Terms of Reference of the CIHR Interim External Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism


To create an accessible, equitable, inclusive, and diverse health research funding system that supports researchers with disabilities in the production of world-class research.


The mandate of the CIHR external advisory committee is to provide CIHR’s Vice-President, Research – Learning Health Systems with guidance on the identification of barriers (including systemic ableism) to accessibility within the funding system and the development of a CIHR accessibility & systemic ableism action plan in alignment with the Accessible Canada Act (2019).

Committee Objectives

Co-Chairs and Membership


The committee will be co-chaired by a health researcher who identifies as a person with a disability in addition to the CIHR’s Associate Vice-President, Research – Evidence Integration, who will sit as an ex-officio member.


Members will be selected and approved by the Vice-President, Research – Learning Health Systems based on their collective skills, knowledge, disability identity or sustained allyship and functional roles that are of relevance to the development of an action plan to address inaccessibility & systemic ableism in the CIHR funding system, including programs, policies and services.

Per the Accessible Canada Act’s Duty to Consult provision, emphasis will be put on ensuring that the majority of committee seats are held by persons with disabilities so that many accessibility issues are considered. Efforts will also be made to ensure the representation of diverse perspectives and identities on the committee.


In recognition of this time commitment and expertise that Members will bring to the table, contributions will be compensated.


The CIHR strives to support barrier-free access to meetings and meeting materials for members of the external advisory committee. We ask that members please signal their need for an accommodation in a timely manner. Should you require an accommodation during the timespan of the committee’s mandate, please do not hesitate to contact the CIHR Accessibility & Systemic Ableism Secretariat (see next section for contact information).

Secretarial Support

The Science Policy Branch – Accessibility and Systemic Ableism Secretariat will provide secretarial support for this committee, including meeting scheduling, material development, and management of accommodation requests. To reach the Accessibility & Systemic Ableism Secretariat, please email the following address: edi@cihr-irsc.gc.ca


Agency and Institute staff with a tangible work requirement that aligns with a specific item may attend meetings with approval from the Co-Chairs. Representatives from Human Resources, Strategic Partnerships and International Relations, and Communications Branches will be standing observers for all meetings.

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and Responsibilities of the Co-Chairs

Roles and Responsibilities of Members


Meetings will be approximately once per month and will be conducted by videoconference. Any change to the virtual conduct of meetings will depend upon public health guidelines and will be based on consensus of the members. The Co-Chairs will work to ensure that meetings adhere to the access needs of committee members, with support from the Science Policy Branch – Accessibility and Systemic Ableism Secretariat. Observers will not speak unless invited to do so.


The CIHR Co-Chairs of the external advisory committee will serve as representatives to governance bodies and other groups at the request of the Vice-President, Research – Learning Health Systems. Action and decision items will be recorded during meetings, and will be circulated to members and saved in the appropriate folders within five business days of meetings.


A majority of its members (50% +1). The committee will make its recommendations based on consensus wherever possible. Where consensus is not possible, the Co-Chairs will ask the members to show their support for the item being discussed using an 8-point scale.

Gradients of Agreement 8-point Scale

When necessary, the Co-Chairs are asked to inquire of the support for a particular item using the scale below. The Co-Chairs will then discuss briefly and, based on what they see, they will determine if the commitment level is strong enough to determine a resolution or if they need to continue the discussion.

Type of Support Gradient
Enthusiastic Support
  1. Whole-hearted Endorsement - “I really like it!”
  2. Agreement with a Minor Point of Contention - “Not perfect, but it's good enough.”
Lukewarm Support
  1. Support with Reservations - “I can live with it.”
  2. Abstain - “This issue does not affect me.”
  3. More Discussion Needed - “I don't understand the issues well enough yet.”
Meager Support
  1. Don't Like But Will Support - “It's not great, but I don't want to hold up the group.”
  2. Serious Disagreement - “I am not on board with this - don't count on me.”
Strong Objection
  1. Veto - “I block this proposal.”

Sources: What is the Gradients of Agreement technique? Lucid MeetingsFootnote 1Tips and Tools for PEPFAR Teams: The Gradients of Agreement, USAIDFootnote 2

Amendments to these Terms of Reference will be made based on consensus of members.


The External Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism is convened under the authority of the CIHR’s Vice-President, Research – Learning Health Systems


The Terms of Reference are effective starting February 3, 2022 and will be ongoing until the action plan to address inaccessibility & systemic ableism in CIHR’s programs, policies and processes has been approved (December 2022, at the latest). Given the limited duration of this mandate, these Terms of Reference will not be reviewed once approved by the external advisory committee.

Official Languages

All members will be encouraged to participate in meetings in the official language of their choice. Briefing material, agendas and records of decision will be produced in one or both of the official languages, depending on committee member needs.

Code of Conduct

Meetings will be conducted in accordance with the CIHR Code of Conduct.


Advisory committee members must adhere to the following requirements:

Conflict of Interest Prevention and Management

In accordance with the CIHR Policy on Conflict of Interest Prevention and Management for Scientific Directors, Members of Governing Council and Advisory Bodies, committee members have a duty to bring an independent judgment to bear on all CIHR issues they are asked to consider and therefore, to avoid situations where their personal interests may prevent them from discharging this duty with integrity.

To minimize the risk of COI, committee members who are non-CIHR employees should:

When in doubt about the required disclosure, committee members should seek advice of the committee Co-Chairs. The Co-Chairs and the members have full support of the CIHR COI Officer for COI-related advice and assistance via Declaration@cihr-irsc.gc.ca.

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