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2017 Conference - Toronto, ON - Keynote Addresses

Skating through barriers. Passion, Perseverance and Performance in and out of the workplace

Mark DeMontis
Mark DeMontis is a 30 year old Blind Hockey player, Speaker, Broadcaster and Social Entrepreneur. At age 17, one year away from a hopeful college hockey scholarship, Mark was diagnosed with LHON leaving him legally blind ending his NHL dream. Mark founded Courage Canada which raised funds and awareness for Canadians who are blind and partially-sighted to participate in hockey. In 2009, Mark inline skated from Toronto to Vancouver raising funds, and in 2011, he skated an additional 2,000 km from Halifax to Toronto. Mark's journey was documented and featured on a CTV W5 special called Hockey Visionary. Mark went on hosting five seasons of the national original program Sports Access on AMI-TV. The program travelled across the country featuring accessible sport and related recreational activities for Canadians who are blind, partially-sighted, deaf, hearing-impaired, print or mobility restricted or living with an intellectual disability. Courage Canada has formally transitioned into the Canadian Blind Hockey Association. Mark has also recently been appointed to the Advisory Board of the new CNIB GTA Foundation and is in the process of founding a new charity, LHON Canada, raising funds for sight saving research and building a community of peer support for individuals and families affected by LHON. Mark also continues to speak and work with hockey teams from the minor hockey level up to professionals under his lifestyle brand Courage Hockey.

Using Our Rights to Fight for Equality by Danielle S. McLaughlin

By virtue of the fact that you were born, you have rights and freedoms. You do not need to do anything or be anything special to have these rights. However, we do not all enjoy equal access to our rights and freedoms. We are living in challenging times. No matter what our rights might be on paper, prejudice and discrimination are still with us. How can we use our rights as tools to make a positive difference? What are some of the creative, lawful, peaceful, but effective ways to pressure institutions and the public to act?

Danielle McLaughlin is Director of Education Emerita of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust. She spent nearly 30 years working with students and teachers to develop programs and resources that help Canadians to think critically about their rights. Danielle is the author of “That’s Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms,” Kids Can Press 2016. She is heard weekly on’s Kelly and Company, and blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University.

Before and Beyond

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards is past president of the American Council of the Blind. Paul is never afraid to identify his heroes but when it comes to his accomplishments, he prefers to keep them just out of the spotlight.

In 1986, he went to work for the Miami Dade College as the Director of Access Services for Disabled Students and retired in 2012. Most of his students would remember him as someone with a fountain of knowledge, humorous and always able to bring a calming effect to students.

Paul was elected as ACB’s President in 1995 and served for six years. Thereafter, he continued to serve ACB through his position as Immediate Past President and remained on the Board of Directors for the next six years. In 2004, Paul was elected as President of the Florida Council of the Blind (FCB). During that fateful term, Gayle Krause-Edwards, his wife and companion of 20 years passed away of leukemia and Paul made the decision to resign from his position. In 2007, Mitch Pomerantz, then ACB President, approached Paul with a request that he lead the Board of Publications (BOP). Paul was again elected to lead FCB during the convention of 2010.