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July 5, 2022
The Honourable John G. Abbott, Minister of Children Seniors and Social Development, and Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities, announced the establishment of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Board under the province’s new Accessibility Act.
The eight appointed members to the province’s first Accessibility Standards Advisory Board are as follows:
All appointed members are active advocates of issues of importance within the disability community and have demonstrated knowledge and experience in addressing impacts of barriers for persons with disabilities.
Biographies of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Board members are provided in the backgrounder below.
The main objectives of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Board are to advise and make recommendations to the Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities on developing priorities for the establishment of accessibility standards, the content of accessibility standards and the time periods for their implementation. For more information on the Board, please visit the department’s website.
“Congratulations to the appointees of the province’s first Accessibility Standards Advisory Board. Each of the appointees brings a diverse and unique set of strengths and skills that will help identify, prevent and remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion throughout the province. Accessibility standards are the building blocks for making real and effective improvements to accessibility, and require individuals, private organizations and public entities to take real action to improve accessibility. I look forward to working with the new Board members as they step forward on this exciting journey to make Newfoundland and Labrador a more accessible and inclusive province.”
Honourable John G. Abbott
Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development
Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities
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Michelle Hunt Grouchy
Children, Seniors and Social Development
Biographies of the Province’s First Accessibility Standards Advisory Board
Debbie Ryan, Chair
Debbie has lived in St. John’s most of her life and lives with vision loss. She has over 40 years of professional experience in communications, specializing in media, community, and stakeholder relations with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. She has partnered with non-profit organizations on a local, provincial, and national level including participating in various committees on accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities. She retired from CNIB in 2021 after 28 years. Debbie received three prestigious professional awards. In 2014, she received the APEX Award and the IABC Award of Excellence for a marketing campaign to support Vision Health Month. In 2019, her advocacy work with the Provincial and Municipal Governments in building accessible communities and her eye safety-training program earned her the IABCNL Communications Professional of the Year, and a nomination for the YMCA’s Women of Distinction Award.
Dr. Shawna Matthews, Vice-Chair
Dr. Shawna Matthews is a post-secondary education professional who holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. Shawna has spent many years advocating for and volunteering with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, including being a previous member of their board of directors, and a member of the board executive. Shawna also is a service animal advocate and volunteers as an ambassador for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. Shawna has recently worked hard to lobby government for updated regulations for the Service Animal Act. As a long-standing member of the Grenfell Campus Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Accommodations, Shawna has been able to work first hand on improving accessibility and accommodations at her workplace. Accessibility is something Shawna is passionate about, and is eager to participate in the work needed to improve accessibility for all.
Juanita works as the Chief Operating Officer of the province’s tourism industry association – Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. She joined Hospitality NL in 1994, and has spent the last 28 years assisting tourism businesses and organizations with workforce and business development, and has worked with frontline employees, management, industry partners and Provincial and Federal Governments. Juanita is also a member of Tourism HR Canada’s Board of Directors, which is a pan-Canadian organization with a mandate aimed at building a world-leading tourism workforce. Juanita holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Business from Memorial University. She is a member of the Qalipu First Nation.
Jeffrey currently lives in St. John’s and is originally from Gander. He has lived, studied, and worked exclusively in Newfoundland and Labrador. Jeffrey holds a Bachelor of Arts from Memorial University and a Master of Theological Studies from Queen’s College. Jeffrey works as the Manager of Digital Operations at Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW), a national not-for-profit whose mission is to promote and support meaningful and equitable employment for persons with disabilities. At CCRW, Jeffrey works to remove technological barriers for individuals with disabilities through accessible websites, digital resources, and virtual training content. Jeffrey was recently diagnosed with ADHD in addition to a previous diagnosis of a general anxiety disorder. Jeffrey’s lived experience and his professional experience supporting people with disabilities gives him unique insights on the importance of accessible environments and inclusive policies to ensure everyone can fully participate in society.
Josh is the co-founder of The Birch Inc., which is a company dedicated to making St. John’s accessible for all by breaking down barriers. Josh is also a stand-up comedian that uses his comedy to talk about accessibility and his personal life stories.
Leslie (Les) Gilholme
Les lives with his wife in Newman’s Cove near historic Bonavista and is retired from the Royal Air Force (24 years of service). His professional background includes over 25 years of experience in facilities and infrastructure management and he is currently employed by Eastern Health as the Infrastructure Support Manager at the Dr. L.A. Miller Centre. As an experienced facilities manager, he ensures that renovations comply with the current accessibility standards, which has included working with St. John’s Regional Fire Department. He has a nephew with a disability who helped him gain insight on accessibility including historical sites, restaurants and museums. Les enjoys his hobbies including tinkering with vintage motor vehicles, collecting toys and making stained glass.
Trisha is the first Accessibility and Inclusion Facilitator with the City of St. John’s and a Dean’s List Graduate of the Education and Special Education Programs at Memorial University. Eager to learn and develop professionally, she is pursuing a certificate in Leadership in Accessibility and Inclusion at The Chang School of Continuing Education of Toronto Metropolitan University. Trisha has embraced a career that strives to break down barriers for people with disabilities by dedicating nearly two decades to advancing inclusion and accessibility in the City of St. John’s. She advocates that accessibility benefits everyone and envisions Newfoundland and Labrador as an inclusive and accessible place to live, learn, work and visit. When not pursuing her passion for inclusion and accessibility, Trisha can be found at her happy place in Brigus Junction, kayaking, riding ATVs and enjoying the great outdoors with her husband Kevin, daughter Shayla and their Boston Terrier, Bosco.
Camille has lived in Newfoundland most of her life. She currently resides on the Avalon portion of the island and has experience in living with a physical disability. Camille is currently working towards her CHRP and is currently employed by Municipal Government. Camille has a passion for inclusion. Removing all barriers that prevent equal access for all people of Newfoundland and Labrador is extremely important to her.
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