Join us as we gather educators, community members, families and caregivers, students, and local leaders to come together and learn more about ableism and how to dismantle it in education systems and throughout the community.

View the Workshop Information


Hosting an inclusive and accessible event is important to us. As part of our commitment to provide a barrier-free and inclusive experience, we will be building in the following elements: 

  • American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and real-time captioning at presentations and where needed
  • Microphones in each room
  • Projection screens in every room
  • Multi-faith spiritual space 
  • Washrooms with an accessible stall; all-gender single-stall washrooms
  • Social Work support

If there are any further accommodations or adjustments that will enhance your experience and participation, please let us know on the registration form.


Attending this event is free, but if you are interested in making a donation to the Waterloo Education Foundation Inc. (WEFI), that would be greatly appreciated.

Whether you donate $1 or $100, your contribution funds will be used to dismantle barriers in support of disabled students and caregivers in the WRDSB.

How to make a donation

  • Head to the WEFI donation portal to begin the process
  • Under the “Donation Details,” select “Donate Once” or “Donate Monthly”
  • In the “Fund” field, select “Eliminating Barriers for Students with Disabilities – 0371”
  • Finally, fill in the rest of the form to complete your donation.

Donate now!

Workshop Block A

Empowering Educators: Anti-Ableist Strategies in Emergent Reading and Writing Instruction Workshop

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 110
Speaker: Kelly Meissner, Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and Kate’s Kause

Description: Facing our ableism as educators requires us to untether student academic advantages and realize every student has the ability to read and write. Students with significant disabilities and complex communication needs struggle to engage with traditional literacy instruction. As educators, we must provide intentional and accessible literacy interventions. This workshop uses Disability Studies in Education (DSE) approaches to equip educators and educational leaders with anti-ableist strategies specifically tailored for emergent literacy instruction. Participants will feel empowered with the tools and skills necessary to create an anti-ableist culture that embraces neurodiversity, promotes equity and justice, and ensures that every student can learn to read and write.

Accessibility and Working with Persons with Sight Loss – Awareness Presentation

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 112
Speaker: Sheldon Brown, CNIB

Description: This presentation is intended to break down myths and misconceptions surrounding the world of sight loss: 

  • What the discussions around disclosure and accommodation look like 
  • Ways to properly engage with the sight loss community
  • Different forms of assisted technology
  • Tips for fair recruiting and much more!

Fostering Inclusive Education through Anti-Ableism Advocacy

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 102
Speaker: Janelle Hart

Description: Janelle is a lawyer and from a unique legal perspective, her workshop will address crucial aspects necessary for advancing anti-ableism efforts in education. The topics in her workshop include understanding intersectionality of disability claims by examining how various intersecting identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status and ability, shape individuals experiences and access to resources. Janelle will also discuss navigating legal frameworks and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliance and finally, how the adoption of a human rights lens in education is crucial.

Educators Leading Disability Access & Inclusion

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 209
Speakers: Charlene VanderGriendt, Oda Al-anizi, Rick Hansen Foundation

Description: Disability knows no boundaries between race, culture, religion, gender or economic status. This workshop helps educators better understand disability, the importance of accessibility and allyship for inclusion. Topics will include: Understanding Disability, Language and Interactions, Barriers and Accessibility. This presentation will be an interactive workshop with information sharing, polls, table activities, Q&A and videos.

Inclusive Pathways: Addressing Ableism Across the Employment Lifecycle

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 208
Speakers: Michelle Pandith, Michelle Castaneda, The Innova Solution

Description: INNOVA’s workshop session will give participants a better understanding of the diversity within disability, including both visible and invisible disabilities. Concepts such as Ableism and the various lenses through how we view disability are explained. Participants will be introduced to the principles of accommodation and how small adjustments can make a big difference. The context of the session will be employment, the school to work transition, and attraction to retention. Accessibility will be positioned as an asset, and the participants of the session will engage in activities to demonstrate core themes.

Critical Friendship: Where Ableism Meets Allyship

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 202
Speakers: Dr. Courtney Anne Brewer and Dr. Taunya Wideman-Johnston, Wilfrid Laurier University

Description: This presentation shows those who work in education how they can develop their own critical friendships and engage in unguarded conversations in order to dismantle oppressive practices that perpetuate ableism at all levels of education. As their latest book, The Critical Friendship Revolution, notes, “In one way, critical friendship is the simplest approach to seeing change in our world, and in another way, it is so difficult that doing it well and widespread would be revolutionary.”

If I only knew what I know now

Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Room: 210
Speaker: Tammy Webster

Description: As a First Nations female educator and parent, I recently received a late ADHD diagnosis, leading to a series of eye-opening moments. Despite outward success, I faced numerous unforeseen barriers related to academics, mental health, and relationships. In my workshop, I will share my story to shed light on life with ADHD before diagnosis and advocate for understanding and support for neurodivergent individuals. I emphasize how intersectionality influences our lives, regardless of intention. ADHD is a significant part of my identity, impacting both work and home life. Attendees will gain insight into ADHD nuances and its impacts and receive practical management tips.

Workshop Block B

Recognizing and Interrupting Ableism in Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 208
Speaker: Lisa Hicknell, Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB)

Description: The focus of this workshop will be to shine a light on the ways that many common assessment and evaluation practices create barriers to educators noticing the achievement of students with disabilities. Approaches to assessment and evaluation that are more inclusive of not only folks with disabilities, but of all identities, will be explored. Attendees will have the opportunity to confront biases around what “counts” as evidence of learning and consider how to create more inclusive learning environments. Education workers as well as anyone who regularly engages with learning spaces (i.e. caregivers/students) may find this workshop worthwhile.

Planning a Successful Transition to University

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 110
Speakers: Jennifer O’Brien and Samantha Fowler, University of Waterloo

Description: Presenters from the University of Waterloo will discuss how to plan for the successful transition from high school to university. Topics will include the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities and disabling conditions, and how they can access, and participate in their education to increase capacity for success. Presenters will also review the differences between high school and university, how to assess for student readiness and the importance of academic skill-building. Lastly, presenters will share insights on how students transitioning from high school to the University of Waterloo can find accessible spaces on campus and build inclusive communities.

Welcoming Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder into the Anti-Ableism Conversation

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 112
Speakers: Karen Huber, Michelle Hughes, Shannon Ward, PLEXUS – Sunbeam Developmental Resource Centre and Camino Wellbeing + Mental Health

Description: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a disability that affects the brain and body of people who were prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is not limited to any racial, ethnic, cultural, or geographic group. Children and youth with FASD have the right to identity, culture, connection, and safety; the right to access education, health care and disability supports; and the right to be heard and be free from discrimination. Children, youth, and families are excluded and isolated due to stigma, judgment, and shame. Learn how we are addressing this in our community.

Dismantling Anti-Black Ableism in Secondary Schools

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 210
Speaker: Emily Ellwood

Description: As a secondary school teacher in a congregated setting, Emily has observed enacted oppression of her students and their families. Emily notices specific barriers for students who have disabilities and who identify as Indigenous, Black and Racialized. This workshop serves to uncover the narratives that reinforce anti-Black ableism in education. This workshop will also provide strategies that can be used by teachers and administrators to disrupt barriers that undermine educational experiences for IBR students with disabilities.

Reframing Normal: Countering Anti-Autistic Ableism through Research, Reflection and Education

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 209
Speaker: Karen Timm, Neurodivergent Infinity Network of Educators

Description: Seeking to be a better ally to Autistic humans? 

Don’t miss this essential opportunity to Reframe Normal with International Autistic Advocate, Researcher, Educational Leader, Author and Ausome Parent, Karen Timm. Despite decades of research, misconceptions about Autistics still dominate the narrative. Despite the best of intentions from educational professionals, Autistics continue to face ongoing stigmatization and marginalization simply because their authentic ways of being have been pathologized for so long.

It’s time to Reframe Normal.

Wherever you are on your journey towards understanding the impact of ableism on Autistics, this session will challenge you to critically reflect on what you currently know about Autistic realities, and will empower you to take authentically informed action to counter Anti-Autistic Ableism in your schools and communities.

Would you like a cup of coffee?

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 202
Speaker: Dr. Taunya Wideman-Johnston, Wilfrid Laurier University

Description: Join Dr. Taunya Wideman-Johnston as she reframes disability with a strength based perspective. Using the common experience of getting a cup of coffee with a colleague, Taunya tangibly demonstrates the physical and mental work that goes into every small decision throughout a day as a person with an invisible disability. Audience members are brought into her world as they transform from passive privilege-holders to compassionate change makers, learning real and authentic ways to respond to ableism in the education sector. This presentation calls to those interested in equity, social change, and allyship in the education settings.

Neurodiversity-Affirming Practices and Disability Culture in Education: Imagining Worlds without Ableism

Time: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Room: 102
Speakers: Ryan Collis, Aaron Richmond, Nancy Marshall, York University

Description: This workshop highlights three key areas of research and practice that aim to dismantle ableism in Education systems:

  • Neurodiversity-affirming and justice-oriented education
  • Culturally affirming representations of disability
  • World-building where disabled people create possible futures without ableism

Nancy introduces the ways a disability justice framework can expose the conscious and unconscious ableism that creates structural barriers to inclusion. Aaron illustrates how ableism can be identified and challenged in classrooms through teaching culturally affirming representations of disability. Ryan discusses how to use world-building activities to support students to create worlds without ableism.