Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities - Annual Report 2014-15 - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities - Annual Report 2014-15

(Text version)

Table of Contents

Letter of Transmittal

July 24, 2015

Honourable Rachel Notley
Premier of Alberta
307 Legislature Building
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B7

Dear Premier Notley:

On behalf of Council, I am pleased to present the 26th Annual Report of the Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities. This report covers the activities undertaken by your Council during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015. It is submitted in accordance with s.7 (1) of the Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities Act for your presentation to the Legislative Assembly.

Respectfully submitted,

Carmen Wyton, Chair
Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities


Reflections from the Chair: How Council Connects to Advise Government

In following our vision of Alberta being an inclusive and barrier-free society, Council remains committed to engaging community and better understanding barriers to inclusion. Our networks around the province enabled Council members to provide insight, experience, and perspectives on key issues.

In 2014-2015, Council participated in several key community events, addressed municipal and provincial disability sector councils, and attended conferences which strengthened community insights and informed our advice. As well, Council provided feedback on employment standards, Alberta's long-term transportation strategy and supported community engagement. Council continued to participate in the review of the Municipal Government Act and played a key role in a learning symposium on Disability and Employment.

The Council was pleased to host an Open House celebrating 25 years and beyond, which attracted community stakeholders across many disabilities. Also, Council was honoured to recognize International Day of Persons with Disabilities by presenting Council Awards to individuals who are leaders of tomorrow and to employers who exhibit excellence in employment.

We want to recognize Bryce Clarke, whose term ended during this past year, for his six years of dedication and work on Council. His time and commitment is valued and he will be greatly missed. Additionally, Council acknowledges Lori Shortreed's contributions during her period on Council.

We would also like to thank the Secretariat for supporting the work of Council. 2014-2015 set the stage for a more deliberate strategy for Alberta to be an inclusive and barrier-free society. Thank you to all the stakeholders for continuing to be a part of the conversation.


Carmen Wyton, Chair
Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities


Council Governance

The Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities was established in 1988 through the Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities Act.


Legislation Update

The Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities amendment legislation was passed in 2013. The amendments were made to update the Council's legislation to reflect current issues, relationships and roles within government and the community. Updates to the Act allows Council to play a much larger role in working more closely with the community and advising government on policies and issues that affect people with disabilities. Council can advise on opportunities for innovation, and focus on aligning Alberta policies and programs with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Council's Vision and Mission


Alberta is an inclusive and barrier-free society.


The mission of the Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities is to advise, report to, and make recommendations to the Government of Alberta about matters relating to the opportunity for full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in the life of the province.

It does this by listening to the opinions of the disability community, communicating their ideas and concerns to government and the broader community, and working with governments, community organizations, and other stakeholders toward solutions.


About the Council

The Council is supported by the Ministry of Human Services and consists of up to 15 Council members. Members of the public are recruited to vacant positions when needed. The Council position descriptions outline skills, experience, knowledge and diversity required so Council will have a cross-disability perspective and provide the best possible advice to government. Members are appointed by Orders in Council. All members appointed are volunteers and receive honoraria for their work on Council.

For more information, visit

This past year, Council held eight meetings. Three of the meetings were in-person in Edmonton, and the remainder were via teleconference. These meetings were invaluable in focusing the Council's work on advising, reporting and making recommendations to the Government of Alberta on current issues relating to full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in the province.

Also this year, Council broadened its communications strategy to include the use of social media tools. Council piloted a Facebook page and promoted key messages about inclusion and accessibility via Twitter.


Our Community Connections

Council continued to be actively connected with communities and engaging along with government in those communities. Some of the activities where Council was represented are summarized below.

The Employment First webcast series is an ongoing series for Albertans that provides information through webinars about the barriers, solutions and benefits to employing persons with disabilities. Council was represented on a panel discussion in two of the scheduled webinars. The first webinar provided an opportunity for three Council members to discuss disability in Alberta and the new mandate for the Premier's Council. The second webinar was represented by a Council member that spoke on the topic of self-employment for persons with disabilities. More information can be found on the Employment First webcast series.

The Community Future's Treaty Seven Annual Disability Employment Symposium and Job Fair in Calgary focused on the theme of planting seeds of integration, respect, culture and hope. The issues brought to light included transportation barriers and wage levels among First Nations individuals. Guest speaker Dr. M.A. Begay from the University of Arizona delivered a moving keynote address which spoke to the heart on how every individual experiences a disability at some point in his or her life.

In an Edmonton radio interview by 630 CHED, the Council Chair spoke about Council's work moving forward with its mandate of inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities. Also discussed was the Council's newly amended legislation which will empower Council to play a more strategic and influential role than ever before.

The annual Picture This, International Disability film festival in Calgary, Alberta, where Council participated in the award presentation.

The Alberta Disability Forum's bi-annual meeting, comprised of representatives from over 50 disability organizations, enabled Council to connect to a number of organizations in the Capital region.

The Calgary Service Provider Council meeting, with representatives from 36 agencies, provided an opportunity for the Councils to connect and share information on the roles and mandates of each Council.

The "Who Am I?" Self-Advocacy Summit 2014, at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, opened doors for a Council member to present information about the work of Council and to interact with community members that attended the event.

Council made a presentation to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Provincial Parent Advisory Committee, Family Support for Children with Disabilities. Council would like to work closely with this group in the future.

As well, Council worked with community on a number of committees towards full inclusion of people who have disabilities. Some examples are as follows; a project organized by the Alberta Disability Forum called Accessible Dental, Optometry and Pharmacy Services Alberta, and the Barrier - Free and Home for Life committees.


Commemorating 25 Years and Beyond: Open House Showcases Societal Advances

A celebration of 25 years of Council and beyond attracted community stakeholders from the Edmonton area to an open house on March 5, 2015. The open house showcased advances throughout the province in areas of universal design, inclusive education, employment, institutional living and technology. This was an opportunity for representatives from over 50 organizations, government and past and current Council members to come together and reflect on societal advances for people with disabilities over the past 25 years, as well as looking forward.


Highlights of Council Activities

Council has been focusing on initiatives that promote inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities.


It has been long recognized that access to transportation is a key service which promotes and sustains inclusiveness in society. Council had the opportunity this year to provide feedback into two major initiatives in the transportation sector, Canada's Transportation Act, and Alberta's Long-Term Transportation Strategy. Council discussed the issues with stakeholders, gathered feedback and summarized key points into a written submission.

Canada's Transportation Act

In June 2014, the federal Minister of Transport announced that a comprehensive review of the Canada Transportation Act was going to be completed. The Government of Alberta was looking for a written submission that would reflect Alberta's concerns regarding accessibility for persons with disabilities across all modes of transportation, and provide recommended amendments to the Act to address these concerns. Council invited stakeholders to participate in sessions in Edmonton and Calgary to discuss transportation needs for persons with disabilities. Stakeholder feedback informed Council's recommendations, which included updating the language in the Act to match the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Also included was the possibility that exemptions may undermine the importance of accessibility requirements and the need for appropriate enforcement and implementation of requirements.

Alberta Long-Term Transportation Strategy

Alberta Transportation also invited feedback from Albertans, regarding a Long-Term Transportation Strategy under development. Council submitted their feedback on the draft strategy from the perspective of persons with disabilities.

In its work on the transportation sector, Council provided a comprehensive review and recommendations for each of the proposed goals. Council highlighted the importance of consulting with people with disabilities, robust rural transportation options, communicating with people with disabilities in an inclusive and respectful way, accessibility for a variety of disabilities and best practices from other jurisdictions in their recommendations. Council's work on the national and provincial initiatives provided a key example of how Council engages and utilizes stakeholder feedback in informing, advising and recommending to the Government of Alberta on matters affecting inclusion and accessibility.

Service Dogs

The Service Dogs Qualification Regulation has been extended to March 31, 2017 to allow for additional research into options to expand the number of qualified service dogs in Alberta. Council provided feedback on the regulation and noted the importance of ensuring the dogs are monitored for health, skills and behaviours by a professional, and public and consumer interests are protected.

Municipal Government Act (MGA) Review

Council continued to participate in the review of the MGA by attending an open house session in Calgary in April 2014, prior to submitting feedback in May 2014. Council focused on the portion of the MGA which oversees the management of growth and development to ensure inclusiveness. The land use policies in the MGA include principles which are aligned with inclusive and accessible communities.

Council highlighted that new regional plans for each area of the province are developed and adopted under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act. Each of the plans developed under this Act provide an opportunity to address regional considerations in terms of managing growth and development. Council noted that, based on the emphasis of regional considerations, potential loss of social-based principles and consistency across regions may result. Council recommended that the principles of the land use policies under this Act be updated and consistently maintained in Alberta's land use legislation in some capacity.

Employment First

In support of the Employment First Strategy, Human Services organized a Learning Symposium on Disability and Employment in May 2014. Council participated on a panel focusing on the employment challenges and successes for people with disabilities.

There was a large representation in person and on-line. Some early outcomes from the Employment First Strategy were:

  • A disability internship program, supported by Human Services.
  • In response to Council feedback, closed captioning was added to webinars posted to the Human Services' website.


Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The annual celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) creates a groundswell of awareness and education about the rights and abilities of persons with disabilities. This day, commemorated on December 3, is a day where members of the public are invited to recognize and honour the achievements of Albertans with disabilities. It also promotes full citizenship and community inclusion as a reality for all. Council worked closely with over a dozen committee representatives in Alberta to hold events to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities in their own communities. In addition, there are an increasing number of communities across the province celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities every year.

The Council encourages communities around the province to organize and showcase events. Council supports a Provincial Planning Committee that is comprised of representatives from local committees. The committee's purpose is to share ideas, resources and work through issues which a community may be experiencing in planning a local event. The dedication and hard work of these community organizations to hold events, activities and media outreach in their communities is greatly appreciated. Every event reflects the unique qualities of that community and that is what makes it so successful.

The Council promotes events in Alberta through government resources such as news releases, member statements in the Alberta Legislature, social media and online information. In addition, Council manages grant funding from the Government of Alberta to help organizing committees offset the costs associated with holding IDPD events.

If any communities would like more information or wish to join the International Day of Persons with Disabilities Provincial Planning Committee, please contact the Council office at 780-422-1095.


Presenting Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities Awards 2014

Individuals, teams or organizations from across Alberta are recognized and honoured with Council Awards for their commitment to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities. Nominations from across the province exemplify the tremendous contributions, hard work, dedication and passion which Albertans are making towards reducing barriers for persons with disabilities and creating more inclusive communities.

The Council leads and coordinates the award presentations which typically take place at IDPD events throughout the province.

On December 3, 2014, Council Awards were presented at IDPD events in Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Red Deer and Calgary. In addition, Council members participated in IDPD events in their own communities.

Council welcomes nominations and feedback from all Albertans to acknowledge and highlight the exemplary participation of Albertans to make their communities inclusive.

Further information about the awards can be found on the Premier's Council website.


Leaders of Tomorrow: Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities Award Recipients

Premier's Council Gary McPherson Leadership Award

The Gary McPherson Leadership Award is awarded to an individual Albertan who has demonstrated outstanding leadership or achievement in enriching the lives of persons with disabilities.

Larry Pempeit - Edmonton

Larry Pempeit has unselfishly improved the lives of people with disabilities in Alberta since the 1970s. Larry's vision of self-directed care has empowered hundreds of people with disabilities to live independently.

Larry sustained a spinal cord injury in Edson, which left him a quadriplegic. After going through rehabilitation, Larry began his long and distinguished career as editor for The Spokesman, a monthly publication for people with disabilities.

In 1981, Larry started with the Canadian Paralympic Association and he made his impact working with newly-injured people, beginning right at their hospital beds. Larry ensured people with spinal cord injuries had input in their rehabilitation and care, a practice still used today. Larry also made substantial breakthroughs in housing for people with disabilities. He established personal care programs in three Edmonton buildings; Sir Douglas Bader Towers, Abbey Road Co-op and Creekside. Larry has made a significant difference in the lives of persons with disabilities, and exemplifies the qualities and values Dr. Gary McPherson held.

Premier's Council Marlin Styner Achievement Award

The Marlin Styner Achievement Award is awarded to an individual Albertan who has a disability and who, through their personal or professional achievements, has not allowed their disability to become a barrier in pursuing excellence.

Jack Smart - Calgary

Jack Smart is a strong leader and advocate for people with disabilities in Calgary. Jack exemplifies many qualities that Marlin Styner exhibited, such as the importance of relationships in the community, mentoring others and a positive attitude.

Jack has been a tireless volunteer in Calgary, working to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. He has been involved as a member of the City of Calgary Advisory Committee on Accessibility for the past nine years and was the designated member to the Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee, spearheading an increase of accessible taxis and service provisions for people with disabilities. As part of a team of people with a variety of disabilities, he reviews plans and makes recommendations on City of Calgary projects. He has been a trusted advisor to City Council regarding access concerns. Jack's commitment led to recommendations to have the Calgary Transit, Light Rail Transit system accessible to people who have mobility issues. His input into designing four new barrier-free Recreation Facilities and three new Affordable Housing projects in Calgary are only a couple examples of Jack's desire for a more inclusive city.

With his strong leadership and commitment to people with disabilities, Jack has made Calgary a better place to live and he strives for the greatest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Premier's Council Award of Excellence in Public Awareness

The Award of Excellence in Public Awareness is awarded to an individual, team or organization that has increased the public's awareness of the benefits and value of a barrier-free, inclusive community.

Nabeel Ramji - Calgary

Nabeel Ramji has demonstrated passion, vision and commitment to making lasting positive change in the area of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Nabeel has been described as extremely positive with a "can do" attitude. He lives with cerebral palsy and one of his first major accomplishments was being awarded a Bachelor of Commerce degree, honours with distinction in Finance from the University of Calgary – while typing with one finger!

Nabeel saw a need to improve accessibility because of his own unique experience. He is currently working with the Strategic Group and has been across Alberta creating awareness through his extensive research regarding accessibility, aging in place, and transportation. Nabeel has called his initiative, "Accessibility for all Albertans."

Nabeel hopes that his efforts will affect how renovations and new buildings are meeting and exceeding code. The City of Calgary has asked Nabeel to join them for their Seniors/Aging in Place Strategy.

Premier's Council Award of Excellence in Employment

The Award of Excellence in Employment is awarded to an individual employer, team or organization that has made a significant contribution to a barrier-free, inclusive work environment.

Gord's no frills - Wetaskiwin

Gord Lodge, the franchise owner of Gord's no frills in Wetaskiwin, has been an active participant in his community for many years. He is well known for supporting fundraisers and other activities in the community.

Gord employs many individuals, including people with disabilities. He is described as understanding, patient, and respectful toward all of his staff members. This has resulted in many loyal, long-term employees.

Gord's no frills received a 2012 Business Award from the Wetaskiwin and District Chamber of Commerce. His business was nominated by members of the community for Business of the Year and also Employer of Choice.

Gord takes great pride in his community and all the people who live there.

Premier's Council Award of Excellence in Community

The Award of Excellence in Community is awarded to an individual, team or organization that has made a significant contribution to a barrier-free, inclusive community in Alberta.

Sorento Custom Homes - Red Deer

Sorento Custom Homes is being recognized for their interest and participation in creating a better community which includes people who have disabilities.

In addition to providing significant support to the Learning About Food Together group and their Ronald McDonald Home for Dinner participation, they also took the initiative to approach other local businesses to support this great cause. All of the businesses matched the donation from Sorento Custom Homes, allowing the group to prepare many meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House.

This company also sponsored a program initiated by the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The recreationally-based program was designed to connect young people with this progressive disease and build a strong natural support group.

Sorento Custom Homes has demonstrated their commitment to supporting individuals who live in the community to create a more inclusive community for all.


Council Members

Carmen Wyton - Chair, St. Albert (2008 - current)

Carmen Wyton is currently the Vice President of Stakeholder Relations with CAREERS: The Next Generation. Carmen has a long history with Special Olympics as a volunteer and as CEO in Alberta; past experience in senior executive, leadership; and advisory roles with a variety of government, health, senior and community organizations. Carmen is well known and respected for her knowledge and commitment to persons with disabilities, plus her leadership within the non-profit sector, and passion for building communities around social issues. Carmen has Multiple Sclerosis and she brings the perspective of having a progressive disability to the Council. She also possesses a keen interest and experience with the challenges families face when they have a child with disabilities.

Betty Lou Benson, Sylvan Lake (2013 - current)

Betty Lou Benson has 26 years of experience working in British Columbia and Alberta in human services through various supervisory, management and coordination roles. She has an educational background in human services, managing social service, working with Aboriginal communities and not-for-profit organizations, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) services and policy governance.

Betty Lou is currently the Coordinator for the Central Alberta FASD Service Network. Betty Lou brings representation from central Alberta and FASD expertise to the Council.

Bill Brandon, Calgary (2013 - current)

Bill Brandon has been a management consultant for over 20 years. His extensive experience includes work with the Alberta government, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), John Howard Society, Canadian Mental Health Association and the Calgary Association for the Mentally Handicapped.

Bill has been an active volunteer in his community for many years. He has been on the Board of Directors for several not-for-profit organizations. He is the only individual with a disability on the Calgary Transit Customer Advisory Group. Bill has been legally blind since birth and brings a perspective of living with a disability.

Bryce Clarke, Ardrossan (2009 - 2015)

Bryce Clarke has been a police officer with the Edmonton Police Service since 1998. In an off-duty accident, he sustained a spinal cord injury and returned to work after a lengthy rehabilitation. Bryce is currently a detective in the Historical Homicide Section and one of very few quadriplegic police officers working full time in Canada. He sits on the Home for Life Committee with the City of Edmonton, is a board member on the Disabled Hunters' Review board and participated on the Barrier Free Council's review of the Alberta building codes to ensure accessibility was considered in every part of the code. Bryce brings the perspective of living with a disability in a rural community.

Cam Tait, Edmonton (2014 - current)

Cam Tait was a reporter and columnist for the Edmonton Journal for 33 years. He wrote extensively about people with disabilities, including following the Rick Hansen Man in Motion World Tour for three months. Cam has spoken to countless groups on disability, volunteerism, and competed nationally in 1995 for Canada's Funniest New Comic. Currently, Cam works as a columnist with the Edmonton Sun, is the special project advisor for Challenge Insurance and had his autobiography, "Disabled? Hell NO! I'm a Sit-Down Comic", published by Harbour Publishing in 2015. Cam has cerebral palsy and has made connections with disability groups locally, provincially and nationally.

Chloë Atkins, Calgary (2014 - current)

Dr. Chloë Atkins is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary in the Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts. She researches, teaches and writes in the areas of human rights, ethics, and vulnerability, with a focus on chronic illness and disability issues. With a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, she is currently investigating MUPS - medically unexplained physical symptoms. She is an award-winning author with her 2010 book My Imaginary Illness: A Journey into Uncertainty and Prejudice in Medical Diagnosis. Her interest in disability arises from both her academic and personal experience. Chloë has a rare autoimmune neuromuscular disorder, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Janalee Morris, Calgary (2013 - current)

Janalee Morris has spent most of her professional career working with post-secondary students with disabilities, formerly at the University of Manitoba and currently at Mount Royal University.

As a researcher for the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, she focused on issues of education, employment, and international development, and has most recently worked with persons with disabilities in Ghana and Uganda. She continues her work in disability studies through teaching an online class on the subject for the University of Winnipeg. Janalee also brings a perspective of raising a child with a disability.

Lori Shortreed, Edmonton (2014 - 2015)

Lori Shortreed has 25 years of experience as a senior manager, social researcher, consultant and adult educator with Canadian and international non-governmental organizations. She has supported a range of partnerships and programs that promote democratization, minority rights and access to justice with disability, minority, and immigrant and refugee communities.

Lori volunteers with a number of ethno-cultural community organizations and sits on the board of Creating Hope Society. Lori brings experience in community engagement and brokering dialogue between diverse communities and systems to support more open and equitable communities.

Sheila Serup, Calgary (2013 - current)

Sheila Serup has experience working as a communications manager, supervisor, consultant, policy analyst, and has worked in various editing and reporting assignments. She has an educational background in Public Relations and Communications Management, English and is an Accredited Business Communicator.

Sheila has worked on advancing understanding and awareness of deaf and hard of hearing issues through the National Access Awareness Week and through her active involvement with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Sheila also brings her experience as someone who has partial hearing loss.

Tara Chisholm, Medicine Hat (2014 - current)

Tara Chisholm is the founder and program coordinator of Medicine Hat Adaptive Sport and Recreation. She completed her M.A. thesis from the University of Alberta on barriers and facilitators to physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities living in rural Alberta. Her knowledge of adapted sport and exercise is extensive as she has worked and volunteered with The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, The Steadward Centre for Personal & Physical Achievement, The Paralympic Sports Association, Adapted Adventures, Parkinson Alberta and the Alberta Cerebral Palsy Sports Association. Tara has coached a variety of sports, including the Canadian National women's sledge hockey team, disability skiing and lacrosse.

Tracey Howell, Sherwood Park (2013 - current)

Tracey Howell has 20 years of experience working as a lawyer in the area of litigation. Her work is primarily in personal injury and medical malpractice, giving her familiarity with many types of disability.

Tracey also brings a perspective of raising children with disabilities. She is knowledgeable about many disabilities through work and personal experience, and is very active within her community. Previously, Tracey was a member of the Government of Alberta Fatality Review Board. Tracey currently sits on the Strathcona County RCMP Community Advisory Board and serves as the Chair of the Health Professions Advisory Board for Alberta.


Financial Accountability

Council funding falls under the ministry of Human Services. Council members' expenses are publicly disclosed quarterly at

Other financial information is included in the Human Services' Annual Report at


How to Contact Council

Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Suite 1110, HSBC Building
10055-106 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 1G3

Telephone: 780-422-1095 (toll-free by first dialing 310-0000)
Individuals who use TTY can contact the message relay service at 711 for assistance in contacting the Council office.


If you require documentation in an alternate format, please contact the Council office.


Modified: 2017-03-15
PID: 18490