Disability Positive formed around Dr. Felipe Montoya in April 2016, after his son Nico Montoya - a person with a disability - was declared medically inadmissible by Canadian immigration authorities. The Montoya family, alongside immigration and refugee lawyer Hadayt Nazami and doctoral researcher Natalie Spagnuolo organized a town hall meeting in downtown Toronto to discuss disability discrimination in Canadian immigration practices.
There was an overwhelming response to the event. Among the many community members who attended were people with disabilities, their families, and allies who felt it was important to remain connected to address disability discrimination in Canadian policy. Business leader Laura Dottori and disability activist Timothy Rose, teamed up with Felipe, Hadayt, and Natalie to create a permanent platform for community action around pressing disability issues.
"My disability is an asset. It makes me a more creative, adaptable and innovative part of my organization.
— Tim Rose, Co-Founder, Disability Positive
Where we are headed
Since those beginnings, our group has evolved to narrow our focus to three key areas of change; policy, employment and leadership. Our primary focus in these areas is the idea that disability, and all that comes with it, is an asset in business, life and family. Though still a small group in many ways, we are dedicated to bringing innovative perspectives to the work that we are doing to help reframe what disability means in Canada and beyond. We are still relatively early in this journey but are excited to see where it could lead.
A collective focused on promoting opportunities for success and the removal of barriers for people with disabilities through direct advocacy in the areas of leadership, employment and policy.
Promoting a positive approach to disability and diversity through focusing on assets in our language and framing in all campaigns.
Engaging in targeted advocacy campaigns through social media or other platforms that draw attention to relevant issues.
Connecting with corporate leaders and representatives of boards to raise awareness on the importance of disability presence in leadership discourse.
Promoting career building, growth and skills development for people with disabilities through campaigns and online advocacy.
Supporting legislative change through collaboration with civil society groups, meeting with government officials and offering relevant input on policy.
Disability Positive is a group focused on promoting positivity and assets in the areas of Policy, Employment and Leadership.
TIM ROSE | co-founder
Tim Rose is an accomplished activist, speaker, writer and entrepreneur who was lucky enough to be born with cerebral palsy. He holds two degrees, including a Masters of Law in Human Rights from the University of Nottingham in the UK, and has lived and worked on three continents. Raised to push the envelope, Tim has always been an out of the box thinker who believes that disability is a true asset in business. After years of discrimination in the labour market, Tim is delighted to now be bringing that experience to the corporate world to help reshape the way we see disability for all Canadians.
Natalie Spagnuolo | co-founder
Natalie is a long-time disability advocate and researcher whose work engages local, national and transnational community concerns. She has been closely involved in a number of campaigns promoting disability justice across different jurisdictions. In the Ottawa region, Natalie co-founded Memory Witness and Hope/ Mémoire, témoignages et espoir – a participatory workshop and film series with survivors of government-run institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. She has written extensively on disability issues and her work can be found in various online and print publications.
Felipe Montoya | co-founder
Felipe Montoya is the father of Nicolás Montoya, the boy with Down syndrome whose case against disability discrimination in Canadian immigration legislation contributed to the elimination of special education as a reason for declaring people like him as inadmissible to Canada. The fight against Section 38(1)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that declares people inadmissible based on excessive demand, still continues, for being blatently discriminatory against people with disabilities. Felipe is currently the director of the Las Nubes Project and EcoCampus in Costa Rica of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Felipe and his family, including Nico, are permanent residents of Canada.