Michael Lifshitz (Master of Ceremonies)

Michael was born with a condition called Multiple Congenital Musculoskeletal Abnormalities. In addition to wearing an artificial leg, he walks with a cane and uses a wheelchair for longer distances. Contrary to what many would believe possible, he became a Chartered Professional Accountant and also obtained a MBA from Edinburgh Business School.

He has built and sold successful accounting and financial planning practices. Today, in addition to continuing a successful career in finance and accounting as CFO and co-founder of Breakaway Experiences, a gift experience company, he uses speaking, comedy and writing to not only educate people as to what people with disabilities can do, but to also inspire them to overcome their own challenges and live their life to the fullest of their abilities.

Dean Mellway

After completing his MSW at Wilfred Laurier University, Dean began his career at the Ontario March of Dimes as a Community Development officer and was quickly promoted to Regional Director.  He move to Ottawa in 1980 to become Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and after ten years, joined the team at Carleton to open the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities (PMC).  Dean has recently completed a six year term as Acting Director of Carleton’s READ Initiative (Research, Education, Accessibility and Design).  He will continue as a Special Advisor to the READ Initiative moving forward

Dean enjoyed a long career as a competitive athlete representing Canada with medal performances in Paralympics and World Championships in over three decades highlighted by a Gold medal in the 1976 Olympiad, a Bronze Medal in the 1994 Winter Paralympics in Lillehammer and a Silver Medal from the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano.  He competed in snooker, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and sledge hockey.

Dean has also enjoyed a long career in various volunteer capacities serving persons with disabilities and recently completed a three year term on the Province of Ontario Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee/Standards Development Committee.

Lucas Haneman

Tetrasonic productions, Artist Shoot, October 8 2018,

Lucas Haneman has long been widely regarded for his explosive guitar work, distinctive voice and songwriting style, both with his project The Lucas Haneman Express, and as a solo artist.  His one of a kind sound has found its home in the blues, but ranges as wide as funk, jazz, folk, reggae, rock and world music, making him a musician with a truly recognizable style.

At the age of 6 Haneman started playing the guitar, originally focusing on grass roots styles such as folk and blues, but began delving into jazz and alternative rock as a teenager.  Today all of these influences still make up the fabric of his sound on the range of instruments he plays (including all types of guitar, mandolin, bass and drums).

While in high school Haneman performed in many national jazz bands and received a CBC Galaxy Rising Star Award at the 2005 Ottawa International Jazz festival.  In 2010 he graduated from Concordia University with a BFA in Jazz Studies (where he received the prestigious Oscar Peterson scholarship). 

More recently, his project The Lucas Haneman Express was nominated for “best new act” at the 2018 Maple Blues Awards,  and Lucas has been a 2 time winner of Ottawa’s Road To Memphis competition (both in 2015 and 2019).  Along with talented Ottawa vocalist Megan Laurence, Haneman will be competing at the International Blues Challenge in January 2020.  

The Lucas Haneman Express released their 3rd critically acclaimed album “Catch The Westbound” in April 2019, and have shared the bill with The Dave Matthews Band and Robert Cray, just to name a few.
As a solo artist Lucas has shared the stage with musicians such as Curtis Fuller, David Newman, Guido Basso, Jeff Healy, James Cotton, Sloan, Don Ross, and singer songwriters Terry Kelly and David Usher. Haneman has performed from coast to coast in Canada, pubs in London, England, legendary Beale St. in Memphis, concert halls in New York City, clubs in Nashville, and even Los Angeles, California.

Jeffrey Stark

Jeffrey is widely respected both in the Government of Canada and abroad as an expert in Inclusive and Accessible Information & Communication Technology.  He has been working in this field for over 25 years.  He manages the AAACT Program, a group of passionate, engaged, enthusiastic and experienced Subject Matter Experts.

Somei Tam  

Somei is an artist, educator, and student service professional living in Ottawa. For most of her life, she aspires to live an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances. Like most people, she is a home owner with a mortgage, works at a 9-to-5 job with a pension, and enjoys the benefits of a stable middle-class life.  She acquired her disability at the age 3 after contracting the polio virus.  As a child living with a disability in China, life was often fraught with adversity. Through sheer good fortune, she managed to escape this life of adversity when she emigrated to Canada with her family in the mid 1970s.  

Her post-secondary education includes a Bachelor of Fine Art from Queen’s University, a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Education from the University of Ottawa.  In her professional life, Somei works with students with disabilities at Carleton University’s Paul Menton Centre as a senior disability advisor for the past twenty years.   

Peter O’Connor

Peter is blind (2% vision) as a result of RP which he has had since birth. Peter moved to Ottawa in 1993 to attend Carleton University. He graduated with Honours degrees in History and Psychology.

A single Dad of 3 teenagers, Peter worked for the CRA for almost 20 years. He is a Beaver Scout Leader, Drum and Leadership Instructor for the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

Phillip Turcotte

Phillip firmly believes in the value and diversity that disability brings to the world and to our communities. He is an Ottawan, a Franco-Ontarian, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and proudly lives with disabilities. Phillip works to ensure that disability is not only welcomed, but also celebrated. A lawyer by training, Phillip is an alumnus of Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, where he focused his studies on social justice and conflict resolution. He is honoured to have been recognized for his advocacy efforts through the Celebration of People’s Advocacy Award (2016); the Legal Leaders for Diversity Trust Fund (2016); and the Dr. John Davis Burton Award (2014). 

In his spare time, Phillip is a budding Ottawa Fury FC fan and a tea enthusiast. He can be found exploring Ottawa while enjoying a nice cup of tea.

Kawsar Mohamed

Kawsar is a passionate community servant with the ability to motivate and inspire individuals in identifying their potential to continue and share this passion to serve others. With this ongoing quest to give, she has been able to promote significant, positive change in communities and individuals through advocacy, empowered by compassion. Kauthar takes pride in engaging in a civically based approached to community building. 

Jeff Willbond

With over 25 years of diverse experience in the areas of public policy, communications, community development and strategic management, Jeff is committed to innovation, social development and inclusion. He has been a media advisor to CTV news on the subject matter of diversity and accessibility for Ontario.

Jeff has worked in the areas of employment, social services, health care, housing and human resources. Over his career he has demonstrated leadership as an active volunteer serving on several boards and advisory committees. He is currently a trustee on the Ottawa Childrens’ Treatment Centre School Authority.

As a consultant, Jeff was responsible for the City of Ottawa’s 2004/2005 Municipal Accessibility Policy Plan and was appointed to Ontario’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee to assist the Ministry of Community and Social Services to implement accessibility standards for people with disabilities. In 2006, he received one of Ottawa’s Community Builder Awards for advancing diversity and inclusion.

Following his career in the private sector, municipal and provincial government, Jeff joined the Federal Public Service in 2006, and worked with departments like Treasury Board Secretariat with the Office of the Chief Human Resources and Employment and Social Development Canada. Jeff recently joined Canada Post Corporation as the new Director for Accessibility.

Dan Samosh

Dan is a PhD Candidate in Organizational Behaviour at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. He earned his HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University and his MSc in Strategy from Queen’s University. Dan is currently a Student Fellow with the SSHRC funded Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy.

Dan’s research portfolio focuses on disability and work. His doctoral research employs qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the career advancement and leadership experiences of persons with disabilities. In addition to his doctoral work, Dan is a Research Associate with the Institute for Work and Health, where he engages in research on disability and financial incentives to employers. Recently, Dan was invited to the University of St. Gallen’s Center for Disability and Integrationin Switzerland as a guest researcher. During the tenure of this scholarship he conducted research on employee accommodations and perceptions of justice.