Educate to Advocate

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To strengthen our voices and support the professional development of our Ontario advocates, ambassadors and CNIB staff, we’ve launched Educate to Advocate – an advocacy program designed to drive achievement and equality through education.  As we change what it is to be blind today, we're hosting monthly teleconferences on various topics including public speaking, government relations, legal rights, campaign building, and much more. 

Space is limited for the Educate to Advocate program. If you would like to participate, please email


1. March 6, 2019 – Educate to Advocate, Introduction

Hosted by Kat Clarke. Kat is the Manager, Advocacy and Government Affairs, CNIB Foundation (Ontario & Quebec).

In this session, you will:

  • learn more about CNIB advocacy initiatives happening across Ontario, and how you can get involved;
  • attain advocacy skills for beginners, and a refresher for the rest;
  • get a sneak preview of the exciting speakers we have lined up;
  • and, take part in the discussion to shape the program and tools we need to smash barriers to inclusion in our communities!

2. April 4, 2019 - the World Blind Union and International Sight Loss Advocacy

Hosted by: Martine Abel-Williamson. Originally from Namibia, Martine has been an advocate, lecturer and policy advisor for New Zealand's disability sector for more than 20 years. She wrote New Zealand's world leading policy on the safe design of shared spaces where pedestrians and cars share the road. Her many other roles include being treasurer of the World Blind Union, chair of the Auckland Disability Law Centre, vice-president of Blind Citizens New Zealand and lead of the Asia Pacific Regional UN Advocacy Network. In 2018, Martine received a Queen's Service Medal for her services to people with disabilities.

In this session, you will:

  • learn about international issues and trends relating to sight loss advocacy, and how you can get involved;
  • develop networking skills to help build relationships and empower the community; 
  • and, receive tips for campaigning – drawing on Martine’s experiences with shared spaces and international travel with guide dogs.

3. April 17, 2019 - Advocacy and Public Speaking

Hosted by: Heather Edwards. After retiring from 25 years in senior roles in the financial services industry, Heather Edwards has channeled her many talents in a new direction. For the past eight years, she has been actively involved in numerous roles in Toastmasters International, an organization that builds and improves communication and leadership skills. Initially, Heather joined Toastmasters in order to improve her own communication skills - skills she considered necessary to prepare her to become an effective advocate in the field of mental health. Through Toastmasters, Heather learned that communication has many more facets, challenges and opportunities than she ever imagined.  After eighteen months mentoring a Toastmasters club at CNIB in Toronto, she has gained insight into how we can adapt our communication styles to bridge the gap between speakers who are sighted and have sight loss. Today she will share tips and strategies she has learned along the way.

In this session, you will learn:

  • the three main components of public speaking;
  • how to know your audience and tailor your message;
  • and, how to be prepared in case things go wrong.

Additional resources referenced: 

4. May 1, 2019 - Employment Advocacy

Hosted by: Dr. Fred Schroeder. Dr. Schroeder is the President of the World Blind Union, an organization representing the needs of the estimated 253 million blind and partially sighted people around the globe. Before expanding his work to the international stage, Dr. Schroeder had a long history of advocacy in the United States at the local, state and national levels.  In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Schroeder to serve as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration—the federal agency that provides the majority of the funding for employment and independent living services for people with disabilities in the U.S.A. Today, Dr. Schroeder is a research professor with San Diego State University.  

At this session, Dr. Schroeder will be sharing:

  • what he has learned about employment advocacy during his time as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration;
  • how our community members who are looking for work or are employed can be strong self advocates in the workplace;
  • and, what we can do to smash barriers to employment and the glass ceiling for people who are blind or partially sighted.

5. June 5, 2019 - Ontario Human Rights

Hosted by: John Fraser. John Fraser is a Legal Services Representative at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC), an agency that provides legal assistance to individuals who have experienced discrimination contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. At the HRLSC, John provides legal advice and representation to individuals who are planning to file, or have filed, human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Prior to coming to the HRLSC, John worked for almost fifteen years as a Program Director at the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). CERA is a provincial non-profit organization established to promote human rights in housing. 

In this session, you will learn:

  • what the Ontario Human Rights Code is and how to apply it;
  • what and discrimination and accommodation are under the Code;
  • and, how to challenge discrimination under the Code.

6. June 19, 2019 - Education Advocacy

Hosted by: Luke Reid, J.D. Luke Reid is a staff lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre. He specializes in the area of education law and human rights for persons with disabilities. Luke has represented clients in many different forums, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Luke obtained his J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2015. Prior to attending law school, Luke was a social worker at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

In this session, you will learn:

  • Ontario legislation that relates to accessible education
  • the duty to accommodate in the education system
  • advocacy skills when advocating in the school system 

7. July 3, 2019 - How the System Works and How to Work the System: A Primer on Effective Public-Policy Advocacy 

Hosted by: Sean Moore. Sean Moore is Founder and Principal of Advocacy School and one of Canada’s most experienced practitioners, writers and teachers on public-policy advocacy. He has more than 30 years experience in public-policy and advocacy related to local, provincial/state and federal government affairs in Canada and the United States. He is a former Partner and Public-Policy Advisor withe national law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, a former president of what was then then Canada's largest government relations consulting firm and a vice-president of a Washington, DC-based public-policy research and consulting company.

In this session, we will learn:

  • how the “system” works – key features of political and government decision-making
  • how to work the system – practical tips to maximize effectiveness
  • the many sounds of “no” – dealing with resistance
  • developing an advocacy strategy and plan
  • optional strategic approaches and tactics

8. August 21, 2019 - Public Narrative: How to Communicate your Story to Bind your Community Together and Inspire Collective Action

Hosted by: Karim Bardeesy. Karim has worked at the intersection of public policy, politics, journalism and academia for the past 15 years. He served as Deputy Principal Secretary to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and as Executive Director of Policy for Premier Wynne and Premier Dalton McGuinty. He was also an editorial writer for the Globe and Mail. Karim has a BA from McGill University and an MPP from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In this session, we will learn:

  • The elements of an effective advocacy story
  • How to communicate your advocacy story effectively
  • How you can bind your community together through storytelling and inspire collective action

Additional resources referenced: 

9. September 4, 2019 - Public Narrative: Guide Dog Advocacy 

Hosted by: Victoria Nolan. For Victoria Nolan, the lights went out after the birth of her second child. Victoria was born with a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, but she asserts that facing the challenge of going blind was actually an opportunity – a chance to develop her grit and inner strength. Her determination propelled her to pursue excellence on Canada's Para-Rowing Team.  She and her team have won seven medals for Canada, including gold when they broke the world record at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. Victoria is now Head, Stakeholder Relations and Community Engagement, for the new CNIB Guide Dogs program: following a 17 year career as a teacher in the Toronto District School Board. She is an author, TV host and proud member of Ontario's Standards Development Committee for Accessibility in Education. 

In this session, you will learn:

  • Victoria’s personal advocacy story and how she has challenged discrimination 
  • Ontario legislation and what you can do when you or someone you know is denied service 
  • how CNIB Guide Dogs can help 

10. October 2, 2019 - Housing Advocacy

Hosted by: Annie Hodgins. Annie manages CERA’s Housing Access, Stabilization and Eviction Prevention program funded by the City of Toronto. In this role, Annie has effectively overseen the delivery of direct services to thousands of marginalized tenants in Toronto, and facilitated hundreds of workshops across Ontario for diverse populations. She is a Ryerson and University of Toronto field instructor, Community Co-Chair for the City of Toronto’s Housing Help Services Network and sits on the Rent Bank Steering Committee and the Board of Directors of All Saints Church and Community Centre. Annie has a background in non-profit administration and grant development, holds a Master of Arts degree from York University, and is currently pursuing a certificate in Non-Profit Leadership at the University of Toronto.  Annie is passionate about ensuring that legislation, policy, and services are responsive to the needs of vulnerable populations.

In this session, you will learn:

  • an overview of how the Ontario Human Rights Code applies in rental housing
  • an overview of basic tenant rights in Ontario
  • landlords’ “Duty to Accommodate”: how to advocate for disability-related accommodations in rental housing
  • addressing illegal discrimination when individuals are applying for rental units
  • landlords’ obligation to address discriminatory harassment within rental housing complexes 


We would like to know about your experience of each of the Educate to Advocate sessions you attend so we can improve the training and ensure that we are meeting your advocacy training needs. Please complete this survey after every Educate to Advocate session you attend. Your responses to this short survey are anonymous and confidential.

Get informed!

Want to stay in the loop on what’s happening with the CNIB Foundation’s advocacy initiatives in Ontario? Equalize, our free quarterly advocacy e-newsletter, has news about our latest campaigns and upcoming events across the province.

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