V-P to assist CanAssist in charting its future

There’s a new but familiar face heading over to UVic’s CanAssist program for the next year. Dr. Howard Brunt, UVic’s vice-president research for the last five years, has been appointed interim executive director of CanAssist as it undergoes organizational renewal.
Brunt, who recently agreed to remain as vice-president research for an additional year, will hold the two positions concurrently, with support from staff in the Office of the Vice-President Research and at CanAssist.

CanAssist (originally known as the UVic Assistive Technology Team, or UVATT) was created as a small volunteer venture in 1999 by UVic biologist Dr. Nigel Livingston, who saw a need for customized technologies to meet specific challenges faced by people living with disabilities. It now employs about 25 regular, full-time staff and many others who participate as co-op and graduate students, part-time researchers, technology testers and volunteers.

CanAssist became an official UVic entity in 2008 and reports to the provost through an advisory board chaired by Dr. Katy Mateer. CanAssist has earned an international reputation for providing technology solutions and other services for the disabled. It’s the only program of its kind in North America.

Earlier this year, CanAssist went through its first extensive external organizational review. It got high marks for the benefits it provides to people with disabilities—through customized technologies, community programs, raising awareness of disability issues, and a high level of student engagement.

he review recommended that CanAssist develop a strategic plan to clarify its vision and mission, and to guide its activities over the next three to five years.

Brunt’s appointment allows Livingston—who continues as CanAssist director for research and development—to focus his efforts on increasing linkages with UVic’s research and educational programs in disability studies.

I’m eager to put more of my energy back into research, education and student engagement,” says Livingston. “These are the areas where CanAssist’s history began, and I look forward to contributing to them even further in the future.”

Rounding out CanAssist’s leadership team is Dr. Doug Tolson, director of operations, and Robin Syme, director for partnerships.

“I’ve been a huge supporter and admirer of CanAssist for many years, so I’m very excited about joining such a passionate and talented team,” says Brunt. “I’ll be working closely with Nigel and the other members of CanAssist’s extraordinary team, as well as consulting extensively with members of the disability community, the wider university and other stakeholders, to develop a strong, focused strategic business plan that will sustain CanAssist well into the future.”

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