March 1, 2024

Toward inclusive cities: UCalgary hosts inaugural symposium on Disability & The City

March 1 event demonstrates university’s dedication to fostering inclusive, accessible communities
A group of people stand with bicycles under trees
Victoria Fast speaks to students about the importance of accessibility in the built environment. Courtesy Victoria Fast

Picture a community where people feel connected, where accessibility is a standard and where inclusivity is the norm. The University of Calgary’s first Disability & The City: Building Accessible Communities Symposium on March 1 aims to ignite this vision. 

Hosted by several faculties on campus, the event is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the faculties of Arts, Social Work, the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), and the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL). The one-day event represents a significant step forward in the university's commitment to fostering inclusive communities, particularly for individuals with disabilities. 

“The symposium is not just about collaboration within the university; it aims to build partnerships with the broader Calgary community,” says Dr. Fabian Neuhaus, PhD, an associate professor with SAPL. 

The conference, hosted at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, aims to position people with disabilities as active contributors in the creation of thriving, inclusive urban spaces. One of the most notable aspects of this symposium is its transdisciplinary nature. Faculty members from various disciplines worked together to organize the event, including Neuhaus representing SAPL; Dr. Victoria Fast, PhD, from Arts; Dr. David Nicholas, BSW’85, MSW’88, PhD, from Social Work; and Dr. Katrina Milaney, BA’92, MEd’07, PhD’14, from CSM. 

Neuhaus stresses the importance of collaboration and creating a welcoming ecosystem for all. The event serves as a platform connecting city-based organizations with research faculty, fostering inclusive spaces and opening doors for all individuals. 

Reimagining disability in urban settings

At its core, Disability & The City seeks to foster synergetic connections among scholars, community members and stakeholders. The symposium will tackle pressing issues of disability inclusion within urban contexts, aligning the expertise and interests of Calgary's disability scholars and community members. The overarching goal is to reimagine disability in urban settings, aiming for a future where belonging and opportunity know no boundaries. 

“The event marks a significant step towards creating a city without barriers or obstacles, where everyone can thrive,” says Nicholas, emphasizing the crucial participation of people from the community, particularly those with disabilities. 

Symposium organizers hope to spark new connections and initiatives both within the university and beyond. Many projects and initiatives to make the city more accessible are already underway.

The Disability & The City Symposium at UCalgary, hosted by several faculties on campus, represents a significant milestone in its journey toward fostering inclusive communities. By bringing together diverse voices, fostering transdisciplinary collaboration, and building partnerships within and beyond the university, this event sets the stage for a future where accessibility, belonging and opportunity are fundamental principles of urban design fulfilling the goals of UCalgary’s new Ahead of Tomorrow Strategy. As UCalgary celebrates this collaborative effort, It looks forward to the tangible impacts and initiatives that will emerge from this groundbreaking seminar.

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