Advice From An Expert On Making Housing Accessible For Canadians

And entire classroom of grade school children watching a wheelchair basketball game between kids and teachers
Working towards a better tomorrow. Quincy Elementary students watch the New England Blazers Wheelchair Basketball team play their teachers.

In 2021, Thea Kurdi made a presentation to students at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture1. We are fortunate that Kurdi’s presentation occurred during the height of COVID because it is available to us today online and linked below.

Kurdi has disabilities and personal experience of “accessible” spaces. She also has architectural training and has spent decades as a consultant on accessibility in the built environment. She’s an ideal candidate to be making a presentation like this one. Here are a few reasons to listen to what Kurdi has to say:

    • Kurdi situates her work in the context of the disability rights movement, which created the expression “Nothing about us without us.” It’s an expression that resonates with many other groups of people who are marginalized in our societies, among them people who are unhoused. The expression reinforces calls to draw on lived experience when designing and policy and program. Kurdi’s presentation demonstrates the wisdom of implementing “nothing about us without us” in the built environment.
    • The presentation includes links to accessibility design guides that were prepared by municipal governments. The guides precede the passage of the Access for Ontarians For Disabilities Act in 2005. They are very detailed and take account of a wide range of disabilities. Kurdi robustly defends the guides as the best resources available and demonstrates their utility in two case studies.
    • Kurdi’s presentation complements research about people who are struggling to hang on to their housing and people who are unhoused. Aspects of physical design contribute to people being unable to work, or go to school or complete daily household tasks. Without adequate income, people are at risk of losing their homes because they can’t pay for their housing. It can mean that children are apprehended by child protection agencies because physical design features prevent parents from caring for their children. Physical design can also be a barrier to accessing housing when you are homeless.

The presentation will appeal to students who aspire to make the world a better place through design. It should also be useful to people who design and offer services for people who have challenges participating in community activities and at home. ‘Nothing about us without us’ means every one of us. You can access the presentation at YouTube: Applying Accessible Design Beyond Checklists


  1. The presentation was timely then because Canada had passed the Accessible Canada Act in 2019.