Speakers 2024


Tiana Kirkegaard

Tiana Kirkegaard (she/her)
Young Leader, Leading Change, L’Arche Canada
Advocate, Actor, Improviser, Dancer

Instagram / Website

Tiana Kirkegaard is a young leader with Leading Change, L’Arche Canada. With a heart that values community, she finds joy in welcoming and inviting others to discover places of belonging. Tiana views Down Syndrome as a gift and as something to be celebrated. In fact, she is known for her willingness to ‘hand out extra chromosomes’ to anyone who wishes to have a touch of Down Syndrome in their lives!

Tiana longs for people to be able to be themselves, to belong, and to be provided with what is needed to be able to fully participate in their community. Tiana’s artistic talent shines in her roles as an actor, improviser, and expressive artist. She has been in three movies, a few promotional videos, and several musicals. Tiana especially enjoyed being a principal actor in the Hallmark movie, ‘Color My World With Love.’ Tiana’s grace extends to the dance floor where she tells stories through movement as a lyrical dancer.

Beyond the spotlight, Tiana is one of the part-time editors at the Self-Advocate Net. As she reads and hears the voices of self-advocates, she continues to learn about needs and service gaps that individuals with disabilities have to contend with.

Tiana is committed to her chosen sport as a rhythmic gymnast. She received five gold medals in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2018 Canadian National Games with Special Olympics representing Team BC.

Tiana is a devotional and reflective writer and is currently working to expand her reading, writing, and communication skills at the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation in Burnaby, BC. Tiana is also thrilled to be taking improvisation and photography classes there as well.

Additionally, Tiana is a volunteer, she participates in community inclusion activities and values being able to do this in her own community. Tiana’s face lights up anytime she goes out to a café for a drink. As one of her sweatshirts says, ‘Bring me a Starbucks drink and I’ll love you forever.

Tiana is new to the role of emcee and is excited about this new learning experience and opportunity. She comes to the role as a gentle-hearted, and thoughtful young woman who prepares well for her responsibilities and is sometimes taken by a spirit of spontaneity to surprise us all.

Day 1 Opening Keynote Presentation: How We are Making a Difference

Chantel Meister

Chantel Meister Self-Advocate
Member, My Home My Rights Project
Accessibility Representative, Mount Saint Vincent University


Hi! My name is Chantel Meister, I am a student at Mount Saint Vincent University, studying Communication and Cultural Studies. Aside from my studies I am part of the student union as the Accessibility Representative, advocating for the Universities disabled students and planning events to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion Outside of school I am member of the My Home My Rights project, an action research project based in Halifax Nova Scotia that advocates for the human rights of people with disabilities living in Nova Scotia, with a focus on accessible supported housing and community access. I am also a swimmer with the Nova Scotia Special Olympics. I love reading, theatre, music, and pop culture. I hope to someday take my passion for advocacy and love of music and the entertainment industry and make a career out of it in the field of journalism.

Kara Anderson

Kara Anderson Self-Advocate
Member, Self Advocate Leadership Network Society
Member, Self Advocates of Nanaimo


Kara is a mother of a son with a disability. Kara is passionate about self-advocacy work and has lived in B.C. for 11 years. Kara is the secretary for Empowering Self-Advocates to Take Action and has given presentations for the Regional CLBC Staff Meeting. She helps facilitate the Welcome Workshops for CLBC. She is a member of the Self-Advocates of Nanaimo and SALN. Kara developed and was part of a film called “Fun, Food, and Advocacy”, which was presented at the Inclusion BC conference in Victoria 2019. She sits on the advisory committee for the Community Support Worker and Educational Support Program at Vancouver Island University.

Yvonne Spicer

Yvonne Spicer Self-Advocate
Member, New Vision Advocates

LinkedIn / Facebook / Website

My name is Yvonne Spicer, and I am on the New Vision Advocates committee with Community Living London. I am extremely motivated, ambitious, to taking the initiative by supporting people, to make everyone feel special. I have an excellent awareness of the disability and advocacy issues besides being a proven leader in the Community Living movement, as I have spoken up for the inclusion of all people in communities.

I have attended and spoke at various political events as well as respected by continuing to hear the concerns from people I meet. I am a strong supporter also industrious at encouraging people to rely on their strengths they have, by championing their successes through their path of advancement by working together to make sure that rights for all people are heard. I am an excellent advocate on social issues, and particularly on disability issues that are supporting human rights, anti-poverty, housing, and employment for people.

As you can imagine growing up with and living a life with Autism is a huge part of my story. Living with an Autism-Spectrum Disorder affects my life every day in many aspects from social development, behavioral and emotional regulation, life skills, communication, and language, and organizationally. Living a life with autism is not the easiest thing in the world as it presents so many different challenges. However, thanks to my work ethic, continuous drive to be the best person I can be, and all the supports in my life, I can call myself a successful adult with autism.

My passion and lifelong mission in life is to give back to the disability community and support others with disabilities the same way I was supported. My story is very inspirational and helpful to people with disabilities and fellow disability advocates like me as it shows that nothing is impossible but possible if we can break down the barriers that we continue to face daily.

Megan Primeau

Moderated by: Megan Primeau MSc (she/her)
Conference Director & Academic Program Director
Continuing Professional Development, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

LinkedIn / Twitter

Megan currently supports Continuing Professional Development, Temerty Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto, as the Conference Director for the Canadian Health and Wellbeing in Developmental Disabilities Conference and the Academic Program Director for The Canadian Children, Youth and Communities (CCYC) In | Equity Conference. She is also the founder of Educate Facilitate Consulting Services and is a part-time instructor at Humber College in the Faculty of Social and Community Services, and Continuous Professional Learning.

Megan brings over 20 years of experience facilitating the design, delivery, and evaluation of education and knowledge transfer initiatives in healthcare and social services, with a specific focus on mental health and developmental services. Megan has completed a Certificate Program in Adult Training and Development (OISE, University of Toronto) and Knowledge Translation Professional Certificate (The Hospital for Sick Children). She is also a Certified Training and Development Professional (CTDP)™ with (and is a member of) the Institute for Performance and Leaning, plus is a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

Day 1 Closing Keynote Panel: Equitable Healthcare Access

Alyson Mahar

Alyson Mahar PhD (she/her)
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing, Queen’s University

Twitter / Website

Alyson is an epidemiologist and health services researcher. Her goal is to help all Canadians with cancer get a quick diagnosis, the best treatment, and to live long and well. She leads a project focused on cancer among adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities in Ontario and Manitoba. Dr. Mahar is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society as an Emerging Scholar for MEGAN-CAN.

Anamaria Richardson

Anamaria Richardson BSc BEd MD FRCPC (she/her)
Community Based Pediatrician, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Investigator and General Pediatrician, BC Children’s Hospital

Dr. Anamaria Richardson is a community-based pediatrician who has been welcomed by the autism community — she specializes in severe autism, especially those with intellectual impairment and self injury. Previously, she worked in complex care and in biochemical diseases — this has resulted in her interest in medical complexity as well. Her background includes being a teacher, so she understands the challenges experienced by kids navigating both systems — health and education. Recently she has also become a qualified specialist to do autism assessments. Her current interests and research is around advancing health outcomes and advocating for increased collaboration to support families and kids with severe autism. Finally, she also works within many Indigenous communities — both rural and urban — and is currently working on a project to create an Indigenous focused healthy living web based portal.

Steve Lipinski

Steve Lipinski DDS
Board Member of the Canadian Society for Disability and Oral Health
Division of Dentistry and Oral/Maxillofacial Surgery, Trillium Health Partners, Credit Valley Hospital
Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine

Website / Website

Dr Lipinski has been practicing general dentistry for 43 years. Currently his practice is limited to Hospital Dentistry under general anesthesia for persons living with intellectual and development disabilities (IDD) who otherwise cannot be safely treated in an isolated settings like a stand-alone dental office. Dr Lipinski also practices with a passion, the management of obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy in collaboration with medical sleep physicians. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine.

Dr Lipinski has received numerous awards from the Ontario Dental Association and the Halton Peel Dental Association for his contribution to organized dentistry. He has had a number of speaking engagements with dental societies and hospital family practice rounds.

Dr Lipinski sits on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Society for Disability and Oral Health (CSDH). Dr Lipinski believes in a health (including oral health) care system where all organizations, people and actions are responsive, financially fair, relate to, interact with and influence one another. He may be reached at drlipinski@lovemysleep.ca.

Alicia Thatcher

Moderated by: Alicia Thatcher MD CCFP (she/her)
Family Physician, Saskatchewan Health Authority
IDD Primary Care Consultant, Creative Options Regina
Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan
Enhanced Skills in Primary Care for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Alicia Thatcher completed her family medicine residency at the University of Saskatchewan. She also completed a Family Medicine Enhanced Skills program focused on primary care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the University of Saskatchewan – a training program she created based on her own learning needs and the gaps she identified in her community. Her passion for improving healthcare for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities stemmed from her experience working at Camp Easter Seal in high school and volunteering with organizations such as Best Buddies and Special Olympics. She currently serves on the board of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD), an organization she’s been involved in for over seven years, and as the chair of the Developmental Disabilities Member Interest Group for the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). She recently became certified as a Fellow by the American Board of Developmental Medicine (ABDM).

Day 2 Opening Keynote Presentation: Thinking Differently about Mental Health and Addictions Supports

Jill Faber

Jill Faber DSW (she/her)
Community Case Manager
Community Living North Bay


Jill, currently serving as a Complex Case Coordinator at Community Living North Bay, embarked on her journey in Developmental Services in 1990 as a graduate of Algonquin College’s Developmental Service Worker program. Over the span of three decades, Jill has been a driving force in transformative initiatives within the field. Her early focus involved efforts to deinstitutionalize individuals with complex needs. Later, as a Canadian associate with Helen Sanderson Associates, she played a crucial role in championing Person-Centered practices across various human service sectors in Ontario. Jill also contributed significantly to the modernization of tools for developmental services agencies in adopting Alliance Information Management Systems.

Notably, Jill is one of the four founding members of THE SHIFT, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at making a positive impact on the lives of individuals grappling with intersecting vulnerabilities and oppressions. THE SHIFT has gained recognition as one of nine North American models in the Community Living Ontario publication “Innovations in Housing for People who have an Intellectual Disability.” Additionally, it has been acknowledged by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services as an exemplary model of change under the Journey to Belonging DS transformation.

Oluseye Akinkunmi

Oluseye Akinkunmi (he/him)
Health Services Manager
Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit, Nova Scotia Health


Oluseye is a Health Services Manager with Nova Scotia Health’s Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit (ANSU) and the Community Outreach Assessments Support and Treatment (COAST) team. Oluseye holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Dalhousie University), Master of Science in Computer Science (University of Bridgeport), Master of Science in Entomology and Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Biology (University of Ibadan). As a transformational leader, Oluseye has championed an evidence-based model of care change at ANSU, to improve the services offered to adults with intellectual disabilities at the Nova Scotia Hospital. His team has taken numerous quality initiatives and they won awards, including Nova Scotia Health’s Silver Quality Award for reducing restrictive practices and Merck Canada’s Patient-first award for person-centered care. Oluseye continues to collaborate with patients, their families, caregivers, community partners and other stakeholders, to advocate for better outcomes for adults with intellectual disabilities and mental illness.

Robin Friedlander

Robin Friedlander MD FRCPC
Founder, Self Injurious Behavior Clinic
BC Children’s Hospital


Robin Friedlander trained in medicine and psychiatry in South Africa and moved to Canada in 1993. Dr Friedlander is a child psychiatrist and has been working in the field of neurodevelopmental psychiatry for over 30 years. He is a clinical professor and director of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Program within the University of British Columbia (UBC) Department of Psychiatry in Vancouver and founder of the Self Injurious Behavior Clinic at BC Children’s Hospital.

Heidi Diepstra

Moderated by: Heidi Diepstra PhD
Health Care System and Stakeholder Engagement Facilitator
Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program, Surrey Place

Website / Twitter

Dr Heidi Diepstra currently leads the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program (DDPCP) of Surrey Place (Toronto). In this role she develops and leads the program’s knowledge translation strategy, promoting the implementation of research evidence into practice with the aim to improve health outcomes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most recently, she managed the update of a suite of clinical tools that help primary care providers to support the mental health of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, she initiates strategic partnerships and collaborations to improve the uptake of the Canadian guidelines for primary care of adults with intellectual disabilities. Through her research background (PhD in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Toronto) and subsequent training in knowledge translation and implementation practice (Hospital for Sick Children, St Michael’s Hospital and the Center for Implementation, Toronto) she brings a systems thinking approach to health care improvements.

Day 2 Closing Keynote Panel: Balancing Autonomy and Safety in Online Dating

Alan Martino

Alan Martino PhD (he/him)
Assistant Professor (Teaching), Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies
Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary

Website / Website / Twitter

Dr. Alan Santinele Martino (he/him) is an Assistant Professor in the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. His main research interests are in critical disability studies, gender and sexualities; feminist and critical disability studies theories; qualitative and community-based research (particularly participatory and inclusive research methodologies). His work has been published in multiple journals, including, for example, Disability Studies Quarterly, Sexuality and Disability, and Culture, Health and Sexuality, as well as edited volumes focused on disability and/or sexualities studies. He has guest-edited three special issues, and he is currently working on two edited books. He is the lead of the Disability & Sexuality Lab at the University of Calgary.

Karyn Harvey

Karyn Harvey PhD
Director, ​Training and Program Development
The Park Avenue Group, LLC


Dr. Karyn Harvey has worked as a clinician in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) for over 30 years. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland. Over her years of academic and professional development including valuable experience in direct support of individuals with ID/DD, she has come to recognize that psychologically supporting people with ID/DD must recognize the role that trauma plays in their behavioral issues and address the critical elements needed for their recovery from trauma (including safety, empowerment and connection).

​Dr. Harvey consults with various state agencies and private organizations throughout the United States and Canada and trains staff on every level, trainers and clinicians on trauma-informed care. She has published numerous articles about therapeutic interventions for persons with ID/DD and has written two books: Positive Identity Development (including an addendum of practical Workbooks) and Trauma-Informed Behavioral Interventions.

Natalya Mason

Natalya Mason PgCSH BSW MA RSW (she/her)
Social Worker & Sexuality Educator
Website / Website / LinkedIn / Twitter

Natalya Mason BSW, MA, RSW (she/her) is a sexual health educator and social worker who was born and raised in Saskatoon, SK. She is a Black first-generation Canadian, and a settler on Treaty Six Territory. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the U of S, a BSW from the U of R, an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies and a Post graduate Certificate in Sexual Health She is a lifelong member of the Girl Guides of Canada, and is dedicated to social justice and reproductive rights for women and girls. She is a Community Engagement Specialist at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine. She is a queer feminist living in contradiction, committed to continuous learning and unlearning.

Kristyn White

Moderated by: Kristyn White BSRS, MSc Candidate (she/her)
Literacy Facilitator/Creative Options Regina
Website / Website

Kristyn White, BSRS, MSc Candidate (she/her) is a researcher, facilitator, and advocate residing on Treaty Four Territory in Regina, Saskatchewan. She works as the Literacy Facilitator at Creative Options Regina/Inclusion Regina, holds a BSRS from the University of Regina, and is pursuing an MSc from the same institution. Kristyn’s research addresses the critical need for increased sexuality training and information within the caregiving/supporting field. Drawing from her own lived experiences as a frontline caregiver, she aims to create more inclusive and supportive environments for individuals with disabilities. Kristyn is passionate about providing sexual health and wellness education to those with disabilities. She believes everyone deserves the information needed to make more informed choices about their bodies and human rights. She has worked on several innovative research projects, the most recent being an exploration of sex positivity in an ableist society. Kristyn hopes to continue advancing the conversation around sex, disability, and equal access within Saskatchewan.

Past Keynote Speakers

Use the links below to access the speaker details from past events:

  • HWDD 2023 Speakers
  • HWDD 2022 Speakers