A Remarkable Journey That Inspires: Meet Kelsey Quinn

Preparing for and writing the Common Final Examination (CFE) can be a taxing exercise. Challenges though are not something new for Cape Breton University Alumna, Kelsey Quinn. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Kelsey has overcome many obstacles to accomplish her dreams. In 2021, she became the first person in Atlantic Canada with Cerebral Palsy to write the CFE and will soon become the first to be a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

From Sydney, Kelsey studied at CBU for six and a half years, first graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours before completing a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) three years later. While mathematics was always her favourite subject growing up, Kelsey wasn’t sure what her plans would be after completing her BSc. In her final year, after taking a closer look at the options available at CBU, Kelsey decided to try out accounting courses as her remaining electives. From that moment on, she knew where her journey was headed.

“I found the introduction to accounting courses interesting, and I heard there were many job opportunities available in the accounting field,” Kelsey recalls. “I continued with my education at CBU by completing my BBA and taking all the necessary prerequisite courses for the CPA Professional Education Program.”

Kelsey says the Jennifer Keeping Centre played an integral role in her time at CBU, and thanks them for helping her and other students with disabilities to receive the supports they need to thrive. She later returned the favour by volunteering at the Centre, tutoring students in accounting, finance and math.

After graduating from CBU, Kelsey began working for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in 2019 and is currently employed as an Income Tax Auditor. “I am now able to use my accounting knowledge both from my BBA degree and my CPA studies in my actual job while working for the CRA,” she says.

For Kelsey, the most challenging part about preparing for the CFE was applying for accommodations. “I wanted to start thinking about my accommodations early since I had problems receiving them in the past,” she says. The COVID-19 pandemic added an extra level of difficulty as well. “The pandemic changed the exam so that it needed to be written online in only two hours rather than four and featured two cases instead of one,” Kelsey explains. “This meant I had double the amount of typing to do in only half of the time I was given for the Core 1 exam.”

This proved to be a problem for Kelsey, who types with only two fingers, and led to an unsuccessful exam experience. She had to visit her family doctor to get a form signed in order to allow her extra time for future exams and the authorization to use speech-to-text software. While the latter request was not granted, Kelsey did get to re-write the Core 2 exam in four hours and proceeded to pass. Her approach to the CFE, though, had to be different. “The CFE is a three-day final exam which is supposed to be written in three straight days, where everyone is given four hours to write on day one, five hours to write on day two and four hours to write on day three,” she explains. “This meant, with my accommodations, I would be given 8 hours, 10 hours and 8 hours to write the CFE over the three days which is difficult without any breaks in between.”

Thankfully, Kelsey was able to get in touch with the CPA Atlantic School of Business to make these accommodations possible and was granted speech-to-text software, a break during each day and an extra monitor in addition to the extra writing hours. It was at this time that Kelsey was informed she was creating history by becoming the first person with Cerebral Palsy to write the CFE in Atlantic Canada. Kelsey successfully passed the CFE in her first attempt, a remarkable achievement.

While she is still working on completing her work experience requirements to become a CPA, Kelsey is pleased to have completed the education component of the program. “I felt extremely proud of myself and still do today that I have successfully passed the CFE in my first attempt since I know how difficult it is,” she says. “I was beaming with excitement the day I found out and could not wait to tell all of my family, friends and colleagues who helped and supported me along the way.” She found out she passed the CFE on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2021.

Alongside her blossoming career in accounting, Kelsey also serves on a number of committees that promote equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. After joining the Employment Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee at the Nova Scotia Tax Services Office, she also joined the same committee for the Atlantic Region of the CRA where she was named the Atlantic Regional Representative for Persons with Disabilities. The talented CBU Alumna has been actively facilitating engagement sessions for persons with disabilities and is now a member of the Atlantic Regional Persons with Disabilities Working Group, as well as an Atlantic Regional Representative on the Persons with Disabilities Network within the CRA.

“Such committees are extremely important in workplaces and community organizations because they help promote equity, diversity and inclusion among everyone. They also help promote that everyone has their own unique differences and must be treated fairly, with respect,” says Kelsey. “By having such committees, workplaces will better understand how to accommodate everyone so that nobody will feel left out and everyone will know there is support available for them. This means everyone will be able to accomplish what they put their minds to, even if they have to take a different approach than others.”

In the future, while continuing to help others, Kelsey looks forward to working on different auditing and accounting job assignments within the CRA. She encourages people with Cerebral Palsy not to let anything get in the way of achieving their dreams.

“If something challenging throws you backward and you’re thinking about giving up, reach out to someone for support and remember you are not alone,” she says. “Please do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because of the disability you have. Everything can and will be achievable if you simply put your mind to it.”

Kelsey’s journey is an inspiration to so many and we couldn’t be more proud that she is part of our CBU Alumni family.