Accessibility Matters at Renison


four accessibility icons arranged in a line

Above: accessibility Icons in order from left to right: Auditory, Physical, Visual, Invisible.

Statement of Commitment - Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Renison University College, as an affiliate of the University of Waterloo, is committed to meeting the accessibility needs of those in our community including students, employees and visitors while continuing to provide a safe and healthy learning environment.  Additionally, the organization recognizes its responsibilities under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Our Accessibility Matters Committee, consisting of student, staff and faculty community members, considers equitable access in our day-to-day work as an important responsibility. It will work with Renison’s  administration to identify and address accessibility barriers for students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Renison’s Multi-year Accessibility Plan outlines our priorities with regard to accessibility and is aligned with our Strategic Plan and our commitment to meeting accessibility needs. We will engage an ongoing review of our achievements in the area of accessibility in order to continue to build equitable access for all.

Renison’s commitment to accessibility, in addition to the values of equity and inclusion that exist at Renison, will drive future initiatives towards ensuring equitable access, participation, dignity, and independence for people with disabilities.


After a hiatus, Renison’s Accessibility Matters Committee was reinstituted in December 2022. During the period extending from December 2022 - June 2022, the Committee:

  • Reviewed and revised the Committee’s Terms of Reference
  • Updated the Accessibility Matters website
  • Reviewed Renison’s Multi-year Accessibility Plan
  • Reviewed the 2016 Accessibility Audit, noting completed work and future needed work
  • Raised the need for an institutional strategy to enhance course accessibility/an accessibility pedagogy
  • Partnered with Renison’s External Relations and Communications on a Wayfinding strategy
  • Created a Committee workplan for 2022-22

Archive: Accomplishments 2015-16

  • Conducted thorough Accessibility Audit in spring 2016 – identified issues, as well as immediate vs. long-term solutions
  • Implemented accessibility changes to our facility that could be made right away
  • Launched Accessibility Matters website
  • Sought Accessibility Champions within the Renison community – faculty and staff who are implementing accessible solutions and universal design practices in their classes, work and life at Renison
  • Hosted Low Vision Clinic on Friday April 1st, for Renison faculty, staff and community
  • Accessible water stations installed summer 2016
  • Hosted a Global Accessibility Awareness Day event on May 19th

Terms of Reference


Reporting to Renison University College’s President’s Cabinet, the Accessibility Matters Committee at Renison is an advisory body established to enhance equitable access on the Renison campus for students, staff, faculty, and visitors.


  • Serve as a resource to the university college community on issues related to accessibility;
  • Serve as the Renison campus contact point for all accessibility concerns;
  • Raise awareness and make recommendations to the Renison community and appropriate departmental and administrative contacts on real and potential barriers to accessibility, including sharing best practices for addressing issues and eliminating barriers;
  • Provide, when needed, liaison with services on campus at the University of Waterloo to ensure that accessibility barriers are effectively responded to for student, staff, faculty, and visitor members of Renison’s community.


The Terms of Reference applies definitions from the  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005):

“Disability” means

(a) any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,

(b) a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,

(c) a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,

(d) a mental disorder, or

(e) an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997; (“handicap”)

It is important to recognize in this definition of disability that some disabilities are intermittent and/or invisible. Intermittent disabilities include experiences of shifting periods of good/better health/ability interrupted by periods of poor health/ability, which can be unpredictable in severity and duration. Invisible disabilities include symptoms of disability (e.g., pain, fatigue, learning differences) that are not always obvious but that can limit one’s activities.

“Barrier” means anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice; (“obstacle”)

Beyond these definitions, the Committee considers the following definitions integral to enhancing equitable access for all community members:

“Equity” refers to the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. (From:

“Accessibility” is “an umbrella term for all aspects which influence a person’s ability to function within an environment.1 Put another way, accessibility is a measure of how simply a person can participate in an activity. Accessibility takes many forms in many places.  Physical environments, such as dwellings, offices and other buildings, elevators, ramps and sidewalks are an obvious category. Transportation is another category - an example of improved accessibility here is wheelchair-friendly buses. Web and digital environments fall into another grouping, in which enlarged fonts and speak-to-text features can be used to improve accessibility (From:


Membership of the Committee consists of representatives from each of the following groups: undergraduate and graduate students with representation across academic programs (no limit), (1) student representative from Renisix, (2-3) faculty/instructors (1 each from the degree and non-degree sides), (1) chaplain, (1) resident life representative, (1) facility representative, and (1) alumni representative.

The Committee will use a Co-chair model with one Chair from the faculty/staff membership and rotating Chairs from the student membership. At the end of each academic year, a faculty/staff Chair for the next academic year will be chosen. At the beginning of each year, the faculty/staff Chair will issue a call for membership to students and faculty/instructors and confirm participation from other Renison department representatives as described above. Once the Committee membership is formed each year, student members who wish to co-chair a meeting will rotate through the meeting schedule.

Student members are normally members for 1-2 years depending on the length of their program/status in their program. Non-student members are normally members of the committee for a two-year term, September until June. The Committee must have attendance of 50% of its members to reach quorum and conduct the work of the committee. The Committee Co-chairs will represent the work of the committee at President Cabinet’s meetings.


The Committee will normally meet once a month and additionally at the call of the Co-chairs. Proposed agenda items will be submitted in advance of the monthly meetings to the Co-chairs. The Co-chairs will then set the agenda for each meeting. The Minutes of each meeting will be distributed to Committee members prior to each meeting for review and revision.


All members of the Committee are voting members. Generally, Committee members make decisions based on a consensus model. If a consensus is not reached, members are expected to vote on the issue at hand. Each voting Committee member has one (1) vote and questions are decided by a majority of votes cast. A quorum of voting members (50% +1) is required for decision making. 

Membership Expectations

Members of the committee are expected to attend meetings and read any materials beforehand (i.e., previous minutes), send agenda items to the Co-chairs, bring concerns from their various constituencies (i.e., students, staff, faculty), participate in discussions about the issues and participate in decision making.

Final version approved by Committee members February 4, 2022

Members - Accessibility Matters Committee

  • Bethany Dixon (staff representative, co-chair)
  • Tim Farley (facilities representative)
  • Kimberley Garec (student representative, co-chair)
  • Andriy Hrabchuk (student representative)
  • Meg Gibson (faculty representative)
  • Vicky Ikeno (student representative)
  • Stefany Kraft (student experience representative)
  • Charlotte Liu (student representative, co-chair)
  • Scott McLeod (chaplain representative)
  • Mariam Rana (student representative)

Helpful links

News Archive (2016 and prior)

(May 18, 2016) Global Accessibility Awareness Day Event, BBQ & Bake Sale

Please join us in celebrating the annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday May 18th!

Date: Thursday May 18, 2017

Time: 12 p.m – 2 p.m  

Cost: $2 minimum donation for a burger/hotdog and coleslaw (vegetarian, gluten free and halal options available)

Bake Sale - Want dessert? Renison’s School of Social Work will also be selling sweet treats.

Donations will go to the Renison Accessibility Fund.

Location: Renison Great Hall Extension


  • Interact with accessibility experts
  • Learn about visible and invisible disabilities
  • Get hands-on experience with assistive technology
  • Celebrate the improvements we’ve made at Renison
  • Share your ideas for making Renison’s spaces more inclusive

We hope to see you all there! View PDF poster

(December 3, 2016) United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3, 2016 marks the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. To honour the occasion, we helped sponsor a special lunch at the Tannery, hosted by the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region. Catered by Bingeman’s , the event featured a  presentation by Dr. Jay Dolmage, a passionate speaker and campus champion of accessibility and universal design. It was an inspiring talk—and the audience was captivated by Jay`s stories, especially the reference to Greek mythology!

To recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on campus, the Daily Bulletin released the last of the five videos produced by the Imprint to raise awareness of invisible disabilities. We are pleased to feature all five of these short vignettes here:

(October 16, 2016) Invisible Disabilities Week - October 16-22

What is an Invisible Disability?

Hand in hand with AccessAbility Services on campus, our Accessibility Matters at Renison Working Group is getting ready to observe Invisible Disabilities Week from October 16 to October 22.

The goal is to raise awareness across campus of the incredible number of conditions, ailments, and injuries that are not physically obvious—the Invisible Disabilities Association tells us that symptoms include “debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, learning differences and mental disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.”

Our message is that there is support on campus for anyone living with a disability, visible or invisible. IDW offers us the opportunity to raise awareness and promote understanding.

With the expert skills of staff from Imprint, we have created five short video clips to dispel some of the myths surrounding invisible disabilities. We’ll be launching one of these each day from Oct. 17 to 21.  Plan to watch each one! Then share the link with your colleagues, your family, and your friends.

Day 1 – Monday, Oct. 17 - Invisible Disabilities 101


Watch video on YouTube

Some disabilities may be invisible, but they are very real and very common. Monday’s clip looks at the myths, realities, challenges, and experiences of living with an invisible disability.  

Day 2 – Tuesday, Oct. 18 - AccessAbility Services 101


Watch video on YouTube

Students with invisible disabilities may qualify for academic accommodations. Tuesday’s clip describes the help and support that students can receive when registered with AccessAbility Services.

Day 3 – Wednesday, Oct. 19 - Disclosure and Privacy


Watch video on YouTube

Your medical information is private and should be protected. Wednesday’s clip explains your rights and responsibilities as they relate to medical documentation pertaining to an invisible disability.

Day 4 – Thursday, Oct. 20 - Preparing for the Unexpected


Watch video on YouTube

When unexpected challenges arise, there is always hope and help. Thursday’s clip explores the options available to students when life does not go according to plan.

Day 5 – Friday, Oct. 21 - The Supportive Campus Community


Watch video on YouTube

The University of Waterloo is a community packed with resources and support. Friday’s clip discusses how the University gives students more than an education. It is a community rich with on-campus support services that are eager to help students not only get by, but thrive.

The more people who get the message about invisible disabilities, the better!

(June 23, 2016) Ottawa – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Canadians who are visually impaired or print disabled will have better access to books and other copyrighted materials. The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, today announced that the Act to Amend the Copyright Act (access to copyrighted works or other subject-matter for persons with perceptual disabilities) has received royal assent.

The amendments to the Copyright Act enable Canada to be among the first countries in the world to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

By bringing the country's copyright law in line with the Treaty, Canada has shown leadership in ensuring a wider availability of books and other materials for Canadians with visual impairments and print disabilities. 

(June 16, 2016) Two visible projects will start tomorrow which are expected to take two weeks to complete; they are: reworking the entrances to the men’s and women’s washrooms on either side of the Great Hall and reconfiguring the entrances to the washrooms on the first and second floor of the Academic Centre. The purpose of these projects is to enhance barrier free access. 

(May 19, 2016) Thanks to Waterloo`s Federation of Students Student Life Endowment Fund, Renison will soon feature two new accessible water fountains with bottle filling stations! Renison Academic Student Council (RASC) president Kayla Wright applied for the funds last winter to replace the outdated fountain next to Renison`s Welcome Centre and supply one to Renison`s newest academic building. The cost of installation will be covered by RASC and the Renisix Residence Council.

The mandate of the Feds` Student Life Endowment Fund is to help students who want to improve lounges, student space, and accessibility on campus.