Accessibility For All: What it is and Why it Matters?

Workshop Intro:

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

In this two-part workshop, we will explore new ideas and discover concrete actions on moving your co-op to a barrier-free environment, ensuring that housing co-ops are inclusive and supportive communities.

Workshop Date:

Workshop Location:

Workshop Type:

Workshop Duration:
2 Hrs

Isabelle Groc (The Right Fit), Paul Gauthier (Individualized Funding Resource Centre (IFRC) Society), Chris Hofley (Individualized Funding Resource Centre (IFRC)), Karen Williams (BC Housing), Shelley Nessman (PLAN), and Katrina Griffin (PLAN)


British Columbians who need affordable wheelchair-accessible housing often wait years to find a suitable home. Some confront the frightening prospect of homelessness. Others are stuck in care facilities or unsuitable housing, denied basic amenities like bathing or the use of a kitchen, or forced to forego job opportunities in a community that has no housing vacancies.

In this workshop, presenters will describe the mandate and activities of the The Right Fit, a multi-partner service designed to address the crisis in wheelchair accessible housing by matching scarce affordable, accessible homes and independent living supports for people with disabilities in the Greater Vancouver region. Panelists will discuss the definitions of accessible housing, the unique challenges wheelchair users face when searching for accessible homes, and the role co-ops can play in improving housing accessibility and creating a feeling of belonging for

Specifically the workshop will address how co-ops can update their practices to make existing units more accessible for wheelchair users and the funding opportunities and resources that are available to co-ops to make these changes happen.


Paul Gauthier, Individualized Funding Resource Centre Society (IFRC), is the Founder and Executive Director of the IFRC. He is responsible for program development, and collaborating with other organizations and municipalities in the province. He also oversees all financial operations, and government resources.

Prior to the IFRC, Paul’s career focused on improving the quality of life for all British Columbians with disabilities and has been a key figure in multiple municipal projects that impact people with disabilities. Paul is a founder of the Choice in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) program which allows people with disabilities to remain in their homes and employ their own personal support workers through individualized funding.

Paul is also a Sports champion for Boccia. A multiple Gold medal winner, he successfully represented Canada as 5X Paralympian and in 2004 was the first Canadian to win a gold medal for Canada in this sport.

Paul was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, received the BC Community Achievement Award in 2009 and the Premier’s Athletic Award for 7 years between 1995 and 2003. He received the BC Paraplegic Association award for Outstanding Community Contribution in 2005 and was named Sportability’s Male Athlete of the year in 2005. In 2019 Paul was inducted into the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association Hall of Fame.

Isabelle Groc, Right Fit Coordinator (Disability Alliance BC) is an experienced communications and outreach engagement professional and has led numerous storytelling-driven public campaigns to create impact and raise awareness on behalf of various non-profit organizations. Isabelle is passionate about creating content that inspires community-driven, long-lasting change for vulnerable populations. Before joining the Right Fit, she has worked with women experiencing violence, vulnerable elders, and youth with learning disabilities.

Isabelle holds master’s degrees in journalism from Columbia University and urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she specialized in community development in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods. She grew up in France and now lives in Vancouver. She is a fellow of the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Societies of Canada and the UK.

Chris Hofley, Individualized Funding Resource Centre Society (IFRC), is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations, for IFRC. He brings over 20 years of combined business and personal support experience. In addition to his career in the banking industry, Chris continues to give much of his time to mentoring young people with disabilities through various community and educational programs. Chris has also spent 20 years counselling people with addiction through various programs in the Lower Mainland.

An open, strong communicator, Chris enjoys public speaking before groups at events and education sessions for people who are learning about community living. He has a unique way of working with families in addition to people living with both physical and development disabilities.

Karen Williams, BC Housing joined BC Housing’s Research Centre team in 2019. Her work has positively impacted the housing sector in BC through a range of technical and social housing research projects. Karen brings a strong background in social planning, social research, project management, community development, community outreach, and non-profit management. For more than 5 years, she was the Manager of Accessibility Initiatives with the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC). During her time at SPARC BC, Karen gained extensive experience working in collaboration with people with disabilities.

Karen holds a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Queen’s University and is a certified member of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and the Planning Institute of BC (PIBC). She is currently serving as Co-Chair of the South Coast Planning Chapter of PIBC and as BC Housing’s representative on the Right Fit Steering Committee.

Shelley Nessman's, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), passion is supporting people to discover, nurture and share their gifts, skills, and abilities.  Her experience as a facilitator and planner has helped her to understand that when a person and their network combine their dreams with a plan for action – anything is possible!Two significant experiences changed everything about the way Shelley views “the work”.  First was an opportunity early in her career to be trained by Jack Pearpoint and Marsha Forrest as a PATH facilitator (followed by life altering training from Dave and Fay Wetherow). Second has been the privilege of sharing her home with people who experience disability.  Life sharing has been a deep personal learning experience that shows up in everything she does.  In the past 3 years, Shelley created her own consulting business “In the Company of Others” and has been privileged to work in BC, Ontario, Australia and the US.

In addition, some of the agencies Shelley has contributed to are:

  • Vela Canada
  • Community Living BC
  • School District 38 (Richmond)
  • Spectrum Society for Community Living

As a former PLAN board member she is thrilled to be joining the team as Director of Family Support and Leadership. Deeply listening to someone and supporting them to identify and express their gift changes us all- and is the reason Shelley has always said: “This is a peace movement- it’s all about love”.

Barb Goode, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN),, has many accomplishments; she is a founding member of BC People First (one of the first People First groups in the world), and in 1995 Barb addressed the UN General Assembly (GA), becoming the first self-advocate to present to the GA. Furthermore, The EVE case in the early ’80, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled developmentally disabled adults cannot be forcibly sterilized, is work that Barb is particularly proud of. Barb was also on the Editorial Committee for CLBC and contributed to their “Just say HI” campaign. In 2011 Barb published her memories, A Goode Life, and is currently working on the next edition.

Barb is a prolific presenter and workshop co-host for a variety of groups including; Spectrum Consulting, BC Representative of Children and Youth, ESATTA as a voice for self-advocate leadership, and most recently on a webinar with Cornell University Citizen-Centred Leadership series. Barb has also been on the Boards of BC People First, Inclusion BC, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), and International Inclusion.

It is important to Barb that PLAN members meet and get to know each other socially. For everyone to be out in the community and “to be seen having fun and seen as people first and the label second."