss my appointment.

I immediately contacted the Inspector who had met with me and was told to provide a physician’s letter explaining why the attendant needed to stand. I submitted a letter, was given an amendment by their office, and sent in the revised note. After hearing nothing for 10 days, I contacted the Inspector again. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been given a myriad of reasons why I cannot be accommodated and yes, I am still waiting for resolution. Late last week, the Inspector gave the impression that nothing could be done. On Friday, I received an e-mail from someone in authority who said they are “still investigating“.

Surely I am not the only consumer who requires assistance while on a vehicle? People stand on “regular” busses every day. I can’t help but wonder how many people who do not know how to self-advocate (or have the support of family and friends) are sitting housebound after being told the same thing.

Ironically, I sent my resume to the York Region Accessibility Advisory Committee when I heard that they were looking for members to help make York Region more accessible for people with disabilities. I was delighted when they contacted me for an interview. Unfortunately, I was unable to schedule and attend a meeting with them and have missed a wonderful opportunity to contribute to my new community. I suggested that they consider using my current transportation predicament as a future agenda item.

I’m supposed to receive an update from Mobility Plus today or Tuesday, so watch this space.



CWDO focuses on various issues through our Committee Structure. Our work is limited only by the time, energy, skills and experience our members bring to the table. Some of the issues we are working on include:




Interested in an issue that’s not listed here?

Check our Committees List or write to us at Please write ISSUES in the subject line.




Newly disAbled? – Now what?

Collectively, CWDO members have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to share. Check out the schedule of gatherings in the Members’ Lounge and get involved with a CWDO Committee. These are two great ways to connect with real experts on handling a disability.

Otherwise, just write to us at, and we will try to connect you to someone in our network who can help answer an immediate question you may have.

Member Recommended Links



Updated February 21, 2015



CWDO's Board of Directors for 2016-17

14 people were elected to CWDO's board on June 14, 2016 with election of Officers on June 28th.


PAT SEED - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Chairperson)


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.


MICHELE GARDNER - Toronto, Ontario (Vice-Chairperson)


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.


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.


DAVID WOODS - London, Ontario (Secretary)


Interests: Learning disabilities, mobility, chronic pain, employment, education and transportation


Background: David is a person with multiple disabilities both visible and invisible, and has managed to be the first in his family line 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 and psychotherapy services to individuals and couples seeking assistance in overcoming their challenges, whether dealing with depression, anxiety, overcoming.


LINDA HUNT - Brantford, Ontario (Membership Secretary)


Interests: mobility, agility, transportation, accessibility standards, recreation


Background: Linda first became a person with a disability in 2004. Since then she has been an active and engaging speaker to groups on a variety of accessibility topics including the AODA. Linda Hunt is an Accessibility Consultant and Advocate for all things related to accessibility. She is the Past Chair of the Brantford Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Chair of Operation Lift, an organization focused on the accessible transportation needs of persons with disabilities. Linda is a firm believer in the benefits of universal accessibility. She has spent the last 8 years working with businesses and not-for-profit organizations developing policies and procedures and training their staff and volunteers as required under the AODA. She was the lead facilitator of the Welcome to my World event in Brantford - an experiential disability learning day for the Mayor, members of council and municipal senior managers. She secured the support and funding of Brantford City Council for several projects to enhance accessibility in the community. Including a community-wide AODA Community Engagement Campaign. She was instrumental in gaining City Council support to eliminate parking fees for holders of accessible parking permits in the City of Brantford. Linda has more than 25 years of experience in senior management roles in the public, private and not-for profit sectors. Prior to 2009, Linda held several leadership positions with the Provincial and Federal Governments, private companies and a National Health Charity at both provincial and regional levels. In addition, she and her husband have operated a family business for over 25 years.


TIFFANY GERVASI - Thunder Bay, Ontario



Interests: Accessibility standards, human rights, recreation, mobility, chronic pain and brain injury


Background: Tiffany has her Honour Bachelor of Kinesiology degree 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

(Past Chairperson)


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.


ALEX JACKSON - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Director)


Interests: Human rights, technology, identity issues faced by all people with disabilities, mobility, stamina and vision


Background: Alex is a 26 year old born with spastic cerebral palsy who is particularly interested in theoretical and philosophical issues facing the disabled community in western society. He achieved a Master's Degree in Literary studies at Lakehead University in 2014 and is currently set to undertake a PhD in Theory and Criticism with a focus on Disability Studies and apocalyptic rhetoric at the University of Western in 2015. For Alex, the intersection of disability and human society is of primary interest, and finding ways to navigate our modern existences both practically and existentially in today's high-production culture is a contentious and important issue. As such, issues of accessibility, human rights, technology, expectation and inclusion are essential pivot points moving forward. Moreover, Alex believes that the disabled point of view is unique and essential to human society, and as such, disabled representation in arts and culture, and the ability to speak openly about identity, personal, and philosophical issues from the disabled perspective are both major focuses of his ongoing work and study within the disabled community.


SHAWNA LAWSON - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Director)


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!


ROB MILLMAN - Huntsville, Ontario (Director)


Interests: mental health, brain injuries, learning disabilities, accessibility standards, human rights and housing


Background: Upon graduation from Queen's University, Doug "Rob" Millman essayed careers in social work and actuarial science, before discovering his aptitude for transportation engineering. He pursued the latter until 1995; when his mental health disability intervened. His general knowledge of all disabilities was derived from a three-year term on the Ontario Built Environment Committee: one of the committees which produced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA, 2005). Having been a seasonal resident his entire life, he now resides permanently in Hillside.


CHER MONTELEONE - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Director)


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 works for Community Living Thunder Bay in the “Doggie Bakery,” K-9 Delights. Cher has had opportunities to work with people with vision impairments, providing support and mobility assistance. Cher lives with her husband and 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.


ASHLEY NURMELA - Thunder Bay, Ontario (Director)


Interests: mental health, brain injury, chronic pain, human rights and housing


Background: Ashley Nurmela is a loving wife, a mother of 4 amazing children, and a student in the Native Child and Family Services Program at Confederation College. She has been subject to racism and criticism for things in her life that she cannot control as has her father who suffers from mental illness and is disabled from a work accident. As a young girl her father suffered from mental illness and still does to this day which made for less than favourable conditions at home. Ashley was subject to food insecurity, abuse and a very dysfunctional family dynamic. As a grown woman she has been targeted on many occasions because of the colour of her skin despite the fact that she cannot control either situation.  No matter the circumstances, we all as human beings have the right to walk in life with dignity and respect.


SAM SAVONA - Toronto, Ontario (Director)


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 (Director)


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 colours 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.



Last Updated: June 28, 2016

CWDO's 11th Annual General Meeting

This is CWDO's Notice to Members of our 11th Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 7:30 p.m., EDT. The meeting will be held on-line, in our accessible conferencing system.


How to join the AGM


Meeting Materials:



Notice posted on March 31, 2016


Take Action on Safeguards for Vulnerable Persons in a New Regime of Physician-Assisted Suicide

A Vulnerable Persons Standard campaign has been launched in support of assisted dying safeguards that will protect vulnerable people from harm.  It is being endorsed by organizations across the country - including CWDO.

Endorse the Vulnerable Persons Standard


Write your member of Parliament to express your concerns:




CWDO Call for Nominations

In anticipation of our 11th Annual General Meeting on June 20, CWDO is inviting talented and passionate people with disabilities to consider joining CWDO as a member of our Board of Directors to drive change that will impact on our quality of life.


As a board member, you will attend monthly meetings, lead one or more working groups that support our mandate, contribute content to our webpage, organize informative webinars, help develop position papers/submissions, interact with our members and more. Read our new, 5-year Strategic Plan to find out more about what CWDO will be doing.


Ontario needs your active involvement to make our province a leader in accessibility, inclusion and participation of people with disabilities. Please consider completing a nomination form for yourself or an individual that you would recommend to join CWDO as a board member.





Tribute To An Angel

Tribute To An Angel



A Respected Leader with a Gentle touch,

The future ever in her sight,

Always Giving to others so much.

But God called an Angel home tonight.



A Listener both Patient and Kind,

Seeing everyone in a Positive light,

Making sure all had their say,

But God called an Angel home tonight.



A Champion for many causes,

An Advocate for what was right;

Now smiling down from up above,

Because God called an Angel home tonight.



No more waiting for things to be done,

Nor difficulties to keep in sight;

The battle over physical pain has been won,

Because God called an Angel home tonight.



"So wipe the tears from your eyes,

For me, Continue the Fight;

To your heart I will whisper and guide,

Because God called me home tonight."



Written In Memory Of Sousan Zaribaf



Author Friend And CWDO Board Member

Pat Seed

January 2016

Board Member Remembrances of Sousan

I first met Sousan when I moved into Aldebrain Tower in Scarborough. Very quickly I learned what a powerful presence was housed in that petite figure of hers. Sousan had a tremendous amount of self-respect and joy of life. I think this was probably a defining trait for her and powered many of her life decisions.



Sousan fought very hard to have attendant services brought into Aldebrain Tower – a totally accessible apartment building that she helped to design. The building reflected her elegant taste and the services her desire to see people with disabilities live in the community on their own terms. A few years ago I invited her to join the Board of Directors of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO), an organization which board members of Aldebrain founded. She agreed to join in honour of her ex-husband, Udo Franz, a founding member who had passed away. In her role as a board member I had the great joy of working together with her on a number of issues. This deepened our friendship as I got to know Sousan better as we worked on common goals. Sousan dove in wholeheartedly to a number of CWDO's projects. She was passionate about our work to provide advice for stronger accessibility standards, protections for attendant services and physician-assisted suicide.



She wrote: “The only way persons with disabilities can have the opportunity to live with respect and dignity is to have the services and supports they need.” Even though she had never done it before, she led two online webinars, facilitating consultations between officials who were reviewing accessibility legislation and members of CWDO. Sousan took her role as a board member seriously, faithfully attending CWDO’s online meetings, supporting our telephone blitzes to contact members across Ontario and treated everyone with respect. She volunteered for every committee and working group we had going, made positive contributions and never forgot to thank other board members for their efforts.



Board members past and present shared their memories of Sousan when they learned she passed away. She made a profound impact on us. I would like to take a moment to share with some of the comments board members made at the time:



  • “Sousan was a wonderful Board member and held CWDO's best interests close to her heart.”
  • “There are some board members who are like family to me. She was definitely one.”
  • “To me, Sousan was like a breath of fresh air. She was thoughtful in her contributions to discussions. She had an insight into issues that was unique. She was compassionate about what she did and most often had hidden abilities that needed just a little encouragement to come out."
  • "I am certainly going to miss her as we move forward and do our best to implement what she was so emotionally driven to see put in place for all Ontarians."
  • "This is such heartbreaking news for CWDO and her family and friends. I didn't know her very well, just from our [online] meetings, but from what I learned through those, she was an amazing person with a great passion for CWDO and helping people with disabilities."
  • “I only had the pleasure of working with her for a short time. I joined [the board] just recently and yet I truly count Sousan as one of the kindest and most welcoming people I'd ever worked with.”
  • “I may have only heard her voice through digital means but that was more than enough to convey the stellar person she was – such a positive and driven human who was so well-liked and so dedicated. I wish I could say that I met her in person. I wish I could say I told her how welcome she made me feel. In the end there are no words that can sum up such a loss of someone so incredible.”
  • "My sincerest condolences and sadness go out to all of you in CWDO, those of you who knew her as a personal friend, and her family." 
  • And finally: “I hope we can forge on and help to honour Sousan’s memory and determination in all that we do together.”



Sousan left us far too soon. But she left knowing that she was loved by her husband, Jack, that she was capable of working as a professional, making and keeping a strong circle of friends and she left us knowing she had done good things for her community and for people with disabilities.



Sousan lived well and her life was well lived. She was a good friend who was always willing to listen and make gentle, practical suggestions whenever she saw a need. May she be an example for all of us and inspire us to make more room in our lives to help others – even if it means stepping outside our own comfort zone at times, like Sousan did.



God bless you, Sousan. Rest in peace. ~ Tracy Odell