“Inclusive from the Start”: Celebrating National AccessAbility Week at U of T

From May 29 to June 4, 2022, the University of Toronto joins communities across Canada in recognizing National AccessAbility Week (NAAW).

Now in its sixth year, NAAW celebrates the contributions of Canadians with evident and non-evident disabilities and recognizes those who work to make public and private spaces more inclusive for everyone.

The most recent comprehensive survey on disability in Canada (2017) found that 1 in 5 Canadians aged 15 years or over have at least one evident or non-evident disability. The survey identified mental health-related disabilities and learning disabilities as the most prevalent types of disability. Among other findings, it also indicated that over 25% of Canadians with disabilities currently in the workforce felt disadvantaged in their employment because of disability-related barriers.

The 2021 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Report, prepared by U of T’s AODA Office, shows the many ways that our tri-campus community is working hard to eliminate barriers experienced by students, faculty, librarians, and staff with lived experience of disability. It is important that we sustain this work across the whole spectrum of our activities: addressing barriers in our systems and processes, and reimagining not only how we design our spaces, events, and curriculum, but also how we understand—and build relationships with—each other.

On June 2, the University of Toronto will recognize National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) with an engaging panel dialogue on race, disability, and the impacts of COVID-19. All members of the U of T community are welcome to register for this virtual session.

Hosted by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Office, “Disability, Race, Gender, and Diverse Intersecting Communities: Pathways towards Social Justice” will bring experts from U of T, peer institutions, and community organizations together in conversation. The event will explore how individuals experiencing intersecting forms of discrimination—including lived experience of disability—have been uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will encourage us to apply panelists’ insights to the U of T context.

The theme of this year’s NAAW is “inclusive from the start,” indicating a state of mind and an approach to both life and work that ensures “the needs of everyone are appropriately explored and considered from the beginning.” Collectively, the University of Toronto community has been rethinking our conceptions of disability and what changes can be made to systems and processes to ensure their broader impact. With collaboration, open dialogue, and creativity, we can build a community where accessibility is not an obligation, but rather a mindset that we apply—intuitively—to everything we do.

Register for the virtual session “Disability, Race, Gender, and Diverse Intersecting Communities: Pathways towards Social Justice” on June 2, 2-3:30 pm.

Read the 2021 AODA Report to learn how the U of T tri-campus community is addressing barriers experienced by students, faculty, librarians, and staff with lived experience of disability.