NEADS Conference 2000 - "Networking, Educating, Advocating: Delivering Success in the New Millennium"

Conference Report

NEADS Annual General Meeting

  1. Introduction of the Board of Directors and adoption of the agenda

    After introducing the Board members, Joby Fleming reviewed the agenda. A motion was made to pass the agenda and was seconded by Christopher Rebus. The motion was passed.

  2. Report from the President

    Fleming reviewed the NEADS Plan of Action for 2000/2001, which included the following items:

    • Hosting a national forum (with international guests) on post-secondary access and student leadership.
    • Developing and implementing a new project to address faculty awareness and training.
    • Creating an effective plan for high school outreach. A project proposal has been developed and NEADS hopes to start this project soon.
    • Publishing a new edition of the Organizations for Students With Disabilities Guidebook, which was released in 1999 and has since been updated on the Web site.
    • Continuing the Student Leadership Initiative to ensure that NEADS is communicating with students at a grassroots level. A forum has just been hosted in Nova Scotia, and another one is planned for the spring in Saskatchewan.
    • Following up on the recommendations of the report from the 1998 national conference, Commitment to Excellence: Building Leaders for the Future. A report on the meeting has been published.
    • Implementing the recommendations of the report, Working Towards a Coordinated National Approach to Services, Accommodations and Policies for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities: Ensuring Access to Higher Education and Career Training. NEADS will continue to work together with partners including HRDC, educational institutions, provinces and service providers to build consensus and identify best practices. A key step has been the creation of an on-line accessibility guide on CanLearn Interactive.
    • Promoting the new National Directory of Financial Assistance Programs for Students with Disabilities and making it available in both languages and in a variety of formats (including on the Web site).
    • Continuing official languages work through the NEADS Official Languages Committee.
    • Partnering with the Quebec Association of Post-Secondary Disabled Students (AQEIPS) on a number of projects, and including representatives from AQEIPS at all NEADS board meetings.
    • Publishing two issues of the Association's newsletter.
    • Responding to requests for information from students and the general public.
    • Maintaining and enhancing the Web site and supporting the NEADS' listserv.
    • Working in partnership with other organizations, including the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, and improving communication between NEADS and the Canadian Federation of Students.
    • Working with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) to improve communication with students regarding funding and assistance programs available for education and employment.
    • Holding two meetings of the Association's Board of Directors to implement and coordinate all activities and projects.
    • Representing the Association to important advisory bodies.
    • Making NEADS documents available in alternate formats (a work in progress).
    • Exploring ways to expand the NEADS membership base.
    • Filling a vacant position on the Board of Directors with a Manitoba representative.
    • Working with HRDC and the Public Service Commission to promote employment opportunities for students and graduates with disabilities.
    • Facilitating the transition from school to work opportunities through innovative internship/apprenticeship programs such as Career Edge.
    • Many of these initiatives are well underway. The national conference, the faculty-training project and the continuing effort to foster leadership among NEADS constituents are major priorities.
  3. Report from the Secretary/Treasurer

    Noting that a copy of the audited financial statements to March 31, 2000 had been included in the information package for this meeting, Frank Smith reported that the Association met its budgeted targets for 1999/2000. Revenues available from all funding sources were just under $144,000 for the year, with assets of just under $18,000 at the beginning of the year. Expenditures during the year were $143,900, with expenses by budget category at or near projections.

    For the current fiscal year a budget was approved by the Board of Directors in February and submitted to the Social Development Partnerships Program (SDPP). The total budget was $210,000. Of that, NEADS requested $80,000 from SDPP as organizational funding, $42,900 from SDPP as project funding for the Faculty Awareness and Training Project, and $39,600 from the Youth Initiatives Project for conference funding. NEADS has projected funding of at least $12,000 from memberships and conference registration and $13,000 from GST revenues, bringing funds to a total of $190,000. Revenues from memberships and conference registration will be at least $5,000-$6,000 higher than anticipated.

    The budget for 2000/2001 supports the following categories of expenditure: board and travel; salaries and benefits; production; conference, postage, telephone and insurance expenses; rent; professional fees and office supplies. As of the end of September, expenditures covering the first six months of the fiscal year were $68,694. With most expenditures relating to the national conference and the Faculty Awareness and Training Project planned for the October to March 31st period, NEADS is on track to meet projections for this fiscal year.

  4. Update on Internet-based activities

    Chris Gaulin reported that the Web site was revamped in March of last year. A new layout was designed with easy navigation and accessibility in mind. In order to make it easier to find information, a search feature and a site map were created.

    A key feature of the Web site is the conference section. This year, 109 registrations came in electronically. The number of NEADS reports posted to the Web site has increased. The NEADS plan of action and newsletters are now available electronically. Over the past 11 months, the Web site has had almost 18,000 hits.

    The Web site team is working on increasing the amount of French content and improving the timely availability of documents. Gaulin encouraged contributions, saying that they take all proposals seriously.

  5. Update on the Student Leadership Initiative

    Steven Estey explained that he had been involved in the Student Leadership Initiative since 1998. In 1998/99, leadership forums were held in Montreal and Ottawa. In 1999-2000 they were held in Calgary and St. John's. This year one was held in Antigonish in October at St. Francis Xavier University, and another is planned for Regina next spring. A report has been posted on the Web site about previous events.

    These events were created in order to help NEADS stay in touch with students. The Association has a conference once every two years, but other than that there are not many opportunities for face-to-face meetings between NEADS representatives and the students they serve. The leadership gatherings are a form of consultation so that NEADS can better serve students, as well as a way of encouraging students to be involved with NEADS and with campus life in general.

    Recommendations and observations made at the first four events fell into four broad areas:

    • NEADS should support campus organizations trying to build their membership and find funding sources on-campus.
    • NEADS should support individual students by providing information on access and funding.
    • Internet services are becoming more important. There has been an explosion in the use of the NEADS Web site and people are finding it very useful.
    • NEADS could be more active in supporting outreach to high school students. High school students could be made eligible for associate member status, and there could be a newsletter targeted at this group.

    The recent forum in Antigonish was the first one held in a small community rather than a large city, and the issues raised by students were different from those raised at larger universities. For example, students were circulating a petition to make one washroom in the student union building accessible. The issues of accessibility and visibility are very different, because there is no accessibility office and very few people understand the issues. People in service provision can really benefit from the NEADS Web site, where they can see what the other schools are doing.

    At the Antigonish forum, participants discussed how to organize students with disabilities. They reflected on how to organize people for positive change rather than focussing on what is lacking. A positive approach helps to attract students to events.

    It may be possible to use outreach to high school students as a way of encouraging students with disabilities to take a more active role. Another suggestion was an on-line mentoring program in which students from across the country could be linked with those who would otherwise be isolated.

  6. Question and answer with NEADS members (Chair: Jennison Asuncion)

    Asked how many people are participating in the listserv, Jennison Asuncion responded that there are 168 members, both in Canada and overseas.

    Catherine McGowan asked if there was any means of funding participation of someone from Manitoba in the Regina forum planned for the spring. Asuncion responded that all projects have a certain amount of funding allocated to them in the budget, but if there is enough interest NEADS could submit a request for more funding.

    Penny Leclair asked which staff members are paid by NEADS and how many members there are in the Association. Joby Fleming responded that there is one full-time paid employee, Frank Smith. NEADS also pays for consulting on a project basis. For example, there are two consultants working on the Faculty Awareness project. Regarding membership, Frank Smith reported that NEADS has about 400 paid members (individuals and organizations), and a mailing list of about 1200 (including schools, organizations, MPs and bureaucrats). He noted that there is a Board and staff section on the Web site, and added that NEADS relies on many volunteers because of its small budget.

    A representative from BC asked if NEADS has committed to participating in the Society for Disability Studies conference planned for May 2001. Asuncion responded that there is no formal plan to go or to make a presentation, although someone from NEADS may attend.

    Asked about high school outreach, Asuncion responded that colleges and universities do the outreach themselves, but noted that there were high school students attending this conference. NEADS has created a new project for high school outreach and is waiting to see if funding can be secured. Smith added that the proposal is in draft form and has not yet been reviewed by the Board. This is an important area - students need to know about access and funding before they go to university.

    Asked how much time is spent maintaining the Web site, Chris Gaulin responded that the average time spent is about 10 hours a week, although it depends on how much material needs to be posted.

    Susan Vida, the NEADS representative on the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) (a coalition of groups including NEADS) explained that CCD does a lot of work in the area of social policy. She noted that recently the organization had identified a lack of representatives under 30 and decided to set up a youth committee. A proposal for funding has been submitted to HRDC. It is not necessary to have membership in any group in order to be eligible for membership on the youth committee. Recent issues discussed by CCD include the idea of lobbying for a Canadians With Disabilities Act (a similar act exists in the US) and what to do if HRDC should break up.

    Catherine McGowan added that she had brought to this conference some election material produced by CCD that goes through each party's platform and offers guidelines for asking elected representative about the issues.

    Asked what a CCD youth committee would do, Vida responded that this would be decided once the committee was formed. She noted that there was a plan to hold a training session for youth in January, but the session has been delayed. Topics to be covered will include legislative processes, belonging to an organization, and involvement in activism. There is also a plan to explore issues of youth unemployment, working in co-operation with the federal government.

    Frank Smith suggested that anyone looking for information on the federal election and other issues should join the listserv, which is not just a forum for discussion but a means of spreading information.

    Judith Allen expressed concern regarding the lack of cultural diversity at this conference and suggested that more effort be made to involve ethnic minorities in NEADS. She remarked that the organization at George Brown College in Toronto is very diverse. Asuncion responded that the suggestion raises cultural issues around disability and suggested that the Board could organize a project in this area. He invited Allen to discuss the possibilities with the Board further, and to submit a report from the George Brown association to be posted on the NEADS web site.

  7. Reforming specific portions of the by-laws


    It was proposed that the definition of a disabled person be reworded as follows:

    Any person who has a persistent/permanent physical, sensory, speech/communication, health/medical, psychological/psychiatric, developmental, learning or other disability/impairment. This definition includes those persons who identify themselves as having more than one disability/impairment.

    Christopher Rebus moved to accept this definition. Joby Fleming seconded the motion.

    Asked why the word "impairment" was being used, Jennison Asuncion responded that after researching the issue across the country it was found that some people prefer the word "impairment", while others prefer "disability".

    Judith Allen expressed concern about identifying peoples' disabilities as the problem rather than society. She suggested rewording the definition as follows:

    Any person who, because of a persistent/permanent physical, sensory, speech/communication, health/medical, psychological/psychiatric, developmental, learning or other disability, experiences challenges accessing employment, education or community participation. This definition includes those persons who identify themselves as having more than one disability.

    Christopher Rebus, who had made the motion, accepted the proposed amendment, and Joby Fleming seconded it.

    Catherine McGowan asked what the purpose was of having a definition of disability and suggested that any definition should include cyclical as well as permanent disabilities. She noted that a definition always presents problems by leaving someone out.

    Frank Smith responded that as a disability organization, NEADS tries to have a definition included in the by-laws. He suggested that the phrase "persistent/permanent" included disabilities of a cyclical nature.

    Asuncion noted that if every possible disability was included the definition would be too long, and assured McGowan that the definition was not meant to exclude anyone but to identify the Association as a consumer group. He added that the word "other" was included to ensure that no one is left out.

    Asked if they had considered limiting their definition to those who were "self-identified" as having a disability (along the lines of CCD), Susan Vida noted that CCD does not have a detailed definition of disability, but its membership is made up of groups rather than individuals.

    Noting that these issues would be discussed again at the next AGM, Asuncion called the vote based on Judith Allen's rewording of the proposed new definition. The motion was passed, with no one opposed. Nick Hender of Memorial University and Catherine McGowan of the University of Manitoba abstained.

    ARTICLE VI, Section E. 3. ii.

    It was proposed that the paragraph be reworded as follows:

    All members of the Board must be "regular" members in good standing.

    Karl Tower made the motion, which was seconded by Chris Gaulin. The motion was carried with no abstentions and no one opposed.

    ARTICLE VI, Section E. 3. iv

    It was proposed that the following section be added:

    In the absence of a past-president, the Executive Committee shall recommend to the Board of Directors a person who has served on the Executive Committee from a previous term to assume this position. This person shall be referred to as Advisor to the Board.

    Christian Généreux made the motion, which was seconded by Sonia B. Inkster. The motion was carried with no abstentions and no one opposed.

    ARTICLE VII, Section 9. b

    It was proposed that the following provision be removed:

    b) if he is found to be of unsound mind or a lunatic;

    Susan Vida made the motion, which was seconded by Joby Fleming.

    After some discussion of the need for gender-neutral language, the motion was passed with no abstentions and no one opposed.

    Gender-neutral language

    Karl Tower made the motion that all references in the document to gender-specific titles be replaced with gender-neutral terminology in legal appropriate language. Catherine MacKinnon seconded the motion. The motion was passed with no abstentions and no one opposed.

    ARTICLE VII, Section 9. b

    It was proposed that the following provision be removed:

    b) anyone who is of unsound mind and has been so found by a court in Canada or elsewhere;

    Susan Vida made the motion, which was seconded by Christine Brawley. The motion was passed with no abstentions and no one opposed.

  8. Adjournment

    Noting that these changes are an ongoing process, Jennison Asuncion said that the Board is open to suggestions and comments. Joby Fleming thanked participants for attending the AGM and encouraged everyone to vote for the new Board.

    A motion was made to adjourn, which was seconded by Karl Tower. The meeting was adjourned.