#FeatureFriday Archive

Each Friday we highlight a consumer, staff member, or board member so you can get to know the #FacesOfILNS. Here you can view previously highlighted consumers, staff, and board members:

  • Consumers

  • ILNS Staff

  • Board Members

  • Volunteers

Housing Clients

Close-up photo of Carrie smiling at the camera. She is wearing a black shirt with red and white flowers and a black cardigan.
Photo of Carrie (middle) with three staff members. Carrie is wearing a red shirt with a black and white skirt.
Photo of Carrie (front left) and her roommate Crystal (far right) in their living room with staff and family members.

Carrie Macneil 

Carrie is part of our Shared Services Pilot (SSP). Get to know Carrie:

Q: What are a few things that everyone should know about you?

A: I like hanging out with friends, going shopping, listening to country music, and doing diamond paintings. I also love to cook, bake, and go for walks outdoors on nice days. 

Q: What is your favourite part about ILNS services?

A: I like how ILNS helps me make good, healthy choices and has helped me create a budget to save money. I like being able to pay my own bills and do my own grocery shopping. 

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS services helped you to be more independent?

A: I can now go out and get involved in the community when I feel like it. I’m also in control of my groceries and get to plan meals that I enjoy. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Before making a final decision, make sure to think things through. Don’t jump into something before you know it is something you really want to do.  

Q: What is one future goal you have for yourself?

A: To make myself more independent with my transfers and grow my cooking skills. I also plan to go to the Art of Disability Festival this year to sell my diamond paintings.


Close up photo of Vicky smiling while looking at the camera. Vicky is wearing a red tank top and burgundy glasses.
Close up photo of Vicky smiling while at an outdoor restaurant. She is wearing a red t-shirt and sunglasses.
Photo of Vicky doing a presentation on stage. She is wearing a silver t-shirt with a microphone clipped to her shirt.

Vicky Levack

Vicky is part of our Shared Services Pilot and is also celebrating her birthday today, December 2! Meet Vicky:

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know about you?

A: Although I am now out of long-term care, thanks to the efforts of ILNS and different stakeholders, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pushing for independent living for everybody else. My work is not done until everybody who wants to live in the community has the opportunity to do so.

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS helped you become more independent?

A: Thanks to the efforts of ILNS and their Shared Services Pilot, I am no longer living in a system that has medicalized me and made me feel less than a human. Moving into the community has completely changed my life, and I can’t thank them enough for that. I now get to work with a team that truly shares my values, and I no longer feel like I’m fighting alone for equality in my community. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: One piece of advice I would like to share with everybody reading this is don’t be afraid to be disliked. Sometimes you’ll have to say things that will make you not very popular with those around you, but as long as you’re telling the truth, you’re doing the right thing. Not everyone will like you, and that’s OK; if the people in power don’t like you, you’re probably doing something right.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I want people to focus on the fact that people with disabilities cannot be the only ones fighting for our rights. We need people from other communities to stand with us to make any progress. It is tiring to do this on our own, and we need your help if, one day, we will all be treated equally. 

Program Participants

A selfie of Sebastian wearing a black and white pattern blouse, and a black fashion hat.
Sebastian and his fiancé taking a selfie together and smiling at the camera.
Sebastian and his fiancé are posing for a photo at ILNS' Halloween Haunt event.

Sebastian Van Way

Sebastian is currently completing a work placement within our RISE Program. Get to know Sebastian:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I love dogs. I have 3 of my own, and I can't get enough of them. If I ever win the lottery, I would run a home for stray dogs.

Q: What’s your favorite part about the RISE program?

A: Honestly, the 'bosses.' They've all been so kind and supportive and are also assertive. They genuinely treat you like they care, and that's becoming more rare these days. Also loved making new friends!

Q: How has your involvement with RISE helped you to be more independent?

A: It's definitely taught me to stick up for myself in the workplace more often. 

Q: What's one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Don't sell yourself short. You deserve fair employment just like everyone else.

Q: What's one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I'd love to be a professional dog groomer officially. I love the craft dearly.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: Find what you love and stick with it. There's something out there for everyone.


Photo of Frank smiling while holding a cake in his hands, he is wearing a black and white plaid shirt and grey baseball cap.
Photo of Frank, wearing a grey shirt and jeans, standing with his family. They are huddled together around his grandfather, sitting at the table with a birthday cake in front of him.
Photo of Frank’s dog Max while on a walk, they are walking on a gravel trail with trees on either side.
Photo of Frank standing next to two luxury cars in a museum. Frank is wearing a red t-shirt, grey shorts, and a baseball cap.

Frank Johnston

Frank is currently enrolled in our Reaching for Inclusive, Successful Education & Employment (RISE) Program. Get to know Frank: 

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: A few things everyone should know about me is that family is very important to me, I love animals, and I have a dog named Max. I love to be outdoors; you can often find me hiking, by the water, or having a bonfire. I am a huge hockey fan, with the Montreal Canadiens being my favourite NHL team.

Q: What’s your favourite part about the RISE program?

A: My favourite part about the RISE program so far has been meeting new people and creating new friendships. I also love how RISE has taught me how to be better at goal setting and has helped me grow more confident in myself. Furthermore, I love that RISE is helping me become more financially aware and responsible.

Q: How has your involvement with the RISE program helped you to be more independent?

A: The RISE program has helped me improve my ability to communicate effectively with others, especially during interviews, in front of a small audience, and through emails. I also feel I will become more independent through my volunteer and work placements as I will get hands-on experience in multiple settings.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: My advice I would share is that it’s beneficial to talk to others and seek support when going through something tough. It often seems scary to reach out but I have found that others are often much more empathetic and helpful than you expect.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: A future goal I have for myself is to complete a road trip across Canada. I want to start in Nova Scotia and drive all the way through to British Columbia. I want to see all the natural beauty this country has to offer.


Photo of Sean cooking ground beef for tacos during the cooking life skills module.
Photo of Sean with CAP facilitators and participants on a community outing to Putting Edge. From the left, participant Austin, facilitator Meaghan, Sean, facilitator Hailey, participant Danika.
Photo of Sean (left) sitting with another CAP participant, Austin (right), while eating ice cream on the Halifax waterfront.

Sean Greene

Sean was enrolled in our Community Access Program (CAP), a youth community-based transition program, that ended on July 21. Meet Sean:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I enjoy traveling to tropical locations with my family, I am the oldest of three boys. In my spare time I enjoy going for walks around my neighbourhood, going to the gym, and cooking. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about ILNS programs?

A: What I enjoy most about CAP is the community outings each week, my favourite has been spending the day on the waterfront and going on the Harbour Hopper. Other programs I enjoy attending are the Christmas Gala and Community Cooking & Connections. I like meeting new people and getting to do fun activities in the community. 

Q: How has your involvement in the CAP program  helped you become more independent?

A: In CAP I have learned different expectations of the workplace, gained interview skills, better time management, and other life skills. I am now confident taking the bus by myself and have been able to secure a job once programming is finished. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: I think that asking for help is very important. Asking for help is not a bad thing and should be encouraged so that you can do your best. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I future goal I have for myself is to succeed in my new job after CAP is finished. I want to learn new skills and meet new people that will help me succeed in the workforce.


Photo of Austin wearing a black graduation gown with a gold sash and black cap while holding a diploma in one hand.
Photo of Austin (left) sitting at a desk with a classmate (right), waiting to get graduation pictures taken.
Photo of Austin reaching through the gate to pet a horse on the head while at Hatfield farm. Austin is wearing a black rain jacket.

Austin Keizer

Austin is currently enrolled in our Community Access Program (CAP), a youth community-based transition program. Get to know Austin:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I am a very nice and outgoing person. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends doing activities such as walks, traveling, and game nights. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about the CAP program?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to meet new friends and learn lots of new skills that I’ve been able to use at home and school. I have a lot of fun doing different activities and really enjoy volunteering at the animal shelter. 

Q: How has your involvement with CAP helped you to be more independent?

A: CAP has helped me out of my comfort zone and taught me better time management skills. CAP is helping me be more prepared for a job in the future. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: One piece of advice I would give is to never give up on yourself and always keep trying; believe in yourself. It’s okay to stand out and be different. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: My main goal for the future is to get a job working with animals. Being able to do my volunteer placement at an animal shelter has helped me realize this goal for myself.


Photo of Nicolas smiling while standing with his arms behind his back. He is wearing a light grey shirt and dark grey pants.
Photo of Nicolas standing at the front of the classroom presenting his ESAT powerpoint to the class. He is wearing a purple and white striped dress shirt and black pants.
Photo of Nicolas (far right) sitting in class with his other classmates while watching presentations.

Nicolas Atherton

Nicolas is currently enrolled in our Hotelworx program, a youth sector-based transition to employment program. Meet Nicolas: 

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I am a very punctual person and like to be on time wherever I am going; this has been especially helpful for class and my job placement. When I have a day off I like to play video games, collect Halo and Star Wars action figures, and spend time with my friends. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about Hotelworx?

A: I really enjoy having a routine throughout the week to keep me busy. I also enjoyed the workshops and activities we got to do in class; my favourite was the Nova Scotia Best workshop. Being in Hotelworx has gotten me job ready and increased my confidence for working in the hospitality industry. 

Q: How has your involvement in Hotelworx helped you become more independent?

A: Hotelworx has taught me better time management skills and ways to be accountable for my actions. Learning about finances and budgeting has taught me how to control my money and spending. With a consistent income I am now able to pay my own phone bill. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I would like to get a full time job in the hospitality industry once my job placement is completed.


Photo of Miguel smiling and standing next to the stove pointing at the shepherd's pie they made during a CAP life skills activity.
Group picture of CAP participants at the Museum of Natural History standing in front of a large tree. Miguel (far left) is giving two thumbs up while standing next to Emma, Malcolm, and Kyle.
Group picture of CAP participants positioned on either side of two shepherd’s pies they made as a life skills activity. From right to left: Kyle, Malcolm, Emma, and Miguel.

Miguel Cull 

Miguel previously participated in our Community Access Program (CAP) and is now enrolled in our Hotelworx transition to employment program. Get to know Miguel:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I enjoy learning about history, and I would say that I am a pretty creative person. I like to build figurines and sculptures out of twist ties, clay, and other materials. I am straightforward; I like to share my opinion with others. 

Q: What's your favourite part about ILNS?

A: I like having something to do throughout the week that keeps me in a routine. I enjoy meeting new people and building relationships with my classmates. When I was in CAP, I liked going on day trips, and my favourite was when we went to Citadel Hill. I also really enjoyed my volunteer placement at Mission Mart; I was able to find lots of cool comic books and robots there. 

Q: What's one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: You shouldn't be scared to tell people how you feel. The truth can be harsh but beneficial because it can help us learn and grow. 

Q: What's one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I would like to get a good job that I enjoy and can be successful enough to make a career out of it. I also want to inspire others to be themselves and not worry about societal norms. You should be who you want to be, not what someone else wants you to be.


Close up photo of Leanne smiling, she is wearing a black lace top and glasses.
Photo of Leanne (left) sitting on a couch with her arm around her mom (right).
Photo of Leanne (left) standing with her mom (middle) and brother (right). Leanne’s mom has her arms around both of them and they are all smiling.

Leanne Crawley

Get to know Leanne Crawley, who is currently enrolled in our Hotelworx employment program. 

Q: What’s one thing (or a few things) everyone should know about you?

A: I was born prematurely at 22-25 weeks gestation, which led me to develop additional conditions like Cerebral Palsy (CP) and optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH). I wasn’t diagnosed with ONH until I was 16 years old. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about ILNS and the Hotelworx Program?

A: I am learning what I am capable of even with a visual impairment and having CP. I am learning many new skills like how to work as a team, because there is no ‘I’ in team. As well as learning how to take my time and learn at my own pace. 

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS and Hotelworx helped you to be more independent? 

A: I am learning time management, it’s important to set a schedule and stick to it. I have also learned what is ok for work and what isn’t ok. For instance, spaghetti straps are not good for work, but a nice blouse and dress pants that fit well is good.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Don’t be scared to open up and let others know when you are struggling; learn to ask for help when needed. It’s also good to try new things out yourself before asking for help too.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I want to get and keep a job and not struggle with money. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I have overcome a lot, like dealing with bullying and other challenges like losing my mom. I know she is still watching over me and wants me to succeed.  


Photo of Emma standing outside, wearing a blue sweater and a black bookbag.
Photo of Emma at the bowling alley, she is standing with both arms stretched out and smiling.
Photo of Emma standing with her left hand on her hip during a CAP cooking session. Emma is wearing a pink tshirt with “Dancing Queen” across the chest and silver rectangular glasses. In the background are grey cupboards and a window behind her.

Emma Salah

Emma is currently participating in our Community Access Program (CAP). We sat down with Emma for a quick Q&A session: 

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know about you?

A: I love to have fun! I enjoy dancing, playing basketball, singing, and I love the beach- it's so beautiful there.

Q: What’s your favorite part about participating in the Community Access Program (CAP)?

A: I like being able to learn new things in class each day, I find that very fun. I enjoy the activities we get to do on Thursday afternoons, my favourite activity was going to the museum of the Atlantic. I'm also excited to continue my community volunteer placement. 

Q: How has your involvement in CAP helped you to be more independent?

A: I have learned many new skills that help me be more independent like cleaning, cooking, and taking the bus around Halifax! I really enjoy the CAP program. I'm happy to be involved in such a fun program.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: For everyone to participate and be in the CAP program to become more independent. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: To get a job!


Close up selfie of Emily. She is wearing black and navy glasses, a maroon tank top and a silver necklace.
Photo of Emily sitting in a chair, smiling and leaning to her right side. She is wearing black pants, a yellow flowered shirt, a white cardigan, and sunglasses.
Photo of Emily at the 2022 Art of Disability Festival. She is standing behind her table, smiling with her candles displayed in front of her. A group of blue balloons are to the right of her table.

Emily Shay

Emily is completing our RISE youth transition to employment program. Meet Emily: 

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know about you? 

A: I’m a very positive person, and I have a million-dollar smile. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about the RISE Program?

A: I enjoyed the activities and getting the chance to act out skits in class to practice different skills. I also enjoyed it when we would have guest speakers in class because the topics they presented were interesting.

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS helped you become more independent?  

A: Being involved in the RISE program has helped me adapt to new situations and become more comfortable adapting to changes through activities and projects. New situations like having to get up early every day at a decent time and go to work and be your best self. I’m proud of myself for accomplishing this skill. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience? 

A: Be yourself! Surround yourself with people who will build you up and be there for you. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself? 

A: I started making candles during the pandemic, and I recently participated in the ILNS Art of Disability Festival this past August. My future goal is to be in more art festivals to share my creative candle-making passion with others. 


First photo shows Lance standing up, with one hand on his hip and the other signalling a piece sign, and smiling at the camera.
A Spencer House group is shown (from left to right): Allison standing up beside a Yamaha keyboard, Don who is sitting behind the keyboard, Lance standing to the right of the keyboard and also holding up his nametag, and finally, ILNS staff member Pierre who is standing beside Lance.
RISE participants Lance (left) and Isai (right) are positioned next to each other, both wearing red button-up shirts and smiling at the camera.

Lance Capoquian

Lance is currently participating in our RISE transition to employment program and also completed the GAME edition of our Community Access Program (CAP) this past winter. Get to know Lance:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I'm a great person. I am very outgoing and I like to meet people. I enjoy walks around my neighborhood, watching TV, and I always have an iced coffee from Starbucks in hand.

Q: What is one future goal you have for yourself? 

A: A full-time job. I would love to be able to buy a house for my family.

Q: What is your favorite part about participating in ILNS programming?

A: The people here are great. I like my work experience at Spencer House because I love to help seniors and I get to do fun activities like chair dancing, cooking, etc. ILNS has been very helpful with people with disabilities.

Q: How has participating in ILNS programming helped you to be more independent?

A: I take metro transit now independently, I have learned how to be employable - time management, presentation, etc. I have also learned how to budget money better. 

Q: What is some advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Be yourself and don't be hard on yourself. If you're hard on yourself you won't be able to see yourself for who you are - everyone is important. If you need help, ask someone at ILNS, home, etc. Keep up the good work everyone!

Self Managers

Photo of Janice sitting in a chair with her arms crossed in front of her body. She is wearing a light pink top and blue pants.
Photo of Janice at a restaurant, she is holding a scallop on her fork and smiling at the camera.

Janice Kravec

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I have been dealing with mobility/balance issues for the past 25 years. Before I began struggling with my mobility I had been active in sports, worked in a medical lab, and then in a busy medical center. I also raised 2 kids, so I don't give up easily! I enjoy gardening and being by the water. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about ILNS' Self-Managed Care Program?

A: I have been able to live on my own which would have been impossible otherwise. It has reduced the stress of daily living while giving me the opportunity to go out in the community, do some shopping, make medical appointments, attend social events, and spend time by the water which is my favourite pastime.

Q: How has your involvement in the Self-Managed Care Program helped you to be more independent?

A: The Self-Managed Care Program gives me the flexibility to choose who will help me navigate the daily struggles of life while still being in control of what and how things are to be done. It gives you security that help is there when you need it. It is the best available program to live an independent life with dignity while needing some help in all aspects of daily routines. Also, the staff at ILNS is always there to answer questions.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Always try to stay positive and take it one day at a time! Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I would like to stay as flexible and independent as long as possible so I never have to go into a long-term care facility.


Photo of Brianna on the Halifax boardwalk with the ocean behind her. She is wearing a black cardigan and skirt with her purse on her lap.
Photo of Brianna (middle) with her mom (left) and sister (right) with the forest in the background.
Photo of Brianna (left) and her mom (right), Brianna is wearing a purple shirt with poka dots and black pants with a red purse on her lap and her mom is wearing a flowered top with grey pants. A foggy ocean is behind them.

Brianna Boyle

Get to know this week’s #FeatureFriday Brianna Boyle. Brianna is a part of our Student Self Managed Care Program. Meet Brianna: 

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I was born and raised in beautiful Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I attended St. Francis Xavier University to complete my undergraduate degree, and this is where I discovered my passion for psychology. I am now currently completing my PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of New Brunswick with the goal of becoming a licensed psychologist in my home province.

Q: What’s your favourite part about accessing the post-secondary self-manager services at ILNS?

A: I think my favourite part about accessing ILNS services has been the freedom that comes with it. Unfortunately, many supportive services can feel very rigid and challenging to navigate, but the process with ILNS has been so smooth and accessible. I have been able to hire and train some amazing attendants who supported me throughout my (many) years of education, and I have also met some really amazing people throughout the process and developed some life-long friends.

Q: How has your involvement with this ILNS service helped you to be more independent?

A: This is such a good question, but a tricky one to answer! I cannot even imagine the hurdles I would have had to try and jump through without ILNS services to get to where I am today. Many of us with disabilities know all too well the extra amount of planning that goes into our day-to-day lives, and these services have allowed me to reduce that load significantly and have allowed me to focus on my undergraduate and graduate work like other students. Simple things like travelling between buildings, carrying my books and laptop to and from classes or meetings would normally be a huge headache but has been something I thankfully never have to worry about with my attendant support.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: It always sounds cheesy to say, but I really do believe you can do anything you set your mind on – sometimes you just need to get creative and find your own unique path and timeline that works for you.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: Right now, my biggest goal is to finish up the last few stages of my PhD program and then to graduate and start my career. I also really look forward to opportunities to travel and experience other areas of the world.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I’d like to give a quick shoutout to all the amazing staff behind ILNS who do such a great job for all of us accessing services. It really is life changing and I am so grateful for you all.


Photo of Taya with a big smile on her face. She is wearing a pink sweater and a light purple vest. She is pictured in her living room with white couches on either side of her.
Photo of Taya wearing a light purple dress and there are pink flowers behind her.
Photo of Taya with one of her sisters on her lap, both smiling and laughing.
Photo of Taya sitting at the table with 3 cupcakes in front of her. She has a big smile on her face and is wearing a red long sleeve shirt.

Taya Miller

Taya is a part of our Student Self Managed Care Program. Meet Taya: 

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I was born and raised in Halifax, I live with my mother, father and two younger sisters. I am a third year student at Saint Mary's University taking a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and a minor in Political Science. I live with cerebral palsy and I depend on a wheelchair for mobility. I attend school with an educational assistant. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about ILNS/program/service/etc.?

A: I really enjoy school and it's one place where I feel like I belong. ILNS helps my family pay for my educational support worker.

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS’ Student Self Managed Care Program helped you to be more independent?

A: Having that financial assistance alleviates a great deal of stress for me and my family. Attending and completing my university degree would be very difficult without the assistance from ILNS. I hope to continue my education and become a teacher and give back to the community. The financial support from ILNS will allow me to accomplish this goal. Earning a salary as a teacher will help me be more independent.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Don't let your circumstances get in the way of achieving your goals.  I had never heard of ILNS until I went to SMU.  My advice is to ask lots of questions to find out what resources are available to you.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I would like to participate in a regatta with Sail Able, another organization I have been involved with.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I am grateful for the support of ILNS and look forward to working with them in the future.

To learn more about ILNS’ Self Managed Care Program visit https://ilns.ca/services/ 


Headshot of Andrew smiling while wearing black glasses and a white shirt with a blue and black checkered pattern.
Photo of Andrew wearing a red wetsuit while laying on a blue surfboard on the beach. He is surrounded by surfing instructors wearing blue shirts over black wetsuits.
Photo of Andrew in his electric wheelchair holding a cup of coffee while sitting in front of a black van. Andrew is wearing a blue ball cap, red zip up sweater, and has a white blanket over his legs.
Photo of Andrew in his electric wheelchair holding a cup of coffee while sitting in front of a black van. Andrew is wearing a blue ball cap, red zip up sweater, and has a white blanket over his legs.

Andrew Jantzen

Andrew is currently a part of our Self Managed Care Program. Meet Andrew: 

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know about you?

A: I love to go for walks to wander and explore, especially where there are trees and plants. (Also, you should know that it is fine to say “walk” even though I use a power wheelchair.) 

Q: What is the most beneficial part of accessing ILNS services?

A: The most beneficial is having the support to manage the self managed care program where I hire my own workers to assist me with day-to-day tasks. Without ILNS helping me with payroll and HR, I would definitely struggle to maintain the program and have a life at the same time. 

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS helped you be more independent?

A: Their support has taken a lot of complicated aspects of managing my workers off my plate. This has made it possible for me to make use of a government program where I get to determine my own schedule and choose my own workers instead of having my life revolve around a structured homecare system. Because of this, I am able to work and volunteer, not to mention, it has given me better mental and physical health which has allowed me to do these things.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Believe in yourself, even when the medical system tells you otherwise. I went over a decade with unexplained and undiagnosed symptoms that doctors called psychosomatic. I knew that something was physically wrong, but almost gave up because of the medical system. You know your body best! Trust that.

Q: What is one future goal you have for yourself

A: To surprise myself. After going from an active person working full-time to dealing with ongoing severe pain and nausea, getting through the day often takes precedence over future goals. This year, I figured out how to take care of an animal independently and was offered a truly amazing job in accessibility. Who knows where I will be this time next year.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: The people at ILNS are wonderful and helpful. I feel like they have a good understanding of what living with a disability can be like, both the challenges and the joys, and this has made it easier to access support.


headshot of Neil smiling and wearing a grey hoodie in front of the University of Toronto on a sunny day.
Neil in a white lab coat next to a microscope in a lab at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Neil Merovitch

Neil has been involved with ILNS since 2007 and is currently part of our Student Self-Management Attendant Services Program.

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I have been involved with Independent Living Nova Scotia since 2007. Recently, I became part of the Centre for Independent Living Toronto’s Disability Equity + Access Steering Committee. Outside of Independent Living, I work on Disability Justice and EDI within the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children. For fun, I like visiting museums and being by the water. However, being currently in Toronto, I miss the smell of the ocean.

Q: What’s your favourite part about ILNS?

A: I really enjoy how supportive everyone at ILNS is and the sense of belonging they provide through programs and services. 

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS helped you to be more independent?

A: ILNS has provided me with the resources and support to study independently through the Student Self-Management Attendant Services Program. This has enabled me to complete my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Dalhousie University and pursue my PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: Don’t believe someone if they tell you that something is impossible or cannot be done. There is always a way, even if it is not obvious to others.

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: To find a career where I can continue to give back and help others going through similar experiences to myself.

Peer Support

Close up photo of Kimberley standing in front of a black & white art piece. She is smiling and is wearing black glasses with her hair pulled up.
Kimberley is seen standing outside in the grass with trees behind her while painting on an easel.
Image of Kimberley’s artwork, green lily pads with pink flowers float on water.

Kimberley Csihas

Kimberley has displayed her artwork for many years at our Art of Disability Festival and attended this year’s festival on August 19. Meet Kimberley:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I believe it’s important to know an artist’s story to understand their art. My great-grandfather was my biggest influence, he was a well respected Hungarian artist and art professor. My siblings and I were encouraged at a young age to explore his art studio. I have no formal education in art, I have just always painted. In 2013, I had a massive brain stem stroke and became paralyzed on my right side. I had to reteach myself how to paint, including relearning how to hold a paint brush. I feel myself drawn to the outdoors and describe my work as mother nature inspired oil paintings. 

Q: How long have you been coming to the Art of Disability Festival?

A: I’ve been involved with the ADF since 2014, it was the first festival for artists with disabilities I joined after my stroke and I continue to be apart of. Meeting and working with so many amazing people has kept me dedicated to the festival every year.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the festival?

A: My favourite part is by far meeting and talking with the other artists. I really enjoy wandering the festival to see all the new artwork created each year; being in the presence of other artists is such a joy and inspiration. Over the years I’ve watched many other artists grow and develop their craft, you always get to see new expressions of art. 

Q: What does creating art mean to you?

A: Creating art is life. Next to my son, painting means the most to me. Just like my son, my art and actually my plants, they are all created by a physical or mental seed; they are all my babies. With art being a window to one’s soul, how one creates art not only defines them but also explains them. For me, I believe that the purpose of art is to inspire, involve, and challenges you to question your own thoughts. 

Q: If you could share one piece of advice for artists living with disabilities, what would it be?

A: Your disability does not define you as an artist, your artwork defines you as an artist. Allow yourself to be seen not only as an artist with a disability but as an artist because you are an artist first. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: Well I have two… one a dream and one more realistic. My dream goal is to one day have a solo artshow at a gallery in Paris because my great-grandfather was an art professor in Paris. But my realistic goal is to one day move to a cabin in the woods on the ocean to just paint and live like Emily Carr. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: like to speak a bit about my experience as an artist. I did an artist-in-residency at Veith Street Gallery where I exhibited my solo art show, “The Weight of a Woman” exploring a woman’s worth beyond her weight. And I curated the group exhibit “103 & Counting” detailing women's experience of 103 years of International Woman’s Day. I am currently a member of Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts. As well as, having the opportunity to exhibit some of my artwork through group shows throughout the HRM, including the DeGarth Garage Gallery and Prow Gallery. I also have a private studio in Brookside but I’m always open to visitors.


Photo of Nicholas sitting at a glass patio table. He is looking at the camera smiling with his hands on his lap and a blue waterbottle on the table in front of him.
Example of Nicholas’ cards: Red background with a white outline of a cardinal sitting on a branch.
Black and white drawing of a heron beginning to fly out of water with it’s wings stretched out and water splashing beneath.

Nicholas Overton

Nicholas has been a consistent artist at our Art of Disability Festival for the past 9 years and will be attending this year’s Festival on August 19 at Pier 21. Get to know Nicholas:

Q: What are a few things everyone should know about you?

A: I am an artist and I also live with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I love birds and love to draw them, they are the main inspiration for my cards. I also love to watch game shows. 

Q: How long have you been coming to the Art of Disability Festival?

A: I have been coming to the Art of Disability Festival for the past 9 years. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about the Art of Disability Festival?

A: My favourite part about the ADF is getting to sell my cards and make money. I enjoy getting to meet new people and talking with clients. 

Q: What does creating art mean to you?

A: I have a sensory sensitivity to sound. I enjoy making art because it is a quiet job and something I can do alone in my own time. I enjoy making art that makes others happy. 

Q: If you could share one piece of advice for artists living with disabilities, what would it be?

A: Try your best and be as good as you can. Go out of your comfort zone and go to craft markets like the Art of Disability Festival. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: A future goal I have for myself is to start selling my cards on Etsy.


photo is a black and white picture of Simon smiling at the camera, while wearing a hoodie and a jacket.
photo shows Simon giving the peace sign with his hand while DJing at an outdoor event. He is wearing an orange t-shirt with a black and blue that says “DJ ACE”, and he has his DJ equipment on a table in front of him.
photo is of Simon standing outside talking into a microphone, he is at a booth with his DJ equipment in front of him. Simon is wearing a winter hat and jacket.

Simon MacFadyen (DJ ACE)

Get to know this week’s #FeatureFriday Simon MacFadyen, better known as DJ ACE. Simon completed ILNS’ ACEE program in 2012-13 where he was able to begin his DJing career. DJ ACE has performed at many ILNS events such as the Christmas Gala, Dance-a-thon, and has also been a vendor at our Art of Disability Festival. Meet Simon:

Q: What are some things everyone should know about you?

A: I have been DJing for 8 years and specialize working with people with disabilities. I have a passion for trains, sports, and politics. Hockey and baseball are my favourite, with the Boston Red Socks being my favourite team. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about ILNS/program/service/etc.?

A: The different variety of programs and events ILNS offers is awesome. I love the social interaction from events like the Christmas Gala and Dance-a-thon. My favourite event is the Christmas Gala. 

Q: How has your involvement with ILNS programs/services helped you to be more independent?

A: Completing ILNS’ pre-employment ACEE program allowed me to learn employability skills and start my business as a DJ. Having the opportunity to DJ at the Christmas Gala and other ILNS events has helped me promote my business and gain confidence in socializing. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: If you have a dream, never give up on it. Stay focused on your dream and it will come true. Never say never. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: It would be a dream of mine if I could get a job working on trains. One day I wish I could be a candidate in an election. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I am looking forward to DJing at this year’s Christmas Gala. To book me for events visit https://www.djace.ca/ 


headshot of Anna smiling while positioned slightly to the right. She is wearing a black shirt with a pink, red, and purple scarf around her neck.
book has a navy cover with faint stars in the background. Blue, purple, pink, and yellow flowers starting at the bottom and spreading to the top of the page. White text reads “Where the Silver River Ends”, a line above “A Novel”, at the bottom between flowers “Anna Quon”.
book cover has an orange border with a lighter pink rectangle in the middle. Inside the pink rectangle are two hands pressed together with a large butterfly on the hands and three more butterflies flying away from the hands. At the top reads “Kindness. An adult coloring book”, the bottom edge reads “pictures and poetry by Anna Quon”.

Anna Quon

Anna has been an artist at the Art of Disability Festival since 2012, get to know Anna:

Q: What does creating art mean to you?

A: I love being able to combine my art and words and see it come to life through a book, film, or a painting.

Q: What is one way you think art impacts our community in a positive way?

A: Art offers a space of expression and reflection, as well as imagination and compassion to those who make it and those who experience it. It broadens and deepens our idea of what is, and of what is possible. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Art of Disability Festival?

A: I enjoy the camaraderie with other artists with disabilities, especially meeting new and upcoming artists. I also enjoy interacting with customers and organizers at the event.

Q: If you could share one piece of advice for other artists living with disabilities what would it be?

A: I think everyone can make art and enjoy making it. I hope other artists with disabilities, or anyone who makes art, can keep the sense of curiosity, adventure, excitement and joy that art can bring no matter where their art practice and business takes them.


A man with round black glasses and a black beret looks at the camera with a slight smile.
picture of a red rowboat with a white interior, a rope is attached to the back of the boat while sitting in calm water with other boats in the background.
photo is a close up picture of an old red bicycle with a black wheel

Michael McCullough

Michael has displayed his artwork at our Art of Disability Festival for the past 7 years, including the past 2 years in our virtual Artist Catalogue. Get to know Michael:

Q: How long have you been creating your artwork?

A: For the past 50 years or so, I began taking photos at the age of eleven with an Ilford 35mm Rangefinder Manual camera. I have been showing and selling my work since 2000 on the Public Gardens fence, then to Halifax Keith’s Brewery market from 2001-2012. 

Q: What aspect of your art represents you or something you enjoy?

A: I enjoy taking photos of everyday life in the abstract and enjoy the Maritime theme, the ocean is in my blood. Recently I have been walking around my neighbourhood capturing local photos,  abstract design and photographing many Maritime shorelines and watercraft images.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Art of Disability Festival?

A: The Art of Disability Festival gives me an opportunity to show my photography. I enjoy getting a personal response to my photography style and perspective. It is also gratifying to be in the artistic community and share the experience with other artists. 

Q: If you could share one piece of advice for other artists living with disabilities what would it be?

A: Every day is a new day. Every new day comes with new possibilities. Do what brings you joy and find strength in your creativity.

ILS Clients

Photo of Simon standing outside a building with one hand in his pocket and the other arm being held out to the side. He is wearing jeans, a blue tshirt, and baseball cap.
Photo of Simon (right) standing next to a friend with his arm around her shoulder. Simon is wearing jeans, a blue tshirt, black zip-up sweater and baseball cap.
Photo of Simon (right) standing next to a friend, a cliff and the ocean are behind them. They are both wearing winter jackets and blue pants.

Simon Snyder

Q: What’s one thing everyone should know about you?

A: One of my favourite things to do is spend time with my family and friends. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about the ILS program?

A: I really enjoy being able to go on outings in the community with my staff. The staff are very helpful and nice to work with. 

Q: How has your involvement with the ILS Program helped you to be more independent?

A: Before the program, I didn’t have reliable transportation. Now, having staff help me get to appointments and get around the community has increased my independence and confidence in the community. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to share with our audience?

A: If you fail at something, keep trying because we learn most from our failures. 

Q: What’s one future goal you have for yourself?

A: I have a small contracting business that I hope to grow and diversify someday.


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