Bright Shining Canadian Irish Star

We had such a happy (but bittersweet) zoom gathering on Sunday January 30!

A group of friends and colleagues met to celebrate the retirement of Barbara Collier – to wish her well as she returns to Ireland with her husband, Bill, and they begin the next chapter in their lives. 

Barbara’s sisters, Geraldine, Rachel, Ruth and her brother, Peter, were with us at the zoom meeting, to celebrate Barbara’s return home to Ireland in February, after 4 decades in Canada. Barbara’s sister, Liz, was unable to attend. Geraldine spoke on behalf of all Barbara’s siblings and their families, in expressing their pride in her accomplishments. Barbara and Bill will be living in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, Ireland. 

How fortunate we have been to have Barbara’s contribution to the lives of AAC users across Canada! Her strong advocacy work  for more inclusive communication access legislation has been powerful!  Barbara leaves a wonderful legacy through her founding and nurturing of Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) and establishing two new groups to take on aspects of CDAC’s work – The Canadian Communication Access Alliance (CCAA) and Communication Access to Justice (CAJ). Her influence on legislation and the future impact it can have on the lives of those with a communication challenge will be felt far into the future.

Hazel Self who began working with Barbara in the establishment of CDAC back in 2001, said this at our celebration: 

As I reviewed the annual reports of CDAC I was struck by the breadth of activity… nothing was too big or too small for Barbara…her vision embraced all of life yet remained focused on human rights and the true definition of communication as being a 2 way process, with the concept of authentic communication as being generated by the individual, with and without support…..input from CDAC was shaping the ODA and the Accessible Canada Act. …In 2018 CDAC was invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Rights, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities; here Barbara was responsible for having Bill C81 amended to include communication as a priority area of focus in the Accessible Canada Act…..all this from her bedroom office…

 We were fortunate to have had Barbara’s bright star shining in the AAC universe for so many years – working steadily to improve the lives of those with communication challenges.

Through the combined efforts of Julie Millar (videography) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg, (arranger of ambient music by the Bliss I-Band) and my design, we produced a Bliss vignette, as our tribute.

We can see Barb’s determined spirit and her enjoyment in sharing fun moments (also shared by Bill), in the pictures below …

Samantha and Julie Millar, along with Carolyn and Glynis Henry have contributed their thoughts as to what is so special about Barbara. The descriptive word they all agreed to was “inclusive”. Barbara is inclusive! They only saw her at conferences but they always knew Barbara was interested in what they had to say and listened to AAC users when they expressed their ideas. They saw their concerns being included in all Barbara’s advocacy work.

Julie gave an example of how the CDAC website had helped Samantha and herself directly. They learned from the website that AAC users have rights – and one in particular, the right, in hospitals, to receive the assistance they need! When Samantha was experiencing a difficult time during a stay in  hospital, and the staff were not understanding nor responding to her anxiety, Julie used information from the CDAC website to explain to the nurses how they could address Samantha’s needs. With this knowledge, they were able to resolve the problems! Julie and Samantha thank Barbara!

We wish Barbara much happiness as she returns to Ireland. We know her presence will continue to be felt in Canada,  Ireland and throughout the world in the years ahead! May Barbara’s star continue to shine brightly!

Shirley McNaughton