Personal Story: Penny
Penny Leclair was born totally blind. Her hearing gradually declined to the point that she could no longer understand speech in her mid-forties. Thus, she became deafblind.
Penny now lives with her husband, Paul, and guide dog, Jefferson, in Kingston, Ontario. Her adult son lives in Western Canada.
Her passion for advocacy is focused on her belief that everyone, regardless of his or her ability, should have equal access to all aspects of modern society.
Determined to further her education, she became the first deafblind person to enrol in, attend, and graduate from the British Columbia Institute of Technology with a diploma in Business Administration.
Later, as the first deafblind person to enrol in Massage Therapy courses at Algonquin College, she created the necessary awareness of intervenor services within the college community, then trained existing interpreters to serve as the intervenors that would enable her to take her courses.
As an educator, advocate, and consultant, Penny is dedicated to helping build awareness and break down societal barriers for persons with disabilities. She has dedicated her efforts to promoting the goals of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2015 (AODA).
Ms. Leclair’s advocacy culminated in changes to Ontario’s rules pertaining to the provision of cochlear implants. Previously, Ontario rules restricted individuals to a single cochlear implant. As a result of Ms. Leclair’s determined advocacy, individuals who are deafblind now have the option to receive both right and left cochlear implants in cases of profound hearing loss. This change enhances the safety of individuals with limited or no vision as they can now receive comprehensive directional auditory cues.
Ms. Leclair’s contributions to the community have been recognized publicly. The City of Ottawa’s United Way/Centraide recognized Penny with their “Community Builder Award,” which “honours an exceptional person or organization that has significantly contributed to improving the lives of so many in our communities” and who exemplify United Way’s core values with the goal of “making a measurable, local impact.”
The City of Ottawa has also recognized her with the Peggy Allan Memorial Award, presented annually to someone who has done outstanding work to improve accessibility for other Ottawa citizens who are disabled.
As a (usually unpaid) consultant, Ms. Leclair provides valuable insights on website accessibility and serves in a variety of volunteer and leadership roles with international, national, provincial, and community organizations so that she can remain actively involved advocating for necessary changes and encouraging others to join her in advocating. Among her current activities, she is:
- Member of the planning committee for the 18th Deafblind International World Conference, planned for July 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
- President of Barrier Free Canada/Canada Sans Barrières
- Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Canadian National Society of the Deaf Blind (CNSDB)
- Vice-Chair of the CNIB Deafblind Community Services board
- Member of the Municipal Accessibility advisory Committee for the City of Kingston, Ontario
- Co-chair of the National Deafblind Awareness Month committee
- Member of the Via Rail accessibility advisory committee
- Member of the Canadian Human Rights commission advisory committee.