SCIO Community Magazine
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Sheri Roberts


Sheri Roberts is a vibrant woman with a passion for activating change in her community.

Sheri sustained a spinal cord injury 25 years ago at the age of 18 and since then, has undertaken many adventures, including university, numerous jobs, marriage, motherhood and most recently, becoming Cambridge’s newly elected City Councilor.

We talked to Sheri about her journey to becoming elected, disability issues and hopes for the future.

Congratulations on your election. Tell us how you became inspired to pursue a career in politics?

Thank you! Over the course of many years, I’ve had different types of jobs. I used to run the Peer Program back when SCIO was known as CPA and coordinated the Hamilton Wheelchair Relay Challenge. I have also worked in law, finance, disability activism and public policy. I realized through all this, that we need to change the system and wanted to start at the municipal level.

Do you think your lived experience as a person with a disability influenced your career path?

Yes, my lived experience played a big role. I was injured quite young, but my parents connected with what was CPA at the time, and I was able to meet with a peer support worker right away, which had a tremendous impact. Over time, I started to see the barriers that I and others faced. For instance, if things were accessible, if there was less bias toward people with disabilities, and if the system was built with inclusivity in mind, then people with disabilities could do all the things they want to.

What was the process like campaigning? Were people receptive? Were there challenges along the way?

Overall, it was a very positive experience. I’ve been very active in the community for a long time, so I wasn’t unknown, even though it was my first time running. I was the Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee for over 10 years and actually brought the new accessibility symbol and the Stop Gap Project to Cambridge and also helped implement conversations around accessible snow removal policies. There were definitely extra barriers along the way. Door knocking was the biggest one, but I had an incredible team of volunteers including my partner and our boys who came door to door with me. Sometimes there were six of us! I live in a very hilly ward which is also a historical neighbourhood and one house even had 42 stairs up to the door!

Sheri Roberts sitting by a fountain.

“…once you have had time to settle in, if you have a goal or something you want to try, do it! Even in the worst-case scenario if you aren’t successful, you will learn something, meet new people and grow as a person.”

– Sheri Roberts

That’s incredible! Teamwork goes such a long way. What was it like finding out you had won?

On election day, there was a lot going on. We thought we would know the results by 9:00 pm, but that turned into 10:00 pm and then 11:30 pm. It was very close between myself and the next person, but they finally made the call that I had been successful. I had planned an appreciation event for my volunteers, but the win itself was called so late in the day that I ended up celebrating with only my family. I had been going at it for several months pretty much non-stop so I rested and spent time with family for the first couple of days afterward and it was wonderful.

What do you hope to achieve in your political career?

Several things. I didn’t hyper-focus on disability issues during my campaign because I didn’t want to come across as a one-issue candidate. I focused on road safety a lot as I want to make our communities more pedestrian-friendly for wheelchairs, walkers, and bicycles, and to allow people to move through the city safely. Regarding accessibility, I want the city to look at things through an accessibility lens from the get-go, rather than as an afterthought down the line.

What’s a typical day like at work?

I also work for Independent Living Waterloo Region, so I have two jobs which means I have a very full schedule. All day, I meet with ILWR Consumers and run programs. I respond to many emails from community members and have tons of training or meetings at city hall in the evenings. A typical day is quite busy.

Do you have any words of advice for people currently adjusting to living with a disability?

The number one thing is to be patient with yourself. It takes time, especially with an SCI, to learn how your body is working now. We put way too much pressure on ourselves to do everything we were doing prior to injury right away. It’s not always realistic. On the flip side, it’s about having the right supports and resources in place and SCIO is an incredible place for that. You will look back and realize, “Wow, I can’t believe how far I have come!”, especially around Peer Support. Seeing the early days of someone’s injury, people are often lost and confused with their life flipped upside down, but then a year later, they are at home, living independently, or going back to school, getting a job, and so forth. It’s like wow, remember that person laying in bed thinking “What’s next?” and they’ve come so far. The human spirit is strong.

Also, once you have had time to settle in, if you have a goal or something you want to try, do it! Even in the worst-case scenario if you aren’t successful, you will learn something, meet new people and grow as a person. Do not let your disability be the thing that stops you.

What keeps you motivated?

I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to get stuff done especially the tough stuff. Wanting to make a change is a driving force for me. I really want to make the community as good as possible for all residents.

What are your hopes for the future?

I like the municipal level of government, because it’s an effective and transparent level where real change can be achieved that affects everyone’s day-to-day life. I will likely run again, but I have nothing grand planned at the moment and am enjoying each day. I love that residents of my community feel comfortable approaching me, even at the grocery store.

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