About the Accessibility Initiative

Project Description

Moving to a new country presents many challenges and opportunities for newcomers. The settlement process can be especially challenging for newcomers with disabilities, who are further marginalized due to disability-related barriers in our communities and workplaces.

Learning who newcomers with disabilities are, how to welcome and accommodate them is something the settlement sector is becoming more aware of. While our broader understanding of disability has led to the enhancement of legislations and programs; when it comes to the unique obstacles facing newcomers with disabilities, service delivery has not been able to effectively address their needs.

OCASI is committed to supporting the settlement sector create welcoming, positive and inclusive spaces for all.

The Accessibility Iniatative is funded by IRCC.

Allies in Accessibility (AiA)

The Accessibility Initiative owes its success to the advisory committee and dedicated staff.

Our Advisory Committee is a team of knowledgeable, committed, and dedicated volunteers who provide advice, support, and strategic direction to the Accessibility Initiative. We seek representation on the Committee from all seven OCASI regions across various sectors. In 2016, OCASI launched our Allies in Accessibility (AiA).

An AiA is a member of the Advisory Committee who is actively engaged in their community, working for the inclusion and human rights of immigrants and refugees (including newcomers) with disabilities. This volunteer position recognizes the work that committee members are already doing in their community, gives them an opportunity to build their skills, contacts, and experience, and connects them with other people doing similar work around the province.

Allies start/continue conversations in their communities through outreach, referrals, building networks, and events.

AiA activity:

  • Perform outreach and referrals by promoting the AI and its tools, resources, and training opportunities to immigrant and refugee serving agencies in your region.
  • Establish an informal network in their region.
  • Coordinate one regional event per year, in collaboration with any other Ally and organizations in the same region.

Learn more about our advisory committee members {here}.

Allies in Accessibility Bios

Theresa Allott

Theresa Allott is currently the Diversity Officer for the London Police Service. She has been an Officer with the LPS since 1992. She moved to the role of Diversity Officer in the fall of 2014.

Theresa’s current role has given her lots of exposure to many different organizations, groups and people within the City of London and throughout Southwestern Ontario.

Outside of her professional career, Theresa is a family woman and is an active volunteer with Pride London Festival, Track 3 Ski School and several youth focused groups.

Theresa choose to be a part of the OCASI PAC Advisory Committee to enable her to connect with other service providers, get more insight into the needs of community members and find new and innovative ways to better assist all community members.

Reshma Banu

Reshma Banu is the Program Coordinator at ECLYPSE Youth Centre, a program of Rapport Youth and Family Services. In her role, Reshma engages with at-risk youth between 12-24 years and oversees program planning, community outreach, partnerships, fundraising, staffing and day to day operations.

A newcomer herself, Reshma moved to Canada in December 2013 and graduated from Sheridan College as valedictorian of her class. She hopes to take her positive experiences back to India and support the empowerment of other young women.

Reshma actively volunteers as an early childhood educator and enjoys helping out at local community events.

Vikki Broesamle

Vikki Broesamle is the Alternative Careers Coordinator for World Skills Employment Centre. She organizes events to connect employers and clients for information sharing and targeted recruitments.

She has helped newcomers for 17 years as a language teacher, employment counsellor, and event planner.

Her interest in serving on the PAC both personal and professional because many of her family members have disabilities in various forms and she would also like to be able to serve all of her newcomer clients to the best of her ability and without barriers.

Suzanna Kotilehti

Suzanna Kotilehti completed her B.Ed in Budapest, Hungary in 1995. After moving to Canada in 2001 she acquired her M.Ed from University of Western Ontario.

She has worked as an ESL teacher in London, Ontario with refugees with various exceptionalities. She also gained international experience teaching students with special needs and has also presented and published material in special education.

Presently Suzanna works as an occasional teacher in London, Ontario.

Salvina L. Lauricella

Salvina L. Lauricella was born and raised in Hamilton, ON where she pursued her B. A. at McMaster University (1996), her B.Ed from the University of Windsor in (1997) and most recently, her TESL Certification from the Canadian College of Educators in Mississauga, ON.

Salvina’s work experience includes teaching elementary school-aged students, teaching English as a Second Language to adults and administering the Canadian Language Benchmark Language Assessments to newcomers.

This is Salvina’s first year as a committee member with OCASI and she looks forward to the many learning opportunities with this organization.

Naomi Levitz

Naomi Levitz is the Newcomer Health Initiative Coordinator with Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women. Since the program’s inception in 2013, she has worked with immigrant and refugee individuals families and groups to better understand the relationships between migration, integration and mental health. The program now extends from Windsor to Chatham and offers training, consultation and professional support to both settlement and mainstream agencies, along with direct client service.

Naomi is also the current co-chair for Take Back the Night Windsor Essex, and active in both Windsor’s Human Trafficking Initiative and the local Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee.

She has extensive international and local experience and is a PhD Candidate in Social Work at the University of Windsor. Naomi’s work stems from a belief in inherent personal strengths and collaborative care in all settings. She has worked to create environments based on critical thinking about structural inequities.

Naomi looks forward to working with the accessibility committee to work towards creating opportunities for new and alternate senses of self through stories that focus on resiliency and empowerment across diverse abilities and identities.

Angela C. Morris

Angela C. Morris hails from Shediac, New Brunswick where she completed her studies at the University of Moncton. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Family Studies, followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Education (Major in Chemistry, Minor in Biology) and an MBA from the same institution. Angela’s work experience was focused on a career in the field of teaching.

She spent 22 years working in public and private schools and has taught Grades 1 to 12 inclusively, as well as adult students. Her specialty was teaching French Immersion classes, Sciences and French Second Language/ English Second Language. She has taught in New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta while seeing to the well-being of her military family.

Since 2012, Angela has been working for Acclaim Ability Management in Ottawa, Ontario as an Employment Consultant in the Workability Program. The program is offered to individuals with disabilities who are looking to return in the workforce or are working part time or underemployed.

Angela has been instrumental in developing and delivering workshops to prepare clients with the essential knowledge and tools to do job searching and to feel confident in securing employment.

She hopes to continue serving clients with disabilities in Eastern Ontario, to participate on various community projects and advocate for all individuals with disabilities who are seeking employment.

Fran Odette

Staff Bios

Chavon Niles

Chavon Niles is the Senior Coordinator of the Accessibility Initiative at OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants where she works to bring greater attention to the challenges and barriers immigrants and refugees with disabilities experience in Canada through the in-person training, conference presentations, and liaising with community partners.

In addition to her position at OCASI, Chavon is a doctoral candidate (all but dissertation) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis explores the migration experiences of racialized immigrant youth with disabilities living in the Greater Toronto Area.

She hopes to better understand how participants’ migration experiences come to shape their identity construction and participation (non-participation) in schools and health and human services.

Ila Sethi

The mission of OCASI and our staff is to achieve equality, access and full participation for immigrants and refugees in every aspect of Canadian life.