Communication Access within the Accessible Canada Act logo

IDRC is working to address communication access for people who have speech, language, and communication disabilities. With advice from an advisory panel and Communication Disabilities Access Canada, this project will focus on communication access for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities due to life-long or acquired cognitive and/or neurological disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down Syndrome, learning disability, intellectual disability, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

About Communication

  • Communication is an interactive, two-way process that includes both understanding and being understood. It involves a range of communication methods in face-to-face interactions, over the telephone and remote communications, online and via reading and writing.
  • Communication methods include speech, gestures, body language, writing, drawing, pictures, symbol and letter boards, speech-generating devices, as well as human services such as sign language interpreting, captioning in real time, informal and formal communication assistance.

(Communication Disabilities Access Canada. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from

Research and Data Scan

Global and national scan of existing data and research related to incidence and prevalence of communication disability. Explore results below or link to the table through a browser.

Visit Fluid Project Wiki for more information about the project


Part One: Framing Communication Accessibility in the Canadian Context

Part Two: Scope of Communication Access Approaches and Supports for in Federally Regulated Contexts

Part Three: Recommendations for Improving Communication Access in Federally Regulated Contexts

Les rapports sont également disponibles en français:

Partie un : Structurer l’accessibilité des communications dans le contexte canadien

Deuxième partie : Portée des approches et des soutiens en matière d’accès à la communication dans les contextes réglementés par le gouvernement fédéral

Troisième partie : Recommandations pour améliorer l’accès aux communications dans les contextes réglementés par le gouvernement federal

Advisory Committee

Anne Abbott

Colin Philips

Head and shoulders photograph of Colin Philips

Originally from London, Ontario, Colin Phillips was born with cerebral palsy. They use a wheelchair and communicate with a word board and communication assistant, or a voice output device. Dr. Phillips was an ad-hoc Policy Consultant for Communication Disabilities Access Canada. They hold appointments as a Contract Lecturer in the School of Social Work at X (Ryerson) University, and as a Sessional Lecturer in Social Development Studies and Social Work at Renison University College, University of Waterloo. Colin teaches courses in social and health policy, decolonising social work practice, direct practice skills, and qualitative research methods. Their research interests include Housing First and other ways of addressing homelessness, housing policy, and harm reduction. They hold an MSW from the University of Toronto and a PhD in Policy Studies from X (Ryerson) University. In 2018, Colin became the first person with a visible disability to be nominated for election to be the Moderator of the United Church of Canada. Colin is also active in the labour movement and LGBTQ2S community. When they are not working, you can usually find them at the gym or the opera.

Colin communicates by spelling out what he wants to say on a word board and their assistant reads out what they are communicating, or they use a speech generating device. Colin can hear and understand everything you say.

Elyse Shumway

Glenda Watson Hyatt

John Ward

Head and shoulders photograph of John Ward

John, a resident of Gatineau, is pursuing a PhD in Education at the University of Ottawa. His specialization is in alternate education, Indigenous wholistic knowledge, ethics concerning disabilities, learning disabilities and dyslexia. He has worked in the area of disability, primarily learning disabilities and dyslexia, for the majority of his life. He is empowered by traditional wholistic knowledge as a way of building dialogue. He enjoys wood, bone, and antler carving, as well as working with birch bark. Above all, he excels at passing on knowledge that will make a difference within disability studies.

Kathy Howery

Head and shoulders photograph of Kathy Howery

Kathy Howery received her PhD in Special Education from the University of Alberta in 2017. She is currently an educational consultant and a sessional lecturer at several Universities in Alberta. Her doctoral research drew upon hermeneutic phenomenology to seek to understand what it is like for young people with complex communication needs (CCN) to communicate with speech generating devices.

Kathy began her career over thirty years ago focusing on finding ways for students with the most complex needs share their voices in the world. Since that time Kathy has worked in a variety setting including schools for students with significant disabilities, inclusive preschool programs, and the I CAN Centre for Assistive Technology at the Glenrose Hospital in Edmonton. From 2004 to 2008 Kathy was seconded to work for Alberta Education as the lead for the Assistive Technology for Learning Initiative. She has developed and taught graduate level courses in Assistive Technology, Learning and Development, Special Education, Universal Design for Learning, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Kathy has presented at scores of educational conferences at both the national and international level including the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) Conference, the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference, and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference. Kathy has also presented her research in the area of CCN, and in the area of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), at numerous conferences in Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec.

She is current President of ISAAC Canada, and has been a board member of the Alberta Chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children. In addition, she has held positions on the Inclusive Learning Network of the International Society of Technology in Education (ILN/ISTE), and on the leadership team of the Universal Design for Learning -Implementation Research Network (UDL-IRN).

Kathy provides ongoing consultation to Alberta school jurisdictions in the areas of UDL, special education, and supporting children and youth with CCN in developing language and literacy skills. Most recently Kathy is currently teaching for both the University of Alberta and Concordia University of Edmonton, and is working under contract with Alberta Education as part of the Provincial Wide Low Incidence Collaborative Supports team with primary responsibility in the area of complex communication needs.

Krystine Donato

Head and shoulders photograph of Krystine Donato

Krystine Donato lives in St. Catharines, Ontario. She has worked as an assistive technologist, research project coordinator, research assistant, and as a job coach with the Ontario March of Dimes. She also volunteers her time with Community Living St. Catharines, wherever help is needed. Krystine brings first-hand knowledge as an individual with a disability. She has been working as an advocate with Communication Disabilities Access Canada for a number of years and is currently on the CDAC board of directors as well as CA-Just (Communication Access to Justice), where she currently sits as one of the Co-chairs.

Lois Turner

Head and shoulders photograph of Lois Turner

Lois Turner, MS, RSLP, CCC-SLP, ATP, is a Speech Language Pathologist who has been working for over 35 years as a specialist in AAC and Assistive Technology, enjoying employment in preschool, school, adult, and community settings in Manitoba and British Columbia.

In addition to providing clinical and consultative services to clients, she contributed authorship to the CAYA CAAP (assessment protocol), AAC Expanded Core Curriculum (province of BC), and SAC-OAC (national) Position Statement on AAC. Lois sits on the board of the Stroke Recovery Association of BC, is the Past President of ISAAC Canada, served on the RESNA Professional Standards Board from 2015-2021, and was a member of the province of BC’s Accessibility Legislation & COVID-19 Advisory Committee from 2020-2021. She is a co-author of a chapter on assessing adults in the textbook Fundamentals of AAC: A Case-Based Approach to Enhancing Communication, by Hall, Juengling-Sudkamp, Gutmann, Cohn, Plural Publishing, 2022.

Lois joined forces with Communication Disabilities Access Canada from 2013-2016, where she was the BC regional coordinator for Communication Access Now (CAN), a national campaign that promoted communication accessibility and the communication access disability symbol, for people who have speech and language disabilities.

Lois is the co-creator and current Program Manager at CAYA, a province-wide service program that supports the complex communication needs of non-speaking adults in British Columbia, Canada.

Loredana Cuglietta

Sam Savona

Head and shoulders photograph of Sam Savona

Sam Savona, from Toronto, 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 has also sat on the city of Toronto’s Disability Issues committee as Co-Chair.

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.

Sam has sat on a couple of standard development committees for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He has also been appointed to the Emergency Measures Technical Committee under the Accessible Canada Act.

Tara Levandier

Head and shoulders photograph of Tara Levandier

Executive Director, Operations & Social Impact 
Inclusion Canada

An experienced human rights advocate and operations executive, Tara has led pioneering policy and programmatic initiatives at the provincial, national, and international level to advance the full inclusion and rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Tara has significant experience in policy reform and program development, results-based management, and systemic advocacy. For over a decade her disability rights work has covered a range of policy areas including legal capacity, employment, safeguards in healthcare, sexual health and abuse prevention, family supports, and building inclusive communities. Tara sits on a number of national advisory groups, including the Accessibility Standards Canada Technical Committee for Plain Language, and has presented to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a member of the Canadian civil society delegation.

Tara holds a Master’s degree in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership from the School of Public Policy & Administration at Carleton University and is a regular presenter on topics related to disability rights, diversity and inclusion, and the social purpose sector.

Project Team

Dr. Vera Roberts, Project Manager

Dr. Vera Roberts is Senior Manager Consulting, Training and Research at the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) of OCAD University. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Cognitive Science from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Roberts’ primary research area is generating a culture of inclusion through outreach activities, training and implementation of inclusive technology and digital sharing platforms. As a researcher at the IDRC for over 20 years, Roberts has participated in numerous multi-partner inclusion projects. Recent projects include We Count, Equitable Digital Systems, Future of Work and Disability, BIG IDeA and Our Doors are Open. Roberts coordinates, develops and provides consulting and training on inclusion and diversity to the public and private sector. She is a sessional instructor in Inclusive Research Methods in the Master of Inclusive Design program and in Innovation Research Methods in the Strategic Foresight & Innovation graduate programs at OCAD U.

Barbara Collier, Reg. CASLPO, F. ISAAC, Project Consultant

Barbara Collier is executive director and co-founder of Communication Disabilities Access Canada and Augmentative Communication Community Partnerships Canada. Since 2001, she has developed and managed CDAC’s projects relating to human rights, social justice and accessibility for people who have disabilities that affect communication. Barbara’s background is in Speech-Language Pathology, Augmentative Communication, human rights and accessibility legislation. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and has authored numerous books, DVDs, and online courses. She is the primary author of all CDAC’s reports, online resources and courses.   Through her work with CDAC, Barbara established Canada’s first communication intermediary program and has provided trainings for over 500 Speech-Language Pathologists to work as intermediaries to support victims, witnesses and accused persons communicating in police, legal and justice services. She has participated on Ontario’s customer service and healthcare accessibility standards committees and provided input to draft standards on provincial and federal levels. In 2018, Barbara was responsible for having Bill C81 amended to include communication as a priority area of focus in the Accessible Canada Act. In 2010, Barbara was recognized as a Fellow of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC).  She is co-recipient of the ISAAC President’s Award and in 2016, on behalf of CDAC, she accepted the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility. In 2019, the Ontario Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists awarded Barbara with the lifetime honours of the association for her outstanding contribution to Speech-Language Pathology in Ontario.

Caren Watkins, Project Coordinator

Caren Watkins is the coordinator of SNOW: Inclusive Learning and Educationand an Inclusive Designer at the at the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) of OCAD University. She has extensive experience in communication and information design, and neurodivergence and education. Caren has contributed to the research and design of various projects at the IDRC including PhET, UIO interface development, and federal and provincial government accessibility consulting projects. Caren has over a decade of teaching and curriculum development experience as a partial load professor at York/Sheridan and OCAD U, as well as over 20 years of award-winning communication design and publishing experience. Caren holds a Masters of Inclusive Design focused on inclusion in the public-school classroom. Caren encourages open resources and community involvement to foster a collaborative approach toward an inclusive model of education for all.

Dr. David H. Pereyra, Project Coordinator

Dr. David H. Pereyra is Project & Outreach Coordinator at the Inclusive Design Research Center (IDRC) of OCAD University. He is an architect from Buenos Aires and holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Theology from the University of Toronto. His Post-doc work focused on community engagement with the disability community and outreach related to inclusive design. Dr. Pereyra’s research centres on interdisciplinary aspects of our multicultural society. He is particularly interested in how creative experiences of transmitting information and communication can reach users and vice-versa. At the Inclusive Design Research Centre, David is responsible for outreach, collaboration and community engagement. He has coordinated several outreach projects (e.g.: We Count, EDS, BIG IDeA, Our Doors are Open, CanHack150 and aha!). David developed and maintains a community of expert advisors from the disability community who collaborate in design workshops, accessibility challenge events and sensitivity training activities. These activities are as diverse as setting/learning policies, designing built environments, developing services, creating accessible workflows, and workshops. His Latin American, European and North American multicultural background greatly enrich his knowledge of the world and his scholarly work.

Ali Kazimi, Research Assistant

Ali Kazmi is a research assistant for OCAD’s Inclusive Design Research Centre. Ali’s previous research focuses have been on the development of accessible and robust online education platforms, with an emphasis on micro-credentialing, industry alignment, and formal accreditation. This has included developing online learning badges for the Inclusive Design Research Centre’s We Count Project, which enables learners to showcase their proficiency in the growing fields of AI, data systems and inclusive data practices as well as other skills. As a former staff member and user of the University of Toronto’s Accessibility Services, Ali strives to keep his research and professional contributions committed to EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) principles and advocacy to better serve persons with disabilities and other communities on the margins.

Shalaine Sedres, Research Assistant

Shalaine Sedres is a graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Toronto’s Rehabilitation Science Institute. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies from the University of Calgary. As a research assistant, Shalaine has made valuable contributions to the Inclusive Design Research Centre’s Equitable Digital Systems project by facilitating co-design sessions and interpreting insights. Her current research focuses on leveraging accessible playgrounds by incorporating rehabilitation and educational programming. She is dedicated to promoting inclusivity and reducing barriers that hinder the full participation of children with disabilities.

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