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2016 Conference - Montreal - Presenters

Anne Jarry, M.Ed, Graduate diploma in Vision Rehabilitation, B.Sc. (Psychology),

Anne Jarry is presently Assistant professor in the VRT graduate program at the School of Optometry, University of Montreal. During her tenure track, from August 2009 to August 2013, she worked as a clinical Vision Rehabilitation Therapist at the MAB/MacKay Rehabilitation Center in Montreal. She has considerable expertise in the field of vision loss, research and training in Assistive computer technology and Braille. She is fluently bilingual and has been involved in national and international projects throughout her career. Anne was executive director of the CNIB Quebec division from July 2001 to May 2008.

After losing most of her vision in 1986 due to diabetes, Anne has regained her quality of life by staying socially active and by staying totally “connected” and devoted to facilitate access to information and education for persons with vision loss.

She is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist certified by the Association for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP). From 2009 to 2016, Anne Jarry published and presented at national and international conferences, supervised internship students and Master’s students and published in international peer review proceedings. She also wrote a book chapter “Lessons Learned from Blind Individuals on Video Description” in the book “Advances in Understanding Human Performance".

Anne Jarry is well-respected in the blindness community and is strongly recognized by her peers in the field of Vision loss.

David Best

As an Accessibility IT Specialist, with more than 32 years of working experience, in software design and development, project management, diversity leadership, and disability advocacy, David is persistent in seeking out accessibility business best practice solutions. He is recognized for developing performance-driven strategies that accelerate business growth by helping organizations to increase productivity and market growth through innovation and collaboration. With a focus on digital communications that can unleash hidden talents, he is a frequent guest speaker, an Accessibility Advisor for Brock University, Mohawk College, A Life Worth Living nonprofit, and an appointee to the Ontario government Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC).

To learn more visit David's Activity web page, Or Personal Profile web page.

David Lepofsky

David Lepofsky is a part-time visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, an adjunct member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, co-chair of Barrier-Free Canada, and the chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee.

Ian Fine (Executive Director, Canadian Human Rights Commission)

Mr. Fine joined the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) in 1999 as litigation counsel after having practiced law in the private sector for approximately 15 years. Mr. Fine obtained his B.A. from Carleton University and his LL.B from the University of Ottawa. He has held a number of positions with the Commission including Senior Counsel, Director of Policy and Director General of the Knowledge Centre. In addition, Mr. Fine served as Director General and Senior General Counsel of the Dispute Resolution Branch, where he oversaw the Commission’s discrimination complaints process for over five years. He was appointed Executive Director of the Commission in April of 2013.

Jeffrey D. Stark

Jeffrey is one of the founding members and lead developer for the InclusiveAndroid.com community site. The site is a place to Share information, ideas, apps and tips among the community of people with disabilities who are Android users from across the world! You will find information To Promote Sight, Sound, Physical & Cognitive Digital Inclusion for people with disabilities.

Jeffrey has been involved in the testing, development and evaluation of accessible mobile devices for years. He has participated in the evolution of mobile technology, from some of the very early proprietary devices, the first real smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Symbian, the blackberry OS, Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

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.

Laurence Parent

Laurence Parent is a disability rights activist and a PhD candidate in Humanities at Concordia University. She co-founded Québec accessible, an initiative advocating for a stronger provincial accessibility law, as well as the Transport mésadapté Facebook group. Laurence has an MA in Critical Disability Studies from York University and a BA in Political Science from Université du Québec à Montréal. Her doctoral research examines disabled people's sense of belonging in Montreal and New York City. She currently facilitates Concordia's Critical Disability Studies Working Group.

Leo Bissonnette

Dr. Leo Bissonnette was the Manager of the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities at Concordia University in Montreal for 35 years until his retirement in 2012. Since 2012 Dr. Bissonnette has worked as a private consultant, offering support services to students with disabilities preparing for college and university. The focus of these services has been on developing reading and writing skills and strategies as they integrate assistive technologies into their skill set.

Presently Dr. Bissonnette serves as a Director on the national Board of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

Dr. Bissonnette received his Doctoral Degree in 2006 from Concordia University in the Educational Technology Programme. Working title: Teaching and Learning at Concordia University: Meeting the Evolving Education Needs of Faculty in Providing Access for University Students with Disabilities

Marie-Claude Landry

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad.E. was appointed as Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in March 2015, marking a new phase in a career defined by community involvement. Native of Mont-Joli, QC, she obtained her Bachelor’s of Law from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1988, and founded her own law firm located in Cowansville, QC in 1993.

Ms. Landry’s desire to contribute to the well-being of her community has guided her towards many leadership positions, including President of the Centre de santé et de services sociaux La Pommeraie and President of the local Chamber of Commerce. She has worked to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of her community, in particular by providing support to the United Way of Haute-Yamaska, as well as Au Diapason, a regional center for palliative care. Ms. Landry has also presided over the administrative body of the pediatric center “Main dans la main”, inspired by the works of Dr. Gilles Julien.

In 2005, the newspaper La Voix de l’Est presented Ms. Landry with the “Voix de l’Excellence” award, and in 2008 she received the Leadership award from the Association québécoise d’établissements de santé et de services sociaux. To recognize Ms. Landry’s important and long-standing contribution to the community, the City of Cowansville made her a city ambassador in October 2015, and presented her with the keys to the municipality. That same year, she was also named Personality of the Year by the community of Brome-Missisquoi. In addition to her active law practice, Ms. Landry has held numerous positions of distinction, including bâtonnière of the Barreau de Bedford, member of the Barreau du Québec general council, and first President of the Disciplinary Tribunal in Federal Prison Institutions for the Quebec Region. In addition, Ms. Landry has served as member of both the Inquiry Committee for the Canadian Judicial Council, and the Review Committee of the Ordre des dentistes du Québec on recommendation by the Office des professions du Québec. From 1991 to 2001, Ms. Landry was member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

In recognition of her outstanding work, community outreach and engagement, Ms. Landry was awarded the distinction Avocat émérite from the Quebec Bar, in 2009. In September 2015 she received a distinction honorifique du Mérite from the Barreau de Bedford for her leadership, her exceptional contribution to the community, her leadership in advocating for the recognition of regional institutions, as well as her career in defending public justice.

Always conscious of placing people at the heart of her actions, Ms. Landry, as Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, intends to continue protecting people in vulnerable circumstances by working with communities across Canada in a spirit of engagement and collaboration. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Melanie Benard

Melanie Benard is a human rights lawyer and disability rights activist based in Montreal. She is the co-founder of Québec accessible, an initiative advocating for a stronger provincial accessibility law. Melanie is currently working at the COPHAN (Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec), a provincial disability rights advocacy organisation. After obtaining her law degree from McGill University in 2012, she articled at the health law firm Ménard, Martin Avocats. Melanie is a former Board member of RAPLIQ (the Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec). Prior to her legal studies, she worked at the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) and at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

Michael Ciarciello

Michael Ciarciello is an educator computer instructor at the Mab-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre in Montréal, Québec. Mike teaches students who are blind how to use screen readers (such as JAWS), scanning and reading software (such as OpenBook), and other assistive devices used by the blind, such as the PacMate. Mab-Mackay has one very unique advantage in having Mike in this position, in that it is the only rehabilitation center in Quebec which is able to offer specialized adaptive technology training in music notation software (most notably with GoodFeel and Sonar/CakeTalking), enabling them to effectively serve the needs of blind music students and professionals.

Indeed, it is Mike's passion for music which has defined much of his personal and professional endeavours over the years. Inspired by his grandfather's love for the accordion, Mike was strongly encouraged to pursue his musical interests by his family, ultimately learning the accordion, piano and guitar before starting high school. In 1984, he was afforded an opportunity to appear on Don McGowan's television show - and it was at this point that music became a serious affair for Mike. His high school career saw him joining various bands and winning numerous 'Battle of the Bands' competitions, and learning about music in a more in-depth, theoretical manner.

Mike's success in music led him, naturally, to pursue the program at Vanier College during his CEGEP years as well, starting in 1990. He studied the guitar in-depth, and Mike recalls Two of his instructors “Mark Fleury, Tony Romadini,” stating at the outset that "just because you have a good ear, that's fine, but I’ll teach you how to play properly - the proper way, the way it was supposed to be done." In fact, up to this point, he had learned everything he knew by ear, without ever having been taught much of the theory, terminology, or technicalities behind it. After all, none of his earlier teachers necessarily had any experience with a student who is blind, and while they found ways to adapt their methodology to suit Mike's abilities, this was a time when greater formality became necessary.

Crucial to Mike's success has been his learning and knowledge of music Braille. Mike asserts that knowledge of music braille is essential for serious pursuers of the craft, in much the same way as knowledge of sheet music is essential for sighted students. Many musical subtleties simply cannot be accurately represented - and more importantly, communicated - in any other way. That being said, at the time, resources were very limited, and it was only through the tireless efforts of Mab-Mackay volunteers that Mike was able to participate fully in the music program at Vanier, including Mable Edgerton and Don, the security guard, who together spent several days each week transcribing music into braille.

Looking beyond CEGEP to university, Mike was determined to pursue music at Concordia University. University was a very different realm from CEGEP, though, and the expectation was that he would have or find some way to communicate his musical knowledge with sighted professors and peers. After much reflection, Michael decided that, in spite of the odds, and in spite of the challenges to be overcome, music was his passion, and he was going to set out to prove to all those who doubted just what was possible. Of course, in 1990, personal computers were only in their infancy, and to the extent that any musical notation software existed, it certainly wasn't accessible to someone who was blind. After years of searching for a solution (beyond spending hours upon hours dictating musical scores by hand), Michael was put in touch with a company called Dancing Dots, which was working on a product called "Goodfeel," a braille music translator. This was, in fact, the answer to Michael's number one impediment to the industry, as he was now able to create a musical score and produce both braille and regular print versions, so others could benefit from his labour.

Where does this leave Mike now? Happy and content to teach at the Mab-Mackay Center during the day, play in his bands, direct and accompany his church choir (and, more recently, teaching instruments such as the Guitar, Piano, Bass, and vocal coaching, in private studio’s here in Montreal), Mike has reached a point where he will, as he put it, "probably stay for the rest of my life." Someday, when he retires from teaching at Mab-Mackay, his music will still be with him. Speaking with Mike, you quickly realize that he is just an ordinary, down-to-earth person who has taken a passion, overcome the obstacles and barriers, and made a life he can be happy with out of that passion. Sure, there are those who have taken pity on Mike (such as the band that let him in, only to kick him out a few weeks later, admitting in the process that they just couldn't have said "no" to the blind guy); and there are those who have doubted that he could succeed. Sometimes that will mean banging down a few doors and making a bit of a ruckus; at other times, when Mike stumbles across a product or service that truly meets his needs and is accessible to him, it means congratulating a company or person for a job well done - whether or not its applicability and usefulness to a person who is blind was, in fact, intentional. But to Mike, challenges are meant to be overcome, and if you really want to make something work - if it is truly your passion - then you will find a way to do it, sooner or later, someway, somehow.

Natalie Martiniello

Natalie Martiniello is a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist who has provided instruction in both braille and assistive technologies. She possesses experience in conducting assessments, developing individualized learning plans, designing curricula, and has taught clients of all ages (children through seniors) as well as those with diverse abilities in addition to blindness or low vision (such as deafblindness, learning disabilities and those with motor/dexterity limitations). In addition to teaching both uncontracted and contracted English braille, French braille (integral), and the Nemeth code, Natalie has also provided instruction on a wide range of assistive technologies, including the iPhone/iPad, NVDA, Jaws, OpenBook, Victor Reader products, braille note takers and braille displays, and the use of apps to complete daily tasks. Natalie possesses a B.A. from McGill University (English and Educational Studies) and an M.Sc in Vision Science (specialization in Vision Rehabilitation), and is now also completing a Ph.D in Vision Science, with a focus on braille related research.

Upon completion of her Masters, Natalie began working at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, where in addition to providing individualized instruction to clients, she also designed new curricula to better meet learner needs, including the centre’s first group-based instruction program for adult braille learners. Natalie has also been invited to lead online braille and technology workshops for a number of organizations, including the AEBC and Braille Literacy Canada (BLC).

Natalie has been a member of the Adaptech Research Network team since 2007, which conducts research on the factors that help and hinder the success of post-secondary students with disabilities to graduate and to find gainful employment. Through her involvement first with Adaptech and now with the University of Montreal, she has presented at a variety of National and international conferences, including the Canadian Vision Teachers conference, the CNIB Braille conference, the International Conference on Low Vision, and the International Learning through Touch conference in Paris. In 2015, Natalie, through collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Quebec, was invited to provide training on the newly adopted Unified English Braille code to Quebec-based educators, transcribers and rehabilitation specialists. She has also been invited as a guest speaker to sensatize allied professionals (such as nursing and general education professionals) about blindness and low vision and the impact of stereotypes and stigma on the ways in which blindness is perceived.

Both as a vision professional and researcher, she has a particular interest in braille instruction and methods for improving braille access and learning for atypical learners, such as older learners. Her research focuses on the use of technology to enhance rather than supplant braille literacy, and how technology and braille can supplement each other to increase both learning and access.

Natalie has been an executive board member of Braille Literacy Canada for several years and has worked on a number of their committees, including UEB Implementation, Braille Promotions, and the World Braille Day Steering committees. She is also an active member of the AEBC Montreal chapter, and the Access to Information and Copyright committee, and she functioned as a member and instructor mentor of the “All Hands on Braille” steering committee which, along with members from several other organizations, led to the creation of a braille summer program for Canadian children in 2014.

Paul Edwards

Paul has been a friend to AEBC for many years as he continues to share perspectives, his experience and knowledge, thoughts on leadership, the role of advocacy in one of the strongest consumer movements in the United States-American Council of the Blind.

Once again we are looking forward to welcoming Paul to our AGM and Conference which is being held this year in Montreal Quebec.

Paul continues to demonstrate his commitment to the AEBC and our grassroots consumer movement by leaving sunny and warm Florida to Canada at a time when the weather can frequently be somewhat less than pleasant. You can read his accomplishments and share his thoughts about himself by visiting http://www.fcb.org/wcb-march-april-2011.htm#wcb5.

Although Paul is never afraid to identify his heroes he is content to stay out of the spotlight when it comes to his many accomplishments. At AEBC however, we want to highlight them as they are examples of what all of us can achieve with focus, commitment and passion when we work together towards a common goal.

Highlights of a leader:

  • Lead American Council of the Blind as President from 1995 to 2001;
  • Served ACB members as a Director on the ACB National Board for an additional 6 years following his Presidency;
  • Lead the Florida Council of the Blind in 2004 but for personal reasons resigned to deal with family matters;
  • Lead the ACB Board of Publications beginning in 2007;
  • Lead FCB when he was once again elected as President in 2010;

Born in San Francisco California, Paul was one of the early users of an incubator after his premature birth. Left with a little light perception in his eyes, which soon went away.

At the age of seven Paul moved to Calgary Alberta and went to school in Vancouverwhere he attended school at Jericho Hill School and at the Athlone School for Boys. At thirteen, Paul moved with his mother to Jamaica and stayed there until he was 21. He graduated from high school and completed a Bachelor's SPECIAL Honors degree in History at the Mona Jamaica campus of the University of West Indies. Paul was the first blind student to attend the University.

Paul ended up in Trinidad where he did a graduate degree in international relations. For one year Paul taught at a small girls school in a rural area of Trinidad which was an enjoyable experience because the students really wanted to learn, and Paul wanted to teach. Paul became the senior history master at Trinity College, the leading Anglican School for Boys in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Near the end of his teaching career, Paul received a graduate degree in Education from the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad.

Paul eventually moved to Florida with his young family where he was employed by the Division of Blind Services as a rehabilitation teacher, where he taught skills in the homes of blind clients that enabled people to adjust to vision loss.

Paul became a Rehabilitation Counselor in 1983and worked mostly with high school and college students in Jacksonville Florida.

In 1983, Paul became the Executive Director of an agency serving blind people.

By 1986, Paul and his family moved once again to Miami as Director of Services to students with disabilities on the North Campus of Miami Dade College, the largest two year college in the United States. On campus over seven hundred disabled students were served by this program every year. Paul retired from this position in 2012.”

Paul's working life has been rich and varied over many years, however he is quick to admit that he has derived much more pleasure from the work he has done as a volunteer and advocate.

Today Paul serves on the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, the National Accreditation Council Board and holds several positions within the American Council and its Florida Affiliate, where he continues to inspire blind people not just at a state and national level, but his many friends and colleagues here in Canada.

Peter Armstrong, AMI Manager of Digital Content

Peter Armstrong has more than 10 years experience in digital content, e-marketing, and journalism. Prior to joining AMI in September, 2015, Mr. Armstrong worked with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) where he was the Manager, Digital Content responsible for accessible website, social media and mobile content.

Since joining the AMI team seven months ago, Mr. Armstrong has spearheaded AMI’s social media strategy, significantly increasing the organization’s presence on Facebook and Twitter, and was instrumental in the design and relaunch of AMI’s website.

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