National AccessAbility Week: Client and Family Advisor Louise Gillis supports an organizational approach to accessibility

The visual includes the text: May 26 to June 1. National AccessAbility Week 2024. Forward Together: Accessibility and Inclusion for all.  Text is followed by the photo of a smiling woman with her arms crossed.  The visual ends with the Canada Wordmark.

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW), taking place from May 26 to June 1, 2024, is a time to celebrate the valuable contributions of Canadians with disabilities and to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities, and workplaces that actively work to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. As part of this celebration, we highlight the work of Louise Gillis, a former nurse and current Client and Family Advisor for VON Canada.

Louise has been a member of the Client and Family Advisory Council since September 2023; she also holds a three-year term on the Nova Scotia Accessibility Board and previously served as both president and vice-president of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). 

She joined the Council with the goal of helping to address accessibility issues faced by community members accessing healthcare services. “This led me to research advisory committees looking for members and deciding that maybe this could be a way of helping to provide some education on accessibility,” says Louise.   

Louise brings a wealth of knowledge to her role, as well as lived experience around visual impairments. Her work has concretely influenced VON's organizational approach to accessibility. "In many instances, healthcare, as well as other organizations, agencies and service providers, think about accessibility for persons with mobility concerns and not about sensory, intellectual, mental health, deaf and hard of hearing and other invisible conditions," she says. 

By recognizing those various accessibility needs, Louise helps to ensure that VON services in all areas are as comprehensive and inclusive as possible.

Louise has been a strong addition to the Council. She has provided critical perspective on various common accessibility barriers in the built environment and in technology. These insights have led to meaningful changes in how VON operates and interacts with our clients. 

"Louise's perspectives are invaluable to designing, delivering and engaging on visually accessible services and technology at VON," says Arshia Ali, Director, Client and Family Engagement.

Multi-Year Accessibility Action Plan
In early 2022, VON established an Accessibility Advisory Committee to implement VON’s Multi-Year Accessibility Action Plan. This committee is comprised of cross-departmental representatives who advise and assist VON in promoting and facilitating barrier-free services for customers, clients, and caretakers, regardless of their abilities. To learn more about this VON Committee please read more at 

Red Shirt Day
Complementing NAAW is Red Shirt Day on May 29, 2024, a national day of action dedicated to accessibility and inclusion. Easter Seals Canada encourages Canadians to wear red to show their support for an accessible and inclusive society. This day highlights the importance of collective efforts in advocating for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.

As we celebrate National AccessAbility Week, we honour the contributions of individuals like Louise Gillis, whose advocacy and lived experiences are vital to increasing accessibility and inclusion.

Read more about Louise 
Read more of Louise’s story in this SaltWire article: ‘Disability doesn’t define me’: Cape Breton polio survivor appointed to Nova Scotia Accessibility Board brings decades of experience