Paving the Way

Kelsey Quinn, a 2022 CFE graduate and soon-to-be CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) living with cerebral palsy, speaks about her journey.


Cerebral palsy is a life-long condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. It can lead to various cognitive and physical difficulties, and symptoms will vary from person to person. Over 80,000 Canadians are affected by cerebral palsy, and it is the most common physical disability in childhood.

Kelsey Quinn knows the challenges firsthand; she has been living with cerebral palsy since she was born. Kelsey has limited use of the right side of her body and is restricted to most movements with only her left hand. This includes typing and using a computer mouse. 

 Still, she has long maintained a positive outlook: "I am a person who does not let my disability get in my way. I always manage to achieve whatever I put my mind to."

The Sydney native has earned two degrees from Cape Breton University: a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting with Co-op. Kelsey finished on the Dean's List and took the time to tutor persons with disabilities while earning her degrees. 

Today, she works with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and will be one of the 136 graduates who will cross the stage at the 2022 CPA convocation

Since starting at the CRA, Kelsey joined the Employment Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee at the Nova Scotia Tax Services Office, where she started to facilitate engagement sessions for persons with disabilities which she does now within the Atlantic Region of the CRA. These sessions help employees express their experiences to inform the CRA about accommodations that should be considered. She also represents persons with disabilities on the Atlantic Regional Employment Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, as well as an Atlantic Regional Representative on the Persons with Disabilities Network.

Following the engagement sessions she facilitated, she is now a member of the Atlantic Regional Persons with Disabilities Working Group where the CRA is now in the process of creating an action plan within the Atlantic Region to help remove as many barriers as possible for persons with disabilities.

Kelsey is passionate about advocating for herself and for others as she even takes time to file individual tax returns as a volunteer within the CVITP (Community Volunteer Income Tax Program).

During the challenging CPA PEP, she had the added hurdle of typing everything with one hand, and only using two fingers.

She reflects on the lengthy process: "My friends were great! There was a group of us who would study virtually together. Some would stay online with me even after they finished because they knew it took me longer." 

Before Capstone Two, she requested and was granted permission to use speaking software. When she began preparing for the Common Final Exam (CFE), Kelsey knew she would need to approach the exam in a different way than her peers. The CFE is no easy feat; with a national pass rate of around 50 percent, the CPA Examination is one of the most demanding professional credentialing exams. Typically, test writers are given 13 hours to complete the exam over three days. 

Again, Kelsey advocated for herself and was granted accommodations and additional time suitable for her disability. While her fellow CFE writers were finishing for the day, Kelsey was hard at work completing the exam. She wrote the exam in 26 hours over three days.  

"When I finished, I was exhausted and slept the whole next day," she laughs.

Her hard work came to fruition, and by happenstance, Kelsey found out on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3, 2021) that she had completed the CPA Professional Education Program.

She is the first person in Atlantic Canada with Cerebral Palsy to write the CFE and become a CPA.

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