Innovation for inclusivity: Collinda Joseph dedicates life to accessibility solutions

Canadian Paralympic Committee

December 02, 2022

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is December 3


OTTAWA – Collinda Joseph has dedicated her working life to finding accessibility solutions for people with a disability.

The 2022 Paralympic bronze medallist with Canada’s wheelchair curling team is currently the manager of accessibility and education at Accessibility Standards Canada. It is a federal government branch created out of the Accessible Canada Act that came into law in June 2019.

Joseph was the organization’s second employee (there are now 51) and played a crucial role in the initial set up and now its trailblazing standards.

“Our organization recommends to the minister of disability and inclusion that the standards we publish can be turned into regulation,” said Joseph, injured in a train derailment in 1983. “It’s a unique feature and we think we can have a significant impact on the lives of Canadians with a disability.”

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on December 3. The theme this year is ‘Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.’

Joseph, 57, is in the business of innovation solutions for people with a disability, which she has seen first-hand.

“Our standards for the built environment require that in entrances the path of travel for someone who uses a wheelchair or other mobility devices is the primary means in and that the stairs are secondary,” said Joseph. “This is quite different than what we currently get. That switching and thinking is pretty innovative.”

Joseph also mentioned new standards for emergency exits in buildings for people with a disability are in the works. Incredibly, there are no building codes for this. Accessibility Standards Canada is also on the cutting edge for innovations in informational and communications technologies and improving the digital world for people with a disability.

“These innovations will impact the lives of Canadians across the country,” she said. “The standards that are developed would impact the federally rated sector like Canada Post and other federal departments. 

“They would all have to meet those requirements if they become regulation. So that has a trickle-down effect with municipalities and provinces.”

In developing their standards, Joseph says they always strive to go above and beyond the minimum.

“We felt that it was absolutely necessary that any standard we develop takes into account what is the best practice in the field we are developing the standard in.

“Doing that creates a level of accessibility that can accommodate almost 100 per cent of people with a disability, because it is a universal view of accessibility and not focused on one disability group.”

Joseph, also part of Canada’s 2022-23 national wheelchair curling program, trains and plays with the RA Curling Club in Ottawa, which was one of the first in Canada’s capital to be fully inclusive. While it took some time to get to that point, today it’s not unusual to see wheelchair curlers playing alongside or with their able-bodied counterparts.

“My curling club is a good example of how I would like society to be,” said Joseph. “Wheelchair curlers are seen as curlers and not necessarily just wheelchair curlers. We are spread out amongst the whole curling membership and curl on teams with able-bodied curlers.

“We are not judged in any way. We are just athletes that want to curl along with their partners, friends.

“It’s its own little entity of an inclusive environment which is so cool.”

She adds that sport has been a comfortable environment for her.

“Sport for me has always been an equalizer, and what I mean is if I’m talking to someone about curling, I can talk to another person about curling and it doesn’t matter if it’s wheelchair curling.”

“You can have a conversation about sport that is not necessarily about Para sport. They understand the commitment it takes to get to the level you’re getting to because they understand your time commitment, your dedication, the discipline it takes to get to the international level, because they understand sport.”

For Joseph, International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a day to reflect on the advances so far and those still needed to come.

“It’s important to recognize that people with a disability are part of the community,” she said. ‘’We’re going forward, and opportunities are becoming more available.

“This is one of those moments to celebrate the accomplishments and ensure we don’t let our guard down.”

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