On Dec. 2, 2019, Carleton University President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, officially launched the Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN), led by Carleton University, and kicked off a daylong Planning Summit where more than 100 leaders from the academic, public, nonprofit and private sectors came together to inform this process.

Building upon earlier consultations with what was then called the CAN Working Group at Carleton, these leaders and founding collaborators of CAN shared their aspirations for the future of the Network and helped refine the language used to describe CAN’s purpose and focus.  Additionally, this working group also provided insight into the design of a draft vision and mission statement, along with key guiding principles and the framework for a set of five-year initial strategic goals.

In 2020, the READ Initiative established the CAN office as part of its integral position as a centre of excellence in accessibility with support from senior administration and the leadership of Suzanne Blanchard, vice-president (Students and Enrolment), and the inaugural chair of the Governing Council. In consultation with its key contributors, CAN began the process of building the Network and setting a foundation for its operations.

Informed by earlier consultations and feedback, the CAN governance structure was put in place, along with a series of governing documents to guide the network and its respective councils and committees. At the same time, the process for the formal appointment of members of the CAN Advisory Council took place, where one representative from each CAN collaborator organization was identified to represent that organization on the Council.  To date, there are over 30 CAN Collaborators formally signed on.

Amidst delays caused by COVID-19, the national office team began recruitment for the inaugural members of the Governing Council. The Council, now comprised of 14 individuals reflecting multi-sectoral representation from various organizations and sectors across Canada, is responsible to provide stewardship for the Network on behalf of the partner organizations who will benefit from the activities and impacts of the Network, with an interest in accessibility and inclusion.

In May 2020, CAN hosted a virtual meeting with members of the Advisory Council to assess the impact that COVID-19 was having on partner organizations and how this external driver of change might affect CAN’s recruitment efforts, priorities and timelines.

In fall 2020, the Network celebrated hosting the first meetings of each of its Governing and Advisory Councils.  Recently, 24 new members across each of the five Domain Area Committees (DACs) were welcomed and participated in a weeklong DAC Planning Summit to begin establishing planning and priorities, based on feedback received from the 2019 launch event and the Fall Advisory Council meetings. These five DACs are Community Engagement, Education and Training, Employment, Policy, and Research, Design and Innovation, and will be the bodies that enact business of the Network as it pertains to each of these areas.

Now on the first anniversary of CAN, membership across this growing Network represents more than 60 individuals, representing various sectors, geographical locations, disciplines, and lived experiences of disability.

Celebrating and reflecting upon a successful first year of operation for CAN, we look forward to moving the needle forward in year two, as we refine the strategic plan for the next two to three years for the Network, and continue to engage our pan-Canadian collaborators to advance accessibility for people with disabilities.

Follow the activities of CAN on LinkedIn. For more information about CAN, please visit https://carleton.ca/accessibility-institute/can/ or contact the corporate secretary at can@carleton.ca.

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