International Day of Persons with Disabilities Conference | December 4, 2021

Breaking Barriers – Making the Invisible Visible! 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities Conference December 4, 2021 from 1 – 4 PM E.S.T. – Virtual Meeting / Zoom

The goal for this Year’s conference is to spread awareness of invisible disabilities as well as the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health. This virtual conference will be accessible to all and will feature ASL interpreters and real time live captioning. 

When: December 4, 2021 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm EST

Where: Virtually through Zoom

Register: Via EventBrite or via email at if you encounter challenges registering online.

You will hear from diverse speakers with lived experience with disability who share their stories and experiences. The speakers will have a fireside chat about why it is so awkward to talk about invisible disabilities and mental health. This conference will be very interactive, and we want to hear your voices and your stories.

AMI’s Joeita Gupta will co-host and AMI will broadcast live. Joeita Gupta is the host and producer of The Pulse on AMI-audio. She is also a CBC Radio columnist on disability issues and an editor/reporter on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning. She lives in downtown Toronto with many houseplants, and her husband.

Guest speakers will be announced very soon. Stay tuned! Save your seat and register at EventBrite today! 

Helen Henderson Award Recipient 2021 | Anne Borden King

At our October 15th, 2021 Annual General Meeting, CILT was thrilled to award this year’s Helen Henderson Literary Award to Anne Borden King for her brilliant article, “The House at 600 Sanitorium Road.

The story highlighted the history of brutally abusive treatment thousands of disabled children and adults endured at the London, Ontario institution, “Child Parent Resource Institute (CPRI).”

Anne is Co-founder of Autistics for Autistics, a valued partner of CILT, and a strong advocate for the self-advocacy rights of Autistics. She has a regular podcast called “Noncompliant – the podcast” that explores neurodiversity and human rights.

You can follow Anne on Twitter: @AgainstCures

CILT Announces the Vic Willi Legacy Award

CILT is honoured to present the Vic Willi Legacy award which will be granted to a CILT member, or an ally recommended by a CILT member, who is a young disabled person showing leadership in disability activism and disability rights. The award recipient will receive a Lifetime Membership at CILT and a cash prize of $300. Current employees of CILT cannot apply.


Eligible recipients must be:

  • 16 to 29 years of age, and
  • persons with physical, sensory, mental health related and/or cognitive disabilities

In selecting a recipient for the award, we are looking for applicants who:

  • are making a difference, are change makers in the community, or display emerging leadership in disability activism and disability rights
  • are making change that is impactful, relevant, creative and innovative in key areas affecting life with disability (e.g. transportation, accessibility, education, housing, service, integration, etc)
  • are making change with respect to challenging assumptions regarding disabled people and/or the barriers or policies restricting them


The application process requires applicants to demonstrate what they have been doing or plan to do relevant to the criteria above.  In the application, the applicant must state why and how they believe the award will help them to increase their personal leadership skill/knowledge in the disability community. The applicant should also indicate clearly how the award will be used.

Applications can be made through a short (2 page) essay or a short (2 minute) video explaining why the nominee should be granted the award.  Alternative methods of application (and/or communication) will also be considered.

Application can be by self-nomination or by another person, in which case the nominator must seek permission of the applicant.


  1. Please complete the application form
  2. Please include a short (2 page) essay or a short (2 minute) video explaining how the applicant meets the award criteria (noted above) with the application.
  3. Please include one (1) letter of reference or support from a CILT member (if applicant is not a CILT member)
  4. Submit your completed application by mail or email to:


Centre for Independent Living in Toronto

365 Bloor St. E, Suite 902

Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4



September 30th, 2021 by 5:00 pm

For more information about the award, including a bio of Vic Willi, please check out the application form. If you would like to request an alternate version of the form, please email or call 416-599-2458.

Helen Henderson Award Announcement 2021

This award will be granted to a CILT member, or an ally recommended by a CILT member, who produced an outstanding piece of writing related to raising public awareness of a disability issue or barrier. Award recipient will receive a Lifetime Membership at CILT, and a cash prize of $200. Current employees of CILT cannot apply.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: September 24th, 2021 by 5:00 pm


  • One (1) published piece of writing (published on a website, blog, open letter to the editor or in a journal, newsletter or magazine);
  • Submission must be in English or French;
  • Minimum 700 words; maximum 3000 words;
  • Addresses at least one (1) disability issue or barrier;


  1. Please complete the linked application form.
  1. Please print or include a digital link of your published piece with your application.
  1. Please include a personal statement describing the published piece, including its significance to the disability community and your interest in the topic.
  • Personal Statement: 1 page, single-spaced, 12-point font, Arial, 2.5 cm margins
  1. Please include one (1) letter of reference or support from a CILT member (only applicable to those applicants who are not CILT members upon applying).

Submit your completed application by mail or email to:


Centre for Independent Living in Toronto

365 Bloor St. E, Suite 902

Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4



  • Lifetime Membership at CILT; and,
  • Cash prize of $200.


Following the submission deadline, members of the CILT Board of Directors will strike an adjudicating committee and review and evaluate the applications. The award recipient will be notified by email by October 8, 2021. The award recipient will also be announced during CILT’s Annual General Meeting.

Only completed application packages will be reviewed by the adjudicating committee. Please ensure all documents are received by submission deadline date and that all digital links are printed correctly and working.

The successful applicant will be asked to sign a written agreement acknowledging the receipt of the award.

Unless otherwise specified, a cheque will be sent to the mailing address recipients provided on the application form.

Applicants are eligible for Helen Henderson Literary Award only once.

All results are final.

Free Power Wheelchair Available [DONATION]

A used Quantum 6000 power wheelchair is available for free. It’s 10 years old and requires two new batteries, which generally cost $250 each. Otherwise the chair is in good working condition and the original manual can also be provided.

If interested in claiming the chair or have any additional questions, please contact Dorothy Willis by email at

Please see below for a photo of the chair: 

Photo of Power wheelchair

First and Second Dose Accessible Vaccine Clinics for People with Disabilities – July 8 and 9

COVID-19 first and second doses are being offered through for people with disabilities.

Date: Thursday, July 8th and Friday  July 9th

Time: 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Location:  Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front Street W, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2W6

Eligibility: 16 years of age and older

By appointment only, no walk-ins. To book your appointment, please visit the TPH Booking Site.

Accommodation requests from the first clinic will be honoured. Check out the Vaccine Clinic Flyer.

Brought to you by Toronto’s Accessibility Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines and Toronto Public Health. 

CILT Statement of Support and Solidarity with Muslim Communities

We at CILT are deeply saddened and shocked at the heinous murder of four members of a Muslim family and the serious injury caused to a child, on June 6th in London, Ontario. We extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s loved ones and to Muslim communities all over Canada who are grieving this traumatic event. Such violent acts of hate have no place in our pluralistic society, and we join many of the speakers at the June 7th vigil in denouncing it.

CILT also stands in solidarity with Muslim leaders calling on our political parties and government institutions to take meaningful action now to combat Islamophobia in its many forms. This includes meaningful legislation, policy making and dialogue with Muslim communities.

We also believe that at this time of increasing racial and religious intolerance in Canada, our workplaces must provide safe inclusive spaces where Muslim workers can contribute their talents free from Islamophobia. We encourage our many partners to make available practical supports to their staff, volunteers and service communities who identify as Muslim, during this difficult time.

The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Remembering Ian Parker

Close up photo of Ian


Posted on behalf of Leisa DeBono, Manager of Direct Funding Program

Ian Parker was a mainstay and staff member at CILT for over 25 years, so we are still coming to terms with the tremendous loss after he passed away on April 15, 2021.

But amid that sadness, we were so gratified to learn that Ian recently received the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility.  (More on that below.)

As one of the longest serving members of staff, Ian was a staple at CILT.  You get to know a few people when you spend more than a quarter of a century working at one place!  Aside from being a well-spoken, kind and intelligent person known in a wide variety of circles, Ian was truly a pleasure to work with.  He was gentle and generous – you could always count on Ian to help out any staff member who needed an ear or some assistance in problem-solving.  He was incredibly smart and analytical, yet down-to-earth, an academic but very practical, and his actions were always grounded in compassion and regard for those around him.  At his core, Ian believed in and embodied the Independent Living philosophy.  It is that foundation that led him to be one of the key creators of the Self-Managed Attendant Services; Direct Funding Program that has been run through CILT since 1994.

The Direct Funding Pilot Project was a revolutionary change from the way traditional attendant services  were received.  It switched responsibility from an agency to the individual with the disability who would receive funding, become an employer, then recruit, train and pay their own attendant staff. Talk about turning the system on its head!

Getting a project like Direct Funding off the ground was not fast or easy.  Starting in 1989, Ian worked with other individuals with disabilities who used attendant services, along with government representatives, to develop policy and legislation that would pave the way for the program, including an important exemption under the Regulated Health Professions Act.  A staunch advocate of the concept of self-management and author of the original policy guidelines, once funding was secured in 1994, Ian took on managing the pilot project while also being one of the first participants on the program.  He led Direct Funding through the all-important formative years including the original program evaluation in 1997 which was so overwhelmingly positive that the “Pilot Project” received ongoing “Program” status, and the ability to take on hundreds more “Self-Managers,” as program participants are called.

Ian saw the DF Program through many changes, and some challenges, but you could not find a better person to oversee the legal, social, economic or ethical issues that arose over the years.  He laid the framework for a program that has now served more than 1,800 Ontarians with disabilities and that continues to expand.  The last program expansion happened in 2020, so Ian’s legacy continues to grow and take on new participants from the sizeable list of people waiting for this opportunity.

Ian Parker and Direct Funding will forever be integrally linked, but Direct Funding is far from Ian’s only accomplishment.

Following his spinal cord injury Ian enrolled as a part-time student at the University of Toronto in a music program and quickly learned how difficult it was to get around campus as a disabled student.  Not one to accept the status quo, Ian co-founded Access U of T and had a ramp built outside the music building.  The group continued to push for accessibility changes that benefit U of T students today.  In fact, Ian recently used the same ramp he advocated for in the 1970s to see his daughter perform at the same school.  To remember his efforts at U of T, an article was recently published about Ian and can be read here: Article on Empathy and Strength by Ian Parker

Ian was also among the first people to come out of Lyndhurst, a Toronto rehabilitation centre for people with spinal cord injuries, and live in supportive housing around 1975 – but it wasn’t really supportive housing back then, it was a pilot that would later become supportive housing.  In 1983, his experiences led him to develop an evaluation instrument and protocol for Ministry review of supportive housing units. Always active in some way with government, while still earning his BA in music, Ian also worked with the Ontario government as the assistant provincial coordinator on the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 and conceived the “Label us Able” awareness theme.

Within the disability community it is hard to meet a person who either does not know Ian, or has not heard of him because he worked towards inclusion and accessibility for almost five decades.  It therefore feels fitting that Ian’s family recently learned that he was awarded the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility for his work in the community:

The award recipients include leaders who champion accessibility, raise awareness about the benefits of inclusion, and foster positive change in their communities with their work helping to improve the lives and experiences of people with disabilities in Ontario…

Role Model – Ian Parker from Toronto posthumously received the award for his visionary work in establishing the Direct Funding program as an option for the delivery of personal care for Ontarians with disabilities.”

You can read more about the David C. Onley Award and Ian here:  Ontario Recognizes Champions of Accessibility

It would be difficult to find another person who so perfectly emulates leadership, inclusion and positive change in their community.  And to further honour Ian’s memory, his family have decided to donate the financial award to CILT, which will use the money to provide much-needed and costly equipment to individuals with disabilities who could not otherwise acquire it.

That Ian is no longer with us is incredibly sad for those who knew and loved him.  He has left an enormous hole that is impossible to fill, as just his presence and the knowledge we could seek out his opinion or memory on day-to-day issues seemed to make things better and easier. It is comforting to know that Ian’s contribution to so much, but especially to the Direct Funding Program, have earned him a place in the history books, as well as all our hearts.


CILT Remembers Michael Miceli

The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) offers our deepest condolences to the family and peers of Michael Miceli. Michael passed away in Toronto on December 22nd, 2020

For over 10 years, Michael was a valued part of the CILT community. He warmly engaged with his peers and non-profits at many of our independent living skills and social events.  A graduate of York University’s Critical Disability Studies Program, Michael was articulate in advocating for disability justice, including with government. He did so effectively over the past 2 years as a member of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC).

Michael was a very kind, outgoing and generous person and could have a conversation with anyone. He had Muscular Dystrophy and volunteered with non-profit causes over the years. Michael’s tireless pursuit of a world inclusive of people with disabilities inspired and rallied others to engage as allies with him.

Thank you, Michael, for all you have done to elevate our community’s issues and to shape a better world that includes everyone.

Anyone wishing to read or write memories of Michael on the Dignity Memorial website, can do so from the link:

CILT Remembers Sylvia Draper-Fernandez


On January 23rd, 2021, CILT lost our devoted and long-serving bookkeeper Sylvia Draper-Fernandez. Sylvia has been a member of the CILT family for more than 30 years, having served as our financial adviser since the very start of CILT.  Our deepest condolences go to Sylvia’s family and loved ones.

Sylvia’s wise counsel helped formalize CILT’s standing as a non-profit in the early days and her shrewd guidance helped CILT grow into what we are today. Sylvia was instrumental in developing and rolling out the Direct Funding Program across Ontario, and she was deeply involved in every expansion the program has received since its inception.

I have personally had the great pleasure of working directly with Sylvia since the start of my time as Executive Director at CILT in 2018. She was straight-forward and no nonsense and deeply and sincerely supportive of CILT and the work we do. I recall reluctantly phoning her while she was on holiday with her partner Rick in Florida and explaining that we had a time-limited opportunity to again expand the DF program but we needed her help. Sylvia did not even hesitate. She stepped-up, as she always did, and helped us to assemble yet another possible expansion budget. She joked at the time ‘Well at least I still get to have cocktails on the beach later!’ Even as CILT has transitioned into remote work as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Sylvia remained equally committed to supporting us through everything this transition entailed.

Not only did Sylvia support CILT this way, but she was also equally devoted to supporting other non-profits who were trying to do good in the world.

Sylvia had a wonderful sense of humor and a very kind heart. She loved to talk about her family and she was very proud of the accomplishments of her daughter, son-in-law and grandsons. Sylvia’s laugh was warm and deep and would usually come at the end of a call, when the official ‘business’ was complete. We will all miss Sylvia very much. She was an incredibly wise and caring person, deeply devoted to her work, family and community.

Despite her importance to operations, Sylvia preferred to remain in the background, always attending CILT’s AGM and quietly mingling with staff and members. But her presence in terms of CILT’s accomplishments cannot be underestimated. In 2016, CILT presented her with an award, pictured above. The award is inscribed and reads: “Meritorious Service Award, Sylvia Draper-Fernandez, In recognition of over 30 years of outstanding contribution to the financial well-being of CILT and embodying the values of the Independent Living Movement”

Thank you, Sylvia for your dedication to CILT. We will remember you, always, as a dedicated champion for CILT and an outstanding colleague and friend.

Wendy Porch, Executive Director, CILT.

January 2021