IDPD 2021

IDPD 2021 Keynote: Chris Downey

The University of Waterloo is coming together to raise awareness about this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992,“The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.” 

The theme for IDPD 2021 is Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. The Office of the Associate Provost, Human Resources invites you to attend Chris Downey's keynote talk  on December 3rd (1:30pm EST) to celebrate the innovation and progress people with disabilities have bought to many different fields. Chris is providing his unique perspective in the design of new Waterloo Eye Institute at the School of Optometry & Vision Science as a consultant with the HOK architecture design team to ensure the project is accessible for patients, visitors, employees and our students.

If you require any accommodations to ensure your full participation, please contact

Review Chris's responses to questions from the keynote event.

Photo of Chris Downey

Chris Downey is an award-winning architect who, in 2008, unexpectedly lost his sight. As profiled in January 2019 by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, Chris’ life was transformed, of course, but so was his practice. Today, he helps designers innovate with the disabled in mind, but also makes a strong case that designing for and with the disabled actually improves everyone’s experience. In all of his work, he endeavours to achieve greater access, not only of space and information, but also to “delight.” Chris teaches accessibility and Universal Design at the University of California, Berkeley, serves on the Board of Directors for the LightHouse for the Blind & Visually Impaired and has a gubernatorial appointment to the California Commission on Disability Access.

As one of the few practising blind architects in the world, Chris has been featured in local, national and international media stories and speaks regularly about his many “outsights” (aka insights) since losing his sight. He’s graced the TED stage, among so many others, leaving audiences with a sense that silver linings are sometimes made of pure gold.