Accessing our Heritage Conference

October 20, 2021, 12:00-5:00pm


Thank you to all of our speakers, moderators and you, our participants for being a part of the conversation.




12:00Welcome – OBIAA

12:05Conference Host – Alf Spencer

12:10Welcome – Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

12:20Keynote Speaker – Lesley Collins – Evolving the Meaning of Heritage


1:10Panel Discussion – Deep Dive and Discussion

Moderator: Jill Taylor

Speakers: Ann Sawyer, Thea Kurdi, David Lepofsky

How can, and do, ‘accessibility’ and ‘heritage’ work together? What opportunities exist for making our heritage buildings more welcoming and inclusive of all? How have other countries, such as the UK, successfully tackled this challenge?

This panel of experts has many years of experience and in a range of disciplines – architecture, heritage conservation, planning, advocacy, the law, and accessible design. This group of experts will explore how our built environment legislations has restricted the adaptive re-use of heritage buildings, what legislative changes could be made to allow for the de-standardization of heritage buildings, what has been done so far and what obstacles prevent us from doing more.

The UK has been able to not only make their heritage buildings accessible, but they have created a regular funding stream to support that work. What can Ontario learn from how other countries have kept their heritage buildings relevant and welcoming of all?


2:20Breakout Sessions

1. The Business Case for Accessibility

Moderator: Alfred Spencer

Speakers: Rich Donovan and Michael Seaman

Main streets in Ontario have many older and heritage buildings, however, property owners do not always see the value in making them accessible. Business tenants would like to bring in more customers through enhanced access but they may not be inclined to invest infrastructure funds into a building they do not own.

The session explores the reasons why it makes sense economically, socially and sustainably to invest in accessibility whenever, and wherever, possible. Learn more about the incredible consumer spending power of people with disabilities and how an investment in accessibility serves to strengthen the vitality of Ontario’s main streets.

2. The Next Generation: Training Gaps and Opportunities

Moderator: Jim Mountain

Speakers: Hayley Nabuurs, Claudine Déom and Michael McClelland

In order for change to happen, today’s students must be included in the conversation about how heritage buildings can be made more inclusive. How is the topic accessibility included in the curriculum of students studying architecture, conservation, planning, engineering, etc.?

Employers are looking for graduates with a wide variety of knowledge and skills. An understanding of accessibility is no longer optional but rather a core competency as we move forward in our work to making Ontario inclusive of everyone


3:10Breakout Sessions

3. Getting to Yes with the Right Communication

Moderator: Lesley Collins

Speakers: Tatiana Dafoe, Stephanie Potter, and Lindsay Reid

It is standard practice for municipalities to consult with their Heritage Committee when heritage building renovation proposals are submitted. But how many municipalities also consult with their internal Accessibility Advisory Committee on such proposals?

Presenters in this session will explore how staff and committees can work collaboratively on heritage renovation proposals and the role that built environment specialists, such as architects, can play in facilitating such communication

4. Accessibility Solutions for Heritage Buildings

Moderator: John Lane

Speakers: Thea Kurdi, Lindsey Wallace and Amy Pothier

So, what can be done to make heritage buildings more accessible for everyone – within the parameters of existing legislations? Come and see examples of heritage adaptive re-use in Ontario and the US. Learn about practical solutions, including low cost/no cost ideas, for removing, reducing and preventing access barriers. Get your questions answered by leading accessibility experts.


4:10Presentation: Crosby Cromwell, The Valuable 500

4:20Reflections on the Conference by hosts Alfred and Lesley

4:40Next Steps, Wrap Up and Thank You

ASL and closed captions will be provided. Other needs requests can be made to Kennishia Duffus: [email protected]


Alfred Spencer

Alf Spencer is the former Director of the Public Education and Outreach Branch at the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.

Now retired, he has been involved in the delivery and design of numerous programs to assist marginalized groups to find employment.

He has also spear-headed the implementation of over 100 community projects related to creating awareness of accessibility issues, including programs for early childhood educators, elementary school teachers, and post-secondary students and professionals, as well as programs designed to create employment. His approach to community development has touched all aspects of social inclusion from places of faith, to workplaces and sporting events. Alfred has over 30 year’s experience in the delivery of social services and public health programs. As a municipal leader he has overseen numerous social policy pilot projects impacting the delivery of social assistance across Canada.

Alfred is a recognized speaker on accessibility and inclusion Past President and Honorary life member of the Ontario Municipal social services association.

He has served on a number of community boards including The Aids Network, Glenhyrst Art Gallery , Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, St. Joseph’s Life Centre and Brant County SPCA.
Most recently, he has been named to the Canadian Paralympic Inclusion Committee. He is also an advisor/panelist to the newly announced Canadian Universities Association IDEAS Competition – a national competition dedicated to the development of tools and resources to improve accessibility across Canada.

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Amy Pothier

An interior designer by education, Amy has always been passionate about building codes and regulation, which she quickly found to be insufficient for accommodation of most people. Recognizing that the building code minimums were not acceptable to designing accessible spaces, she became an inclusive design consultant working on projects aiming for a more universal design approach. She combines her love of building codes with her passion for universal and inclusive design at Gensler’s Toronto office, working on projects across Canada and globally.

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Ann Sawyer

Ann has been involved in accessible design since qualifying as an architect. After working in architectural practice, she spent 5 years at the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) as Head of Consultancy where she ran the access consultancy services and set up the National Register of Access Consultants. She joined the Access Solutions Team at Purcell Architects in 2000 and was involved in projects at a number of historic buildings, including museums, galleries and visitor attractions, and education buildings. Since early 2002 she has been an independent access consultant.

She has provided access consultancy services on many historic building projects including the redevelopment of Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, Abbott Hall gallery in Kendal and ongoing access improvement works at Blenheim Palace. She is currently working on the Leicester Cathedral Revealed project which includes access improvements and a new Heritage Learning Centre and is advising on proposed works at Coventry and Southwark Cathedrals. She provided access consultancy services on the St Mary Magdalene Development Project in Paddington to transform the church building into a heritage, community, culture and arts hub.

She worked with the design team on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries at Westminster Abbey where work covered the new Weston Tower and the galleries and continues to advise the Abbey on projects including the West Entry project to reorganise visitor flow and ticketing and the new Sacristy project.

She has worked with the National Trust on a variety of projects including historic gardens at Chartwell and the Wimpole Estate and she provides training for National Trust and Historic England staff on access and inclusion. Recent training focuses on improving access to historic buildings, external environments and places of worship. She also runs a variety of training courses on access, inclusive design and the Equality Act 2010.

Recent published works include Easy Access to Historic Buildings (Historic England) and the 3rd edition of her book The Access Manual. She is a member of the HS2 Quality Review Panel, the London Borough of Haringey Quality Review Panel, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Quality Review panel and the London Legacy Development Quality Review Panel.

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David Lepofsky

CM, O. Ont, LLB, LL. M, LL.D. (Hon.)

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont, LLB (Osgoode Hall Law School 1979), LL. M (Harvard Law School 1982) LL.D. (Hon.) (Queens 1999, University of western Ontario 2006, Law Society of Ontario 2016)

David Lepofsky is a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education (part-time) at the Osgoode Hall Law School and a past adjunct member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He holds volunteer leadership roles in the disability community. He is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. He is a member and past chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee appointed by the Ontario Government to recommend reforms to tear down barriers impeding students with disabilities.

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Hayley Nabuurs

Hayley Nabuurs holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. She has worked in the heritage field for a number of years in both the museum and heritage planning sectors. Hayley currently works as a Park Planner at Ontario Parks.

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Jill Taylor

CM, O. Ont, LLB, LL. M, LL.D. (Hon.)

Jill Taylor co-founded Taylor Hazell Architects with Charles Hazell in 1992.
Jill has been an architect since 1991, with a specialization in in the heritage field, as a courthouse designer, a designer of educational and cultural institutions, and in facility planning and programming.
Prior to private practice she worked for the Ontario Heritage Trust. She is a highly regarded member of the heritage conservation field, and has served as Chair of ICOMOS Canada Committees, Chair of the Conservation Review Board of Ontario, President of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals,
and served on committees related to government policy including on the Ontario Building Code. She has lectured for the National Trust, RAIC, Ontario Association of Architects, at international round tables and
at the college and university level on issues of heritage, sustainability and accessibility. Jill believes that the future of our land, water, cities and towns depends on urgent action now to sustain the valued natural and built environment. She has worked on heritage projects across Ontario that have integrated access solutions for the public including national historic sites, municipally designated and locally recognized properties. Projects of note
include the Osgoode Hall Courthouse and Toronto Courthouse, Dundurn Castle and Conference Centre, the Humber College, Humber Arboretum, Jones Avenue School Reconstruction and York Memorial Collegiate Institute Reconstruction, and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. She was a co-author of the
City of Toronto Official Plan, Heritage Section 3.1.5.

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John W. Lane

Chief Building Official of St. Catharines

John is the Chief Building Official in the City of St. Catharines, after 20 years with the City of Hamilton as Manager of Building Inspections.

John teaches a wide variety of Ontario Building Code and construction related courses at Mohawk College and is also the longstanding Chair of Mohawk College’s Architectural Technology/Technician Program Advisory Committee.

John is on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Building Officials Association and, in 2020, was appointed to the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council.

John is a member of the Ontario BIA Association’s “Accessibility and Heritage” Project Advisory Committee.

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Lesley Collins

MCIP RPP, Program Manager, Heritage Planning Branch

Lesley Collins, MCIP RPP, is a Registered professional planner specializing in heritage conservation with over 15 years of public sector planning experience.

Lesley has a Master’s of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto and an undergraduate honours degree in geography from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Lesley began her career in heritage conservation with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and later as a heritage planner at the City of Edmonton. She joined the City of Ottawa as a heritage planner in 2009 and in 2020 became the Program Manager for the City’s newly created Heritage Planning Branch.

Lesley and her team are responsible for the City’s heritage planning program including designations and applications under the Ontario Heritage Act, the City’s heritage grant and award programs as well as policy development related to heritage issues. Lesley is passionate about the evolution of heritage conservation to address changing values, the climate crisis, and the diverse and sometimes difficult stories that make up our collective history.

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Lindsay Reid


Lindsay Reid is a licensed architect with a wide breadth of experience in the field of heritage conservation. She is a partner in Branch Architecture, a boutique architecture firm in Prince Edward County, and has a particular interest in Ontario’s rural heritage. Over the past twenty odd years, Lindsay has worked on a variety of cultural heritage projects including building restoration, site adaptive re-use and heritage conservation districts. At the core of her firm’s practice is working collaboratively with all project stakeholders.

Lindsay is an engaged member of her local community regularly contributing to initiatives related to cultural heritage, public spaces, family and the arts. Alternatively, she can be found puttering in her garden and tending to her bees.

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Lindsay Wallace

Lindsey has fifteen years’ experience in historic preservation, community engagement, and project management. As Director of Strategic Projects and Design Services, Lindsey leads a variety of projects and partnerships, including the National Park Service (NPS) Main Street Façade Improvement Grant Program, NPS Community Disaster Preparedness and Resilience Program, and the Historic Commercial District Revolving Loan Fund Program. She teaches the Advanced Principles of Quality Design course through the Main Street America Institute, and, as part of the field staff team, she focuses on design-related and placemaking initiatives and content. Prior to joining National Main Street Center in 2014, she previously worked at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC, and in Chicago. She received her M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and her B.A. in History from the Ohio State University. She currently serves on the board of the National Preservation Partners Network and as the Co-Chair of the Preservation Priorities Task Force Climate Change Working Group.

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Michael Seaman


Michael J. Seaman, MCIP, RPP, CAHP, is an urban planner by profession with a Masters in Heritage Conservation from Dalhousie University. For nine years, he served as Ontario’s member of the board of governors, and two years as chair of the National Trust for Canada, where he brought knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for conserving heritage resources from his quarter century of experience in the urban and heritage planning field. He has received national awards for his work with heritage and is current Senior Project Manager with the City of St. Catharines, where he leads city building and long range planning initiatives for the municipality including heritage conservation and urban revitalization. Previously he worked in heritage conservation with the Prince of Wales Prize winning municipalities of Grimsby, Markham, Aurora, and Oakville. In the 1990s, Michael led grass roots efforts in heritage conservation with the Brampton Historical Society and Heritage Advisory Committee. He has lectured across Canada and contributed numerous for Municipal World and Ontario Planning Journal. Michael also a Faculty Associate with the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts.

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Michael McClelland

A registered architect and founding Principal of ERA Architects, Michael McClelland OAA, AAA, FRAIC, CAHP has specialized in heritage conservation, heritage planning, and urban design for over 30 years. Having begun his career in municipal government, most notably for the Toronto Historical Board, Michael continues to work with a wide range of public and private stakeholders to build culture through thoughtful, values-based heritage planning and design.

Michael is a frequent contributor to the discourse surrounding architecture and landscape in Canada, and has edited a number of books on urban conservation including East West – a Guide to where people live in Downtown Toronto; Concrete Toronto – a guidebook to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies; The Ward – the Life and Loss of Toronto’s first Immigrant Neighbourhood, and The Ward Uncovered – the Archaeology of Everyday Life.

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Rich Donovan

CEO of The Return on Disability Group

Rich Donovan is CEO of The Return on Disability Group. He advises businesses and governments on how to unlock the economic value within the global disability market. A former Proprietary Trader for Merrill Lynch, Rich created the Barclays Return on Disability ETN listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker RODI.
Rich shares his vision for people with disabilities as a powerful force in the global economy in his book, Unleash Different.
Rich founded Lime Connect in 2006 – a new approach to recruiting People with Disabilities.
Rich holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Stephanie Potter

Stephanie works in the CAOs Office as the City of Stratford’s Policy and Research Associate. Her role includes managing special projects and strategic initiatives. She began her municipal career as an AMCTO policy intern in Stratford, and holds a PhD in military history from Western University.

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Tatiana Dafoe

Tatiana works in the Clerk’s Office as the City of Stratford’s City Clerk. Her role includes being a staff liaison for the Accessibility Advisory Committee. She began her municipal career as an AMCTO policy intern in Tecumseh and holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Windsor.

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Thea Kurdi

Vice President, Accessibility & Universal Design Specialist, (CPABE) – Level II Advanced (IAAP)

Thea Kurdi has over 20 years of experience specializing in barrier-free and universal design for architectural projects of varying size and complexity. As an educator, she is frequently a guest speaker at lectures for design students. She is a member and instructor at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada teaching their Introduction to Successful Accessible Design course for continuing education and graduate university credits. From the human rights code to evidence-based design, to increased marketability, Thea believes accessibility is fundamental to successful design in heritage. Thea has focused her career on helping clients to create useable accessibility.

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Crosby Cromwell

Chief Partnerships Officer for Valuable 500

Crosby’s career spans across the corporate sector, global NGOs, and social impact entrepreneurism, the common thread is ensuring more people, especially people with disabilities, can thrive economically. She is an accomplished strategist, known for her collaborative approach to large-scale problem solving. Currently, Crosby is the Chief Partnerships Officer for the Valuable 500, and is charged with developing and supporting the Valuable 500 Companies and the organizations partners, committed to advancing disability inclusion. Additionally, she leads community development for Open Inclusion, a DEI customer insights firm based in Europe. In 2007, she joined Walmart in order to design and implement the company’s first national disability platform.

She also served as a senior program officer at the Walmart Foundation, where she led Women’s Giving under the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, creating sustainable career pathways for low-income women.

During her time at the Foundation, more than $60M in funding was distributed to programs, for employment training for women. She has been involved in numerous task forces and community outreach organizations for underrepresented communities. She is a development advisor for Mobility International and most often speaks on topics ranging from DEI employment to corporate social responsibility.

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Jim Mountain

Practitioner for the Conservation and Sustainability of Places

Jim Mountain has some forty years experience in Canada and internationally working as a practitioner for the conservation and sustainability of places.

From 1998 to present he has served as Sessional Lecturer, Lecturer , Studio Instructor and mentor to so students with Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism.

With the National Trust for Canada (formerly Heritage Canada Foundation) he helped establish Main Street revitalization projects across Western Canada, and “Regions” projects from Newfoundland and Labrador to Vancouver Island. He served as Director of Regeneration Projects 2014-2018, and is currently Senior Advisor to the Trust. Jim served as Cultural Developer at the City of Ottawa (2002-2014) where he assisted in developing the City’s Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture which received the City Manager’s Award of Excellence for Equity and Diversity.

Prior to the City of Ottawa, Jim worked with Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd a national and internationally renowned firm in heritage conservation and adaptive reuse projects.
Active voluntarily in culture and heritage, he is currently a board Director of the award-winning RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, serving as President and Chair, 2018 to 2020 and President, Ontario Festival of Small Halls

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Claudine Déom

Claudine Déom has been a professor at the School of Architecture and responsible for the Conservation of Built Heritage option of the Master’s program in Planning since 2006. Following a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and a Master’s in Art History from the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), she obtained her PhD in Art History from UQÀM with a thesis entitled “L’architecture des édifices municipaux des villes
québécoises en region au Québec, 1870-1929 (Municipal Architecture in Quebec’s small towns: 1870-1929”). Her ongoing research is on the history of architecture and conservation of the built environment, with an emphasis on the process of attributing heritage values. She is responsible for research projects carried out in partnership with the Centre de services scolaires de Montréal (Montreal School Board) on the conservation of school architecture since 2006. She works with conservation
organizations such as Heritage Montreal and ICOMOS Canada and chaired the National Roundtable on Heritage Education, a national network of professors and professionals involved in conservation education, from 2009 to 2013. She is a member of the Conseil du patrimoine culturel du Québec, the province’s heritage advisory body, since 2017.

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