Three members of the Brock University community were recognized Monday, Dec. 4 for their ongoing, daily contributions to anti-ableism, accessibility and inclusion.
As part of an event celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), Anne Readhead (PhD ’22), Educational Developer, Centre for Pedagogical Innovation; Mitch Baird, Web Developer, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences; and Ben Johnson (BA ’22), Master of Arts student in Child and Youth Studies, were each presented with the University’s 2023 Accessibility and Inclusion Recognition Award.
The IDPD, which promotes an understanding of disability issues and mobilizes support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, is observed annually by the United Nations on Dec. 3.
Presented by the Human Rights and Equity Office, the award is given annually to one current student and one staff, librarian or faculty member who has contributed to a community free of discrimination.
This year, members of Brock’s Anti-Ableism and Mental Health (AAMH) Committee —a working group of the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED) — chose to honour three recipients, due to the number of outstanding employee nominations.
“If I could say one thing that unites all the award recipients, it is their unsparing commitment to doing the next right thing in day-to-day, mundane, ordinary interactions,” said Kinesiology Professor and Chair of the Anti-Ableism and Mental Health Committee, Maureen Connolly, who presented the awards. “Each recipient enacts anti-ableism in the ways they comport themselves in all their interactions — professional, pedagogic, scholarly and interpersonal. Inclusion is not a box they check, it is the way they live.”
During the celebration, the three recipients agreed that accessibility and inclusion are deeply important because they represent the fundamental values of equality and respect for all individuals.
“Accessibility is a human right that needs to be honoured in all situations of our academic world as a first consideration, not the last,” said Readhead. “Inclusion embraces diversity because it is the reality — not something to ignore or deny.”
Reflecting on his own lived experiences, Johnson says he has faced many personal barriers. Hoping to help others avoid similar challenges, he has represented students in various capacities, including on Brock University Senate and student unions.
“Accessibility should not be an afterthought or merely for compliance,” he says. “I’ve come to understand that we need to profoundly rethink systems within universities so that nobody gets left behind.”
Digital accessibility has grown to become just as important as accessibility in the physical world, Baird says.
“Everyone, regardless of their abilities, deserves equal access to information, opportunities and the tools they need to thrive,” he says. “In a world increasingly reliant on technology, ensuring that digital platforms are accessible to all is not just about convenience, it’s about upholding the dignity and rights of every person to participate fully in society.”
Monday’s celebration, organized in collaboration with the Office of Human Rights and Equity, the Brock-Niagara Centre of Excellence in Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity and PACHRED’s AAMH Committee, also included two keynote presentations and roundtable discussions.
Danielle Peers, a Canada Research Chair in Disability and Movement Cultures and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, joined the event remotely to deliver a talk titled, “Restorying disability: Charity and Pathology to Justice and Generativity.”
Inclusion advocate, three-time Paralympian and Managing Director of special projects for Parasport Ontario, Jeff Tiessen, presented in-person about The Disability Today Network, which he also founded.