The ABCs of inclusivity: Optimizing accessibility at Place Cartier
by Stephanie Blanchfield, Kira Bratton, Casey Finn-Lefsrud, Gail Gagnon and Matthew Kennedy
Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, part of the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB), offers a variety of specialized, inclusive and alternative programs at two accessible campuses on the West Island. Just like our students, our staff is committed to lifelong learning, and book clubs have always been an important way to connect outside of school hours. Last year, our Antiracism Book Club (or the “ABC” as we called it) explored how we could share what we learned from our community and expand our discussions beyond antiracism. We submitted a proposal for a Leadership Committee for English Education in Quebec Professional Development and Innovation Grant.
The purpose of our project, “Building an Inclusive Community by Leading from the Middle,” was to organize a series of professional development days dedicated to examining how to establish a school culture grounded in shared values that promote caring and inclusion. The content and themes dovetailed nicely with similar initiatives at LBPSB, including the work of the Taskforce on Equity and Inclusion. Day 1 introduced inclusivity in general, with particular attention to antiracism, gender and ableism. Day 2 focused on disability and accessibility. The focus of Day 3 was designed around culturally responsive pedagogy, also looking at consolidating our growing understanding of inclusivity and reaffirming our commitment to accessibility in the future.
Though we have hosted workshops on strategies for teaching neurodivergent students in the past, we have never dedicated a full day of training to understanding disability and exploring accessibility. We had the pleasure of welcoming Aimee Louw, a journalist, author, feminist and disability consultant, whose workshop reframed our understanding of disability, challenged us to question stereotypes and confront ableism, highlighted the necessity of universal design, and stressed the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. With a new perspective, we then turned inward to showcase, review and discuss the various programs offered at Place Cartier and the inclusive strategies we use daily in our classrooms.
Our staff also explored a digital “choiceboard” of resources on various themes, such as accessibility, autism spectrum disorder and executive function. Over the course of the year, our choiceboard has grown to include 15 thematic tiles.
Place Cartier is a proud team that constantly strives to meet the learning needs of our wonderful students. This year’s project has demonstrated how far we’ve come as an inclusive adult education centre but has also served as a reminder that this important work is never done.
Stephanie Blanchfield is a sociovocational integration teacher; Kira Bratton is a social integration teacher; Casey Finn-Lefsrud is a readaptation officer; and Gail Gagnon is a pedagogical consultant at Place Cartier; and Matthew Kennedy is a consultant for social participation and sociovocational integration at the Lester B. Pearson School Board.