Americas, July 18 2019

When Enable Montreal wrapped up in June 2018, organizers knew they had to find a way to pass on the invaluable lessons gleaned from the project. The Concordia-hosted initiative challenged designers to find solutions for a more accessible and inclusive city.

A person with motor disability and a woman standing next to him at an event

Two people facilitate a workshop at the 2018 Enable Montreal event. | Photo by Concordia University

The result is a new Inclusive Innovation Guide, an open event-planning resource developed to help Concordians and those in the innovation sector make their activities barrier-free.

“Program design for Enable Montreal was hugely complex, and our team navigated a steep learning curve in delivering it,” says Charmaine Lyn, senior director of Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement.

The office developed Enable Montreal in collaboration with the Maison de l’innovation sociale, the Critical Disability Studies Working GroupIndependent Living – Montreal,District 3 Innovation CenterSHIFT and Fondation Mirella and Lino Saputo.

The non-competitive challenge, which ran from March 9 to June 8 last year, brought together 10 teams of students, researchers, activists, designers and community members — half of whom identified as having a physical disability. Lyn says participants worked together to develop innovative and concrete proposals for city-wide accessibility solutions, touching on key areas such as transportation and employment.

The program involved 12 participatory workshops that deployed a diversity of facilitation techniques to introduce participants to key concepts in design thinking as a tool for solving complex problems.

“We are sharing our most important lessons on widening participation through this Inclusive Innovation Guide to encourage and equip others to design accessible innovation programs and events,” Lyn says.

A guide that moves beyond

Diana Horqque, a design instructor at District 3 Innovation Centre, says participating in an event that sought to ensure that participants of different abilities could all be fully engaged in each planned activity has changed her mindset and approach to event design.

“Over the years, I’ve attended many innovation events throughout the city and I believe we need to be more proactive in improving  accessibility. Before Enable Montreal, it wasn’t something very present on my radar,” she admits.

Through Enable Montreal, she was able to identify small improvements that would make presentations more accessible. It also allowed her to incorporate event best practices at District 3 to further accessibility. For her, realizing the value of something as simple as speaking more slowly and providing clear verbal explanations when using visual cues was eye-opening.

“I think everyone should read this guide because just a few minimal changes can make a huge difference in opening up a whole range of events and activities to a wider public,” she says. Horqque adds that while the guide specifically addresses those in the innovation community, its recommendations are far-reaching.

“The wonderful thing is that it can be used by anyone looking to make their events more inclusive. The guide itself is simple to navigate, citing different stages of event planning and different types of activities with specific examples — so it’s easy to locate the section most relevant to your purpose.”

Horqque and Lyn agree that the guide can also serve as an essential launch pad for discussions on the subject of accessibility and inclusivity within Montreal.

“If we hope to facilitate the development of solutions to the considerable challenges faced by people living with disabilities, priority number one is removing barriers to their participation,” Lyn says. Read the Inclusive Innovation Guide today!

Originally Posted on Concordia University website

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