Sandra Carpenter – Dedicated Advocate and IL Visionary

It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that our inimitable Sandra Carpenter, co-founder and first Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, unexpectedly passed away January 23, 2020.

Sandra’s dry wit, sharp intellect and dedication to independent living were admired by all who were lucky enough to know her. We are shocked at losing her so soon after her retirement from CILT in 2019.

Sandra was CILT’s original Executive Director when CILT gained independence from COTA in 1986. In 1989 she returned to the Ontario Government and was employed by the Ministry of Labour as the Manager of the Centre for Disability and Work. After a brief leave of absence, during which she worked as the Research Director for the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres in Ottawa, she returned to government once again as Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Issues and was eventually appointed the Senior Manager, Disability Issues at the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

Sandra left the Ontario Government in 1999, and briefly worked for the Foundation on Independent Living, before returning to CILT in November 2000. Sandra was with CILT as Executive Director until she retired in 2019.

During this time, one of her proudest achievements was the role she played in the phenomenal growth of CILT’s Direct Funding Program.  The Direct Funding Program supports people with disabilities from across Ontario to act as employers and hire their own attendants. The program supports people with disabilities to live in the community and make choices, examine options and live life as they wanted. Last year, the Direct Funding Program celebrated 25 years of empowering people with disabilities with options for living life on their own terms.

Sandra also worked hard at CILT to build relationships with diverse stakeholders. As Sandra’s sister Tracy said of her “Sandra had a unique way of forging relationships with allies to work for the good of our community as exemplified by CILT’s Founder’s Award. She set the award up in such a way that one year a person with a disability would be recognized, but in alternate years, recognition was paid to our allies who worked with within government or elsewhere in the community. In an “us vs them” world, she brought so many more to our side.”

Sandra is also fondly remembered as a leader who never sought the spotlight, but who encouraged others to find their voices. Sandra had the ability to recognize people’s unique talents and help them to draw out strengths many never even knew they had.

Sandra’s significant other achievements include the creation of the first ever radio and then television show that featured disability issues and stories. This television show evolved into a program called Moving On, aired on both CBC television and TV Ontario.

Sandra is one of the original independent living visionaries in Canada and moved forward the IL philosophy through all of her work. Today people with disabilities everywhere have lost a fierce advocate and a humble champion.

The CILT Board and staff send our deepest condolences to Sandra’s family and friends.  CILT asks that you please respect her family’s need for privacy at this time. As and when details emerge regarding a service for Sandra, CILT will be sure to pass them on.

CILT will continue to work everyday to honor Sandra’s vision of a world where people with disabilities are truly free to live as they choose.

Sandra, you were one of a kind. We will miss you always.