Illustration shows a black and white sketch of hands holding a video game controller on top of a background showing abstract video game icons in white layered on top of a coloured rectangle that has gradient colouring from bottom to top of blue/purple to a red/purple.

Gaming From a Feminist Lens

This post was written by Akhila Varghese, a Bachelor of Social Work student at X University who is currently taking Whose Lives Matter (DST 300) at the School of Disability Studies.

Even though women helped develop technology, and the gaming population consists of 74% women, gaming culture is dangerous and toxic to women (Crooks & Magnet, 2018). The harassment of women perpetuated in gaming culture is a feminist issue as seen through the over-sexualization of women, heteropatriarchy practices, and lack of intersectional lens. 

The gaming industry was not always this way; in the past, video games were advertised for the entire family, appropriate for all genders (Murtaugh, 2015). Sexist advertising in the 90s began to exclude women from gaming (Campbell, 2018). It promoted gaming as a “boys’ activity” to reflect traditional concepts of leisure, play, and relaxation for boys while confining girls to domestic spaces (Campbell, 2018). Today, sexist video game marketing and gamer culture perpetuate this exclusion and capitalize off bigotry. For example, in marketing a special edition of the game Dead Island: Riptide, a decapitated bikini corpse with blood all over her breasts is depicted (Crecente, 2013). A sexualized corpse serves to remind how female characters are routinely portrayed as sexual objects (Crecente, 2013).

The hypersexualization of female characters in games affects female interactions with male players, who are more likely to harass female players if the games they play objectify women (Cote, 2020). A survey states that 77% of female gamers experienced gendered discrimination involving condescending remarks and sexual advances (Sinclair, 2021). As a result, 59% of women hide their gender while playing games to avoid such harassment (Sinclair, 2021). The objectification of women is portrayed in the representation of unrealistic body types, inappropriate clothing for the storyline, damsel in distress characters, and pornographic character tropes (Cote, 2020). 

In gaming spaces, players are increasingly aggressive and hostile towards others, especially if the person does not seem to fit the masculine rhetoric (Cote, 2020). For example, trash-talking in multi-player gaming is seen as an aspect of competition, but what does it encompass (Cote, 2020)? Racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes and remarks. It is manifested through jokes about rape, assault-based threats, and sexualized insults that are evidence of a harassment culture motivated by misogyny (Cote, 2020). Gaming culture is sexist because of the hypersexualization of female characters and harassment of female video game consumers (Cote, 2020).  

Colonizers first established hierarchy through patriarchy, which rests on the gender binary system in which only male and female exist, men dominating women (Smith, 2016). The prevalence of sexualized female characters assumes that the only audience the industry cares about is heterosexual males who enjoy sexually appealing female characters (Cote, 2020). This assumption is based on heteropatriarchal gender roles of men and boys as logical and rational (Cote, 2020). By doing so, they assert spaces like technology as intended for men, and unfit for girls and women who possess “softer” characteristics which associated them with a lack of competence (Murtaugh, 2015). In spaces like gaming dominated by men, women’s presence is perceived as a threat to the heteropatriarchy by interfering with male bonding or softening the field with stereotypical female characteristics (Cote, 2020). Just as how the colonial world order depends on and is built on heteropatriarchy, the hypersexualization of female characters and gender-based assaults are indicators of gaming as founded on heteropatriarchal structures (Smith, 2016).  

The discussion over the inclusivity of women in mainstream gaming culture proposes a cyberfeminism framework (Murtaugh, 2015). Cyberfeminism is feminism interested in critiquing cyberspaces and confronting toxic digital environments (Murtaugh, 2015). Cyberfeminism also brings to digital spaces an intersectional lens. Harassment is more profound for those with intersecting identities (Cote, 2020). Latina women within gaming experience racism, sexism, and heterosexism, as many identify as sexual minorities (Cote, 2020). Black women experience a form of gendered racism that stems from their unique experiences (Cote, 2020). Intersectionality in gaming culture recognizes that racialized, sexual minorities and women are disproportionately harassed (E. Cagulada, personal communication, week 2).

Ironically, feminist presence in technology has been labeled toxic and unnecessary by predominantly white male gamers, those who dominate the heteropatriarchy, who wish to maintain the oppressive structure of gaming (Murtaugh, 2015). There is a particular belief in virtual spaces and any male-dominated space that depicts women as sabotaging male activities and attacking masculinity (Murtaugh, 2015). For example, the GamerGate controversy in 2014 stemmed from accusations that game developer Zoe Quinn had sexual relationships with male game journalists to give her newly released game positive reviews, despite this allegation being proven false (Murtaugh, 2015).

The GamerGate movement posed itself as a journalism ethics movement, but it had underlying misogynistic rhetoric (Murtaugh, 2015). As a result of GamerGate, women began to speak out against sexism in the movement and gaming as a whole (Murtaugh, 2015). However, proponents of GamerGate harassed and bullied them, arguing that gaming is solely an entertainment space that should not be politicized (Murtaugh, 2015). The plights of GamerGate’s supporters to depoliticize gaming remind me of the invalidation of the political/relational model of disability by literary critic Dennis Dutton and others. Dutton believed disability should not be softened and spoken about in social terms, and instead, he described disability as solely the “medical condition” associated with it (Kafer, 2013, p. 5). Viewing disability as objective is to depoliticize disability (Kafer, 2013). A political issue is an issue that has to do with a distribution of power; it challenges naturalness that underlies many social problems today (Kafer, 2013). Disability, like gaming spaces, is assumed to be obvious; disability is a medical condition, and gaming is an entertainment medium. Evidence that racialized women and sexual minorities are disproportionately harassed, and the GamerGate controversy suggests differently. Gaming is embedded in a society where sexist and racist assumptions are rampant; it does not occur in isolation (Kafer, 2013). Politicizing disability understands the experiences of harassment and hypersexualization experienced by minorities as a loss of power due to heteropatriarchal structures.  

Forms of resistance to a toxic gaming culture include the efforts of feminist advocates to help gaming companies take responsibility for how their harmful practices can impact audiences consuming their content (Cote, 2020). Anita Sarkeeisan began a Kickstarter campaign to create web videos that address and examine sexism in video games (Campbell, 2018). It started fundamental shifts in the industry as more developers realized how they enable oppression (Campbell, 2018). Andreas Zecher, of the independent studio Spaces of Play, sent out an open letter to the gaming community, recognizing that everyone has a right to play games without fear of harassment (Dewey, 2014). 

Even though I am not personally a gamer, unless playing Mario Cart on my phone in the Go Train counts, gaming culture impacts me, and it impacts everyone. It is part of a more extensive debate over who is included in the mainstream culture (Dewey, 2014). It stems from discomfort about women’s growing representation and voice in culture and professionalism, and it is this very logic that motivates gender-based violence in the workplace (Dewey, 2014). I fear this backlash and assault as I prepare for entering the workforce, and I fear for my younger sister, who wants to join the male-dominated medicine career. Challenging gaming culture is an opportunity to challenge heteropatriarchal structures that have long dominated who is accepted and targets of violence due to markers of difference. 

 Knowing Canada’s history of colonization and patriarchy, toxic gaming culture is no surprise; technology is merely being used as an instrument to exercise misogynistic and racist fundamentals that have founded our society. But what can be done? We must participate in feminist activism that raises awareness of the blatant and more subtle ways oppression is perpetuated (Campbell, 2018). Feminism is a complicated movement that challenges existing biases and stereotypes because it is always easier to conform to the status quo. We need to examine how we enable oppression, and we must hold male gamers and gaming companies accountable for the oppression they perpetuate (Campbell, 2018).   


Campbell, C. (2018, July 25). Gaming’s toxic men, explained. Polygon. 

Cote, A. C. (2020). Gaming sexism: Gender and identity in the era of casual video games. New York University Press. 

Crecente, B. (2013, January 15). Dead Island Riptide’s bloody torso statue sparks anger, confusion. Polygon.

Dewey, C. (2014, October 14). The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read. The Washington Post.

Kafer, A. (2013). Introduction: Imagined futures. In Feminist, queer, crip. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 1-19. (19 pages).

Murtaugh, M. C. (2015). Gaming feminism: An analysis of feminist discourses in the video game blogosphere

Sinclair, B. (2021, May 19). Surveys says 59% of women hide gender to avoid harassment while gaming online. Games Industry Biz.

Smith, A (2016). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy: Rethinking women of color organizing. Women in culture: An intersectional anthology for gender and women’s studies, 66-73. (7 pages). 

The Spectacle of Disability in the Inaccessible Retail Environment

This post was written by Matthew Karam, a Criminology student at X University who is currently taking Rethinking Disability (DST 501) at the School of Disability Studies.

Image Description: Home Depot aisle with both sides filled with products. Many of the products on the left are in small boxes. The placement of products begins with some on the ground level going up to higher shelves. Many of the products on the right side of the aisle are in big boxes and are stacked from the ground level to high on the shelf. In the middle is the smooth concrete floor.

It was another hot and sunny day in the summer of 2020. Feeling the humidity and air conditioning clash was nothing new for someone working at The Home Depot. Eight aisles made up thousands of hardware and building material products. In each of these aisles were products of varying weights. With my location choosing to staff the department at the absolute minimum, customers’ only helping hands were often whoever they brought with them. At the time, the only barrier to having a good customer experience in my mind was the shortage of products. It was not until I met a customer named Joey that I noticed how physical barriers are seemingly endless in retail environments, especially my own.

Like with all customers, I always strike up a conversation about their project before offering services in any way I can. Joey, who uses a rollator, could easily navigate the wide and flat aisles. However, once Joey found the bulk box of screws needed, there was a physical barrier: the product was relatively heavy and placed on the lowest shelf. After helping Joey with his shopping, he later explained how it would be nearly impossible to reach down and lift the heavy box of screws. Joey’s experience displays that just because mobility devices can navigate a space does not mean the space is accessible.

When talking about the societal construct of normalcy and disability in Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader, Titchkosky & Michalko state, “We recognize that the centre builds into environment-both physical and attitudinal-from the blueprint or standard of normalcy” and “we recognize that, for the most part, this blueprint does not include us” (2009, p. 7). What is excluded from the blueprint in many retail stores is accessible shopping environments for customers who use mobility devices. For example, The Home Depot has yellow “tilt and roll” ladders. This ladder communicates the norm that if a customer cannot reach a product, it must be a matter of their height. Having such ladders in The Home Depot presumes that when a customer cannot physically reach a product, they can lift the ladder, move it to the desired aisle, and climb its steps. Only the customer who fits within the “able-bodied” norm has accessibility consistently met within retail environments, further isolating customers who use mobility devices.    

Image Description of the Tilt and Roll Ladder: Yellow metal ladder that has two steps. The ladder has four rubber bottoms for traction and two wheels. The demonstrator in the image is standing wearing construction attire such as blue jeans, a checkered long sleeve shirt, tan safety boots, and a white hardhat. The demonstrator tilts the ladder, so only the wheels touch the ground to enable movement.

In Nick Purdon’s Hidden City podcast, Naomi Overan explains how disability becomes a spectacle with mobility devices. Naomi said, “You become a spectacle all of the time, and in an inaccessible environment, you become even more of a spectacle” (Purdon, 2007). Later that summer, I encountered many customers who used different mobility devices. While monitoring my aisles, I noticed that other customers would observe customers letting go of their mobility device and grabbing a product in one swift motion. The inaccessibility within many retail environments ultimately contributes to disability being a spectacle.

After reflecting on Joey’s experience, we might quickly think of potential tools to improve the shopping experience for customers who use mobility devices. While such a solution may be considered to improve accessibility, disability will remain a spectacle in society. Part of what contributes to disability remaining a spectacle is the “myth of independence” (Mingus, 2011). In Changing the Framework: Disability Justice. How Our Communities Can Move Beyond Access to Wholeness, Mingus explains the myth of independence is that everyone can and should be able to do everything on their own. The issue with the myth of independence is that by focusing on independence, we may be contributing to inaccessibility and disability remaining as a spectacle. For example, without workers assisting in situations like Joey’s, customers may have just watched Joey attempt to reach for the heavy product and strain his back. With COVID-19 and the normalization of social distancing, people are even more hesitant to help others which ultimately reinforces the myth of independence.

Mingus teaches that society must question our culture “that makes inaccessibility even possible” (Mingus, 2011). In the dominant culture, disability is viewed as an individual’s problem. If the lack of access does not impact us directly, we may often not recognize its existence. In the introduction of the course Rethinking Disability, Professor Cheuk references a quote about disability. Titchkosky said, “Disability is an invitation to see our world a bit differently.” After understanding concepts like the myth of independence and disability as a spectacle, we must begin to use disability as a framework when reflecting on how culture and norms are the true culprits behind inaccessibility.


Cheuk, F. (2022). Welcome to DST 501: Rethinking Disability [Google Slides]. Retrieved from

Mingus, M. (2011). Changing the framework: Disability justice. Leaving Evidence. Retrieved from

Purdon, N. (2007). The Hidden City. [Podcast Transcript]. CBC Radio Canada.

Titchkosky, T. & R. Michalko. (2009). Rethinking normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press. (pp. 1-14). 

A headshot of Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani who is smiling, wearing black-framed glasses and a white, beaded necklace. Her image appears over a blue square and yellow rectangle.

Ruling Relations and Invisibilized Solidarities: How EAs stand with disabled students and their families

The School of Disability Studies invites you to an open lecture with Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani, Ruling Relations and Invisibilized Solidarities: How EAs stand with disabled students and their families on April 13th from 6:30 to 7:30pm. This session will invite the audience to notice their participation in power relations within educational work and deepen the possibilities of solidarity between EAs with their disabled students and their families. See the full abstract and Dr. Karnad-Jani’s bio below.

Access: This talk will have ASL interpreters and live captioning. This talk will be recorded.This talk is free and open to the public.

Zoom link: (no password or RSVP required)

Full abstract:

In this public lecture, Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani will highlight key aspects of her PhD research in which she examined how Ontario’s Parent Engagement Policy (2010) coordinates mothering work or invisibilized gendered work done in homes to support schooling and the ways this work intersects with the labour of teachers. She will also highlight key aspects of Institutional Ethnography, an alternative sociology that keeps institutional relations of ruling in view and how this method of inquiry enables researchers and practitioners to notice and examine what actually happens in the everyday-every night lives of people who are usually narrated as subjects in the discourse. She will discuss briefly how by inviting the standpoint of people who experience the disjuncture between policy and practice in their everyday lives, it is possible to remove barriers to equity and inclusion as an embedded practice and not an afterthought.

This session will invite the audience to notice their participation in power relations within educational work and deepen the possibilities of solidarity between EAs with their disabled students and their families.

Dr Rashmee Karnad-Jani is a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Special Education Consultant in a  publicly funded school board in the Greater Toronto Area of Toronto, Canada. Her doctoral  dissertation “Invisible Work and Hidden Labour in Ontario’s Public Education: A Decolonizing  Institutional Ethnography of Mothering and Teachers’ work” at the University of Toronto’s  Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. For her doctoral work, Rashmee specialized in  educational leadership and policy research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of  T. Rashmee is interested in how educational policy gets taken up in local work sites such as  schools and classrooms She examines policy implementation gaps by mapping the gendered work  of women (Mothering Work) following the scholarship of Alison Griffith and Dorothy Smith  (2005) to examine the ways in which Ontario’s Parent Engagement Policy organizes it.

This event is sponsored by the School of Disability Studies and the Faculty of Community Services at X (Ryerson) University.

An abstract image of a sun with green, brown, yellow, purple and orange rays on a light-blue and yellow background

Seeking to improve in-hospital support for Persons with Disabilities – what can you do?

Based on her experiences in hospital settings, Rosina Isabella – a person with a disability in the Disability Studies program – found that many hospitals and outpatient clinics were not experienced in providing people with disabilities and invisible disabilities with the required assistance to have as seamless a visit as possible. 

“We have different requirements depending on our level of disability however we deserve and want the same level of care when a patient in a hospital setting.” 

The initial medical issue that brought Rosina to the hospital was handled quickly and efficiently. However, many other aspects of her overall care were not adequately addressed – items such as re-positioning in bed regularly, ensuring that she was always comfortable, and had access to food (not just a tray placed somewhere out of reach). Hospital staff were not trained or aware of these things so crucial to her. This lack of understanding of her needs significantly affected Rosina’s ability to get well quickly and return to the community. 

So, a mission was born! To build awareness and share the experiences of persons with disabilities, Rosina created an innovative research project – using a simple survey – to collect as much information as possible about the experiences of persons with disabilities in healthcare settings and how well their overall care needs are understood and addressed by health care personnel.

Raising awareness

Ideally, when shared with healthcare providers, her initiative will improve their understanding of the great diversity of care needs of their patients and result in increased awareness, and a commitment to address all of those needs. 

For example, if a patient has difficulties communicating, does the healthcare facility have trained staff (including sign language specialists) who can make sure that the patient can communicate clearly with doctors, nurses, and other staff – both to explain their needs and to understand what the healthcare facility will provide them in terms of care?

The importance of creating and following a plan

Key questions for any healthcare facility are: Do they create a unique plan to address both the medical issues presented and this patient’s other needs during their stay. How well do they follow up with the patient to ensure that all their needs are being fully met daily?

Taking personal action

So how can you get involved? If you are a person with a disability – visible, invisible, or both – and have received treatment in healthcare facilities – during in-hospital stays, visits to emergency rooms, treatment at community clinics, etc. – would you be willing to complete a short survey to capture information about your experiences while receiving treatment?

Through Rosina’s research project, we seek to capture the experiences of as many persons with disabilities in healthcare settings as possible and provide feedback aimed at helping healthcare providers to understand the needs of patients with disabilities and serve them to the best of their abilities.

The information you provide will be analysed and may be shared with the healthcare facilities (aggregated and anonymous). This will hopefully lead to better support systems and an improved experience when persons with disabilities seek medical help.

For more information, see the research project flyer. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have more questions or would like to discuss your experiences with this

Thank you for your attention to this request. We hope you participate in the project survey and reach out to us directly if you have more questions. Sincerely, Rosina Isabella and Paul Benson

A white nonbinary person smiles into the camera. They are visible from the chest/shoulders up. Their face is half in sun and half in shade. They are wearing a grey toque, a red t-shirt, and a pair of blue and white striped overalls. The background of a park filled with deciduous trees is artfully blurred.

Introducing Dr. Adan Jerreat-Poole, Ethel Louise Armstrong Postdoctoral Fellow

During September, I, Amanda Lin, Student Engagement Facilitator for The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson, had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Adan Jerreat-Poole, the incoming 2020-2022 Ethel Louise Armstrong Postdoctoral Fellow. I’m so excited to get the opportunity to introduce Dr. Adan Jerreat-Poole and their work to our students, alumni, blog readers, and wider community. Please enjoy our great conversation and introduction into Adan’s life, work and interests.

Amanda: Tell us a little about yourself, your life, and interests?

Adan: I’m nonbinary, I use “they/them” pronouns, and I’m working on a stylin’ collection of overalls. My cane is black and kind of sparkly.  It makes me feel like a magician. I wear fuzzy sheep pajama bottoms to most of my Zoom meetings. Outside of academia I’m a fiction writer, and my debut queer young adult (YA) fantasy novel, The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, came out this September. I live in Kingston, Ontario, with my forever partner, who is Palestinian, brilliant, patient, and gorgeous. My Arabic pronunciation needs work, but I’m an enthusiastic learner, and he’s an encouraging teacher.

I’m interested in digital intimacies, in challenging the category of “human,” and in imagining accessible and feminist futures. I’m interested in our relationships with technology, which are currently dominated by capitalist and colonial ideologies, but which I think we could make differently, and hack/mod to use otherwise. I’m interested in collective care, ethical research, and interdependency. 

Amanda: What led you to Disability Studies?

Adan: Depression was a bad word when I was growing up, so we used euphemisms instead—I was just tired a lot, just sad a lot, just shy around people. Overly sensitive. Overly imaginative. That’s why I had all the nightmares. During my MA, I went to the doctor for a blood test to explain fatigue, and left with a diagnosis of depression and a prescription of rest. At the time I was angry with the label, but looking back, her treatment plan was one of the wisest I’ve received. 

Coupled with depression is my experience of chronic low back pain, which started when I was 17. In my years-long attempt to get a diagnosis and treatment plan, I was shuttled between a lot of (masculine) doctors who told me I was exaggerating, sensitive, or “just” depressed. The medical sexism I experienced in my early 20s was my wake-up call about the systemic biases in the psymedical industry.

Pain: physical and emotional, intertwined, embodied, personal, secret, mine, ours. I didn’t want to be a secret. I didn’t want well-meaning people telling me to try deep breathing and yoga. I wanted to understand why I left each medical encounter feeling small. I wanted to find other people like me. 

Discovering disability studies was part of discovering disability justice, of coming into a language that gave me words like “ableism” and “sanism.” Disability studies gave me a space to understand my experience in the broader contexts of capitalism, patriarchy, and prescriptive able bodiedness. Disability justice has also taught me to think beyond my own experience–for example, about the relationship between ableism and colonialism, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. 

Amanda: What is your academic background?

Adan: In my first year of undergrad at the University of Waterloo, I took an English lit class on a whim, because I was a reader and I liked the idea that reading poetry and fiction was homework. The professor was passionate, I loved the poetry I was reading, and I immediately switched my major. I had no idea what I would do with it–but I loved learning, reading, writing, and thinking. I loved learning about the histories of literature used in revolution and social change. I was especially enamored by modernist writers, like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. I’m pretty sure Woolf’s critical portrayal of the psymedical industries in Mrs. Dalloway had a role in that. 

During my MA I took a class on adaptation–thinking about the move from book to film and video games–and I had another mental shift. I was starting to feel disillusioned by modernist criticism and the trends in the field. The truth? I didn’t want to write about the 1900s, I wanted to write about what was happening now

So I turned to cultural studies.

I did my PhD in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, focusing on Mad/crip digital identity play, exploring angst, self-harm, depression, anxiety, and suicidality in social media and videogames. During this time I published articles on online harassment, crip futurity in video games, angry feminist avatar play, and queer feminist digital media use. I graduated this summer.  

Amanda: Can you tell our students/readers about your work around digital humanities and gaming? And can you explain to the readers and I, what are digital humanities?

Adan: I think any scholarship that combines humanities methodologies with digital tools, methods, practices, and/or objects falls under the umbrella of the digital humanities (DH). For example, DH might mean studying a video game or hashtag, or using digital platforms and visualizations to communicate your research. DH might also mean using quantitative analysis and/or algorithms in your work. Here are a couple of examples from my own research projects:

  1. Using Python to collect a dataset of tweets using the corporate wellness hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Analysing the resulting text using Voyant (which tracks word frequency) as well as close reading. 
  1. Writing a personal narrative about nonbinary gender identity in academic spaces and sharing that story through Twine, a free platform that is used to generate interactive choose-your-own-adventure stories.

During my postdoc, I’m hoping to study how queer disabled feminists use digital media –particularly YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram–to create community and to perform collective care and advocacy. I also want to explore how feminist science fiction imagines future crip/queer technologies and relationships with technology. 

Amanda: What is it like to start your postdoc during a pandemic – e.g. are you living in the area and do you hope to come to campus, etc.?

Adan: I’m grateful to be part of a supportive and activist-oriented department, and I feel really lucky that I was able to join a community of like-minded scholars during such a difficult time. And it is difficult–we shouldn’t pretend that it isn’t. I’m living in Kingston and am not able to come to the office or to meet anyone from the department in person. I’m getting tension headaches from overusing my screen. I’m constantly refreshing the COVID-19 update page, watching the numbers creep up every few days. I’m worried for my loved ones who are immunocompromised. I’m scared of my landlord. I’ve been playing Half-Life: Alyx, my first virtual reality (VR) game. I’ve been having nightmares. I’m a person, and I’m struggling. 

Amanda: Lastly, what are three main things you hope to accomplish in the first year of your postdoc?

Adan: For me, the personal is always political, and the bodymind of the researcher is always in the frame. My experiences of sexism, transphobia, and abliem/sanism shape my understanding of broader systems of violence (that disproportionately impact poor and of colour bodies). I’ve often used personal writing in my academic work. There is no clear line for me between work and home, living and teaching and writing. (And now that many of us are working from home, there are even fewer boundaries!). So my goals for the postdoc are my goals for the year, which will always include my commitment to activism and social justice, and my desire for community, connection, and collective care. 

I’m not immunocompromised, so “survive” isn’t on this list–but I know it tops the charts for many, and I want to take a moment to remember all of the academics–students, sessionals, postdocs, TAs, RAs, and faculty–living in fear for their lives: from the virus, from police violence, from abusive partners, from starvation and poverty. These issues need to matter to the university and to academia more broadly. 

Here are three goals that are high on my list right now for year one of a panacademic postdoc:

  1. Have thoughtful conversations–over Zoom, the phone, email, or Google docs; at virtual conferences or informal Skype chats; through tweets, Whatsapp voice notes and text messages–with other scholars, writers, learners, teachers, activists, and fans inside and outside the academy about access and digital media, disability representation in popular culture, and transforming educational, feminist, and queer spaces towards an ethics of rest, interdependency, and care. I hope any student in the School of Disability Studies knows that I would be happy to speak with them about any of the topics related to my research. 
  1. Tell my partner every day that I love him

*** Trigger Warning for depression and weight loss ***

  1. Eat. The last few months have been really hard on my depression and anxiety. Anxiety triggers IBS, and depression takes away my appetite. Eating is work, and it’s a daily struggle. During past depressive episodes I’ve lost weight unintentionally and it’s really scary. 

In solidarity and care,


A white nonbinary person stands at the corner of of a building, smiling, and holding a black cane in one hand. Their other hand is in their pocket. They are wearing a grey toque, a red t-shirt, and a pair of blue and white striped overalls. One side of the building is red brick covered in leafy green and red climbing plants. The other side is a painted mural featuring a beige background, a silver and white window, and a brown tree with multicoloured leaves.
Image description: a white nonbinary person stands at the corner of of a building, smiling, and holding a black cane in one hand. Their other hand is in their pocket. They are wearing a grey toque, a red t-shirt, and a pair of blue and white striped overalls. One side of the building is red brick covered in leafy green and red climbing plants. The other side is a painted mural featuring a beige background, a silver and white window, and a brown tree with multicoloured leaves.

"Thank You" is written in purple on card sitting next to purple flowers, a pen and wrapped gift.

Farewell and Best Wishes to Kimberlee Collins

The summer often brings many quiet changes to the School of Disability Studies. This year, amidst the realities of working from home and navigating the remote university, transitions can slip by entirely unnoticed. We wanted to pause for a moment to acknowledge Kimberlee Collins’ departure from the School in early July. She moves on to further graduate work, pursuing her PhD at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. 

Kim’s affiliation with the School has spanned over a decade. Kim began working in our school as a student engagement facilitator while she was enrolled in the program as an undergraduate student. Never one to resist a challenge, Kim showed up in the director’s office, with a plan to reanimate the student facilitator role in the School. In those early days her job seemed to include a dizzying array of tasks – student mentoring, organizing bar nights, conducting an analysis of Canadian Disability Studies programs. setting up clothing and book exchanges….it’s unlikely she was bored. And she probably worked beyond the limits of ‘official’ job description often.

As the student facilitator, Kim has worked closely with the School directors and Paris, the program coordinator, in welcoming and orienting new students to the School and university life. Because of her own experience in the program, Kim brings a passionate commitment to deepening student connection with the School and university, in a way that both acknowledges and is grounded in their complex social positioning. You could count on Kim to bring the student perspective to School decisions. Faculty are often inspired by new scholarly and activist initiatives, but students could feel confident that Kim would offer ways to keep this ‘real’ and relevant to students. Through Kim’s role in communicating student experience to the School’s administration and faculty, she has fostered an overall sensitivity to students. 

During her tenure as the student engagement facilitator, Kim developed a strong social media profile for the School. Our school’s social media sites serve as an important touchstone for our students who are working across the province, sometimes in isolated remote or rural communities. Managing these sites almost single-handedly, Kim used them to educate and support student organizing around social and disability justice issues both within and outside the university. Over the last several years, the sites have been used to help students (and the broader disability justice communities) learn about and organize around diverse issues including: the violent deaths of disabled and Black, Indigenous, people of colour at the hand of the state, the segregation of people with mental health diagnoses within Canadian prisons, the exclusionary actions of NIMBY movements against group homes or the passage of the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation. Within the university, Kim helped students become aware of changes to OSAP, particularly as they relate to disabled and part-time students. When students have local EDI issues, Kim supported their efforts to gain a larger audience and pool of potential allies through the School’s social media sites. This included work to organize for better labour conditions for Educational Assistants or the enhancement of educational and personal care supports for disabled children and their families. Taken together, this work enhances student and community learning around EDI, raises the Canadian and international profile of the School and University, establishes the School as a concrete resource for our students’ employment and community activities and helps foster the conditions for EDI beyond Ryerson’s walls.

Kim was a crucial advocate and organizer for students., She supported students in accessing the university and higher education. She developed Ryerson ‘road-maps’ that help our part-time, geographically dispersed student body understand both Ryerson and downtown Toronto. She created a system that regularly links our students with information about grants and bursaries to offset the cost of education. This is particularly important given that our students are often excluded from those chances promoted by the university due to their part-time learner status. Significantly, Kim also facilitated opportunities for students to access scholarly prizes, travel grants and paper competitions – a rare opportunity for undergraduate students that raises the scholarly profile of the School and the Faculty of Community Services.

Space precludes us from sharing all of Kim’s achievements. However, we want to give a final mention to the way Kim encouraged student writing in its myriad forms. For Kim, finding a voice through writing is crucial to student engagement in that it helps students articulate their views and develop a sense of ‘being heard’. To this end, Kim created a School blog and a newsletter; both which prominently feature student contributions. She elicited and fostered professional, activist and literary expression through her mentorship, training workshops, extracurricular activities and the organization of student conference panels. We hope this is a lasting contribution to the School!

In her final year at the School of Disability Studies, Kim divided her time between providing access coordination, research and teaching. She reprised the student engagement role briefly last March and April to mentor Amanda Lin (welcome!!). While we miss many things about gathering in the office, the DST team and our visitors will surely miss Kim’s early morning chats in Paris’ office, her windowsill garden, her insights on environmental justice, grief and vegan cooking and her capacity to turn to the internet to solve any problem. We wish Kim all the best as she moves into the next exciting phase of her academic journey. 


The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University

A black and white photo of a fist with the words "Black Lives Matter" written on the fingers.

School of Disability Studies is in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto Protesters

The School of Disability Studies is in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Toronto protesters and their actions on Saturday, July 18th. Through artistic intervention, they drew public attention, once again, to the colonialist, racist and ableist values celebrated by the statue of Egerton Ryerson and similar monuments in the City of Toronto. We share their critique and we defend their right to engage in peaceful protest always.

As a School, we represent students and disabled constituents who have asked us to work to decolonize the university and dismantle its anti-Black racism. Our efforts are supported by the Faculty of Community Services and its strong commitment to action against anti-Black racism. They are supported by Ryerson University as evidenced by the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Report, and the gains made by student and political action to reverse the presence of on-campus security. The protesters have given us an opportunity to powerfully acknowledge the university’s readiness to implement recommendations which were made on behalf of students, staff and faculty. Safety cannot be realized through containment and the dampening of creative and peaceful protest.

The statue of Egerton Ryerson symbolizes an approach to education that promotes obedience, compliance and control. His legacy includes contributions to the residential school system, to racially segregated schooling, and to the systemic institutionalization of disabled people. A constant reminder of the shameful history of eugenics in Canada, the statue’s ‘watchful presence’ at the centre of campus tells Black, Indigenous and disabled students that they do not belong at the university. 

Black disabled detainees are particularly vulnerable at a time of high public health risk from the double pandemics of COVID and systemic racism. The deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ejaz Choudry, Christopher Reid, Ian Pryce, Andrew Loku, Clive Mensah and many others have taught us that racism, ableism and sanism conspire with deadly consequences when disabled people interact with police. Our communities need systems of safety, well-being and investments that do not further harm Black, Indigenous, disabled and mad people. In this regard, and in the spirit of collegiality, we are particularly concerned by reports that one of the protesters did not receive their medication for much of the 15 hours they were detained.

As an important hub of disability scholarship, the School of Disability Studies is committed to identifying and resisting systemic ableism and sanism wherever it occurs. We support the call by Black Lives Matter to remove the Egerton Ryerson statue immediately as a step in beginning to tear down all that it symbolizes and upholds. We support the request from lawyer Saron Gebresellassi for the Crown Attorney’s office to drop the charges against the three protesters. We call upon our legal, political, community and academic leaders to do the same. We urge all who are able to donate to Black-led organizations and communities that are doing the necessary hard work in the fight against anti-Black racism.

Black Lives Matter Canada:

A large group of students wearing black robes are tossing their black graduation caps into the air in celebration.

Congratulations DST Graduates! – Part 2

The School of Disability Studies celebrates its graduating class. Congratulations on completing this stage of your learning journey. Wishing you the best of luck for your next steps.

Abigail Buist

Throughout her time at the School of Disability Studies, Abbey worked as an Early Childhood Educator in London, Ontario. Her passion about inclusion for all children led her to work as a research assistant with Dr. Kathryn Underwood on the Inclusive Early Childhood SSHRC Partnership Grant. Abbey’s affirmative approach to learning, equity and justice was reflected in her unique research design for her final independent study. Where most research approaches seek to identify problems or gaps, Abbey embraced an appreciative inquiry, striving to tease apart what could be learned from an esteemed research and education mentor. Abbey looks forward to pursuing graduate school at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. This summer she is busy planning her upcoming wedding!

Tonika Jardine-Laborde

In every class Tonika has taken, she has paid close attention to disability as an intersectional experience. She is skilled at applying the theoretical concepts she learned in the classroom to her own experiences, the experiences of those who are close to her, and interactions between social service frontline workers and disabled people in her professional life. Noticing an opportunity for social change, Tonika created a workshop to teach social service workers about white privilege, intersectionality, and disability justice for her final independent study project. Tonika delivered her disability justice workshop in her workplace with great success. In fact, she was asked to continue delivering this workshop as a regular complement to her agency’s professional development programming. We are confident that disability justice will continue to be introduced to new audiences and influence change under Tonika’s leadership.

Chantelle Farrugia

Chantelle is deeply committed to disability advocacy. Professionally, Chantelle supports young disabled people in their transition between high school into their next stage of life.  With strong personal connections to the spinal cord injury community, Chantelle is dedicated to making leisure and recreational activities more accessible and inclusive. Chantelle turned her passion for access and inclusion into the focus of her independent thesis project wherein she explored the physical and attitudinal barriers disabled people face at gyms and fitness centres with an aim to make these facilities more inclusive. Chantelle hopes to advance her career further by pursuing her graduate studies in education and behaviour analysis.

Kerielle Moore

Kerielle came to the program with deep roots in municipal social service provision and accessibility policy. In her written work and class participation, Keri demonstrated a strong understanding of various iterations of provincial accessibility acts and an immense respect for the disability activism which led to this legislation. Throughout her time in the DST program, Keri became increasingly frustrated by what she characterized as the public sector’s “loose commitment” to upholding their obligations to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarioans with Disabilities Act. Motivated by what she identified as an issue of disability inequity, Keri dedicated her final thesis project to exploring how the City of Toronto could create more accessible workplaces and more inclusive workplace policies in order to facilitate the hiring of disabled people in all levels of social service work. We are filled with a sense of hope knowing that Keri will continue to advocate for employment opportunities for disabled people throughout our city.

Mandeep Sandu/Toor

Mandeep came into our program with ties to inclusive education and the disability community. Early on, when she was a student in secondary school, Mandeep noted a disparity between the educational experience disabled students received compared to their non segregated peers. This sense of inequity motivated Mandeep to begin to volunteer as a teacher’s aid in the “contained classroom.” This early work led Mandeep to a career in inclusive education and a personal dedication to disability advocacy. In her final thesis, Mandeep offered a creative approach to enhancing inclusive education informed by disability culture. Beginning with the assumption that the representation of disabled people and disability culture in curriculum was key to the delivery of inclusive education, Mandeep created a learning module that introduced disability culture to elementary students. A proud mother of a new baby boy, Mandeep’s success in this program is a true testament to her dedication to her studies and her time management skills!

Andriana Manojlovic

Andriana came to us with roots in the Ontario Track 3 Program as well as developmental service work. Andriana has fully dedicated herself to all aspects of the program, consistently engaged in the classroom, offering critical analysis, and remaining abreast of current issues. This ongoing engagement with all the School has to offer is reflected by the fact that Andriana holds the highest GPA among the Spring 2020 graduates. Andriana graciously credits her time in our program as being fundamental to shifting her worldview: her intersectional understanding of disability and its social justice issues as well as her professional practice as a Speech Language Pathologist. She is already a month into her Master of Education studies in Behaviour Analysis at the University of Minnesota! 

Christine Munro

Christine has always been the ‘classic’ Disability Studies student. She worked with disabled people for more than 25 years, having served in a variety of roles within her local Community Living agency. She arrived in her first summer institute with a strong understanding of the day-to-day realities of labeled people, the institutional structures and processes which shape these realities and a passion for making a difference.  She has balanced work, a lively home life, and a keen sense of responsibility to course work, producing strong and well-crafted work throughout her program.  We wait to see where Christine’s studies take her next.

Daniela Dinardo

Throughout her time in Disability Studies, Daniela worked as an educational assistant. She has mobilized her academic work by taking every opportunity to engage in framework-changing conversations that could transform learning for students and those who teach them. She believes that these small scale interventions are as important as wider platforms, and that they are up to disability scholars and advocates to initiate. At university, Daniela’s love of writing has become a means to find her voice as an advocate. She has merged her ambition to write about meaningful, complex issues with her desire to write passionately for social justice. Daniela aspires to complete her MA in Critical Disability Studies at York University.

Lindsay Hoegy 

Lyndsay has a complicated history with the education system rooted in her own efforts to navigate its barriers.  She brings a fresh perspective on different models of accessible education and the possibilities of building solidarity with disabled classmates. Faculty members recall her compelling account and analysis of Amethyst Demonstration School, later explored in greater depth in her final independent study. If you haven’t read her 2019 contribution to the School of Disability Studies blog, Vision, Passion, Action, check it out here: here: Voting Rights for Disabled Individuals. We send Lindsay our best as she continues her education in the Master of Professional Education Field of Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Western Ontario this Fall.

Sharon Mulrain

Sharon was a lively presence in the classroom from her first day in DST 501 Summer Institute. Always asking the questions her classmates harboured but were too shy to ask, Sharon had all the markings of a fine advocate. Her final thesis project built on her experience working as an educational assistant. This work took interest in how parents advocate for their disabled children throughout their education and how, throughout this process, they worked with their children to develop self-advocacy skills. Since coming into our program, Sharon has begun approaching her EA work differently and has recently secured a permanent position.

Jennifer Mosley 

Jennifer is proud to be the first person in her immediate family with a university degree. We celebrate this achievement alongside her husband and two children. In all of her courses, Jenn has approached her work with dedication, sharp critical thinking skills, and a high regard for ethical research. Throughout her time as a disability studies student, Jenn has remained closely connected to her role as an Accessibility Lead for Lambton College, focusing on the accessible delivery of online education. As Ontario, and the rest of the world, begins to recognize the importance of the virtual delivery of education, we are glad to have Jenn leading the charge. She brings her unique combination of in-depth knowledge of online accessibility standards, high regard for the user experiences of disabled people, and an understanding of disability rights and justice into this work. 

Lauren Alguire

Lauren is a developmental and social services worker whose interests have extended to history, artifact based research and even architecture. Lauren grew up in a family whose relationship with long term care is complicated: once owning and operating a Long Term Care Home, but also leaving that work to foster the independent living and community integration of a labeled family member. Lauren’s independent study, titled the Architecture of Fear, was a mixed methods study that started in her curiosity about the brick, chain link, wrought iron and barbed wire walls surrounding the Brockville Mental Health Centre. Stay tuned for more on Lauren’s work in the School of Disability Studies’ blog.

Allison Correia

Working as an Educational Assistant in a variety of settings, including Community Living Centres and adult education, has given Allison a keen awareness of inequities in the education system. Allison’s professional experience has motivated her course work throughout this program. Excelling in disability studies and mad studies classes, Allison has a developed understanding on how legacies of institutionalization have helped shape the ways in which disabled and mad students are treated in schools. Building on this understanding in her independent study, Allison carefully analyzed how historic and contemporary educational policies affect how students, teachers, and EAs interact with an interest in how more just educational practices could be facilitated. We are confident that Allison will continue to fight against ableism in education in all that she does.

A large group of students wearing black robes are tossing their black graduation caps into the air in celebration.

Congratulations DST Graduates! – Part 1

Today the School of Disability Studies celebrates its graduating class. Congratulations on completing this stage of your learning journey. Wishing you the best of luck for your next steps.

Nabeela Siddique

Nabeela is committed to fighting injustice in education, employment and social support. Having faced both institutional barriers and personal loss throughout her time in the program, she is carrying a deeper understanding of systemic discrimination into communities and situations where disabled lives are still not valued. As a proud disabled woman, Nabeela supports her family and has graduated on the Dean’s list. There are many reference letters waiting for when Nabeela is ready to move on to further her studies.

Andrew Day

With an extensive job history with Community Living organizations, Andrew currently manages a team of ten workers supporting 250 diabled people to gain competitive employment. In the opening paragraphs of his final capstone independent study, Andrew thanks his grade 8 teacher.  He has spent the intervening years proving her discouraging words wrong!  Andrew is now turning his efforts to applying to the Masters program in Critical Disability Studies.

Amy Morden

For Amy, her academic journey is still really beginning. In her DST 99 project, she explored the debilitating relations of the dancer’s pointe shoes. Uniting her passion for dance and disability studies, Amy looks forward to one day opening an inclusive dance studio that welcomes disabled children. This fall, Amy is moving on to pursue her Bachelor of Education at Niagara University. She hopes to go on and pursue her Masters of Arts in Critical Disability Studies at York University.  

Tamika Walker

Tamika Walker has just embarked on a new position as a child and youth advocate at Empower, working with marginalized youth. Starting the first Monday of the pandemic measure in Toronto, Tamika has appreciated putting her online expertise from Disability Studies in practice right away as her position went unexpectedly virtual. Between supporting her mother over these last few months, supporting youth to respond and reflect on local and international Black Lives Matter actions and finding her way in a new organization, Tamika has used the time to slow down and reflect on where she wants to go next.  In the short term, expect to see Tamika involved in the Black, Indigenous and Student of colour caucus activities associated with the School.

Christina Willilams

Christina is a residential support worker for Community Living – Toronto. She wrote her thesis on how developmental service workers facilitate the autonomy of people living in group homes by focusing on how food and diet choices of residents are respected. Throughout her time in the School of Disability Studies Christina demonstrated the importance of mutual aid and interdependence as she travelled with her comrade Ambika throughout their learning journey. 

Ambika Thusu

Like other students in the School of Disability Studies, 2020-21 has been a challenging final year for Ambika. She has been caught up in what Nataleah Hunter-Young (2020) has described as the “white supremacist violence against Black people—prominently staged in policing, health and labour”. Ambika works as a residential counselor in several different long-term care facilities. We can imagine her working conditions in recent months.  She also works as a supply educational assistant and has been caught in the labour struggle facing that sector. Her rich but complicated work experience informed her independent study of how aging disabled people’s shifting care needs are communicated and met in long-term care.

Melissa DeSousa

Melissa’s final year in the program has been eventful, transforming into one of the most  interesting periods of her life as she creates a ‘new normal’ with her family. Working in long-term care until late April, Melissa stopped work to complete her final independent study and have a baby! His name is Jaia and he arrived on the 22nd of May, well overdue and needing persuasion. Melissa is feeling renewed right now and just trying to enjoy the extra home time. 

Melissa and her partner in coats smiling at the camera. She is also wearing a white toque and a scarf. They are in front of the Toronto city skyline at night.
Image Description: Melissa and her partner in coats smiling at the camera. She is also wearing a white toque and a scarf. They are in front of the Toronto city skyline at night.

Nicole Castle

Nicole writes “It feels strange to be moving on from something that I have been working towards for the past 6 years.  I remember well the first day that I walked into the DST 501 classroom where you were asking us to Rethink Disabilities.  I am a new person after these past 6 years.  I have learned so much about myself and I have also been humbled with all that I do not know.” Nicole continues to work, enjoy her family, cultivate her garden, nurture friendships and make art in Killaloe in eastern Ontario.

Nicole Cadwallader

In Nicole’s words: “This final year fills my heart with so much joy. I will be finishing off my final course in the fall, leaving me in a position of uncertainty, but I remind myself that this uncertainty is what led me to apply and start Disability Studies here at Ryerson 5 years ago. Over these years I have shifted tremendously in who I am as a person in this world, but also how I chose to participate in the world. I have worked in various settings in the field of human services; residential, education, private, treatment and I have even left the field due to internal discomfort with my roles.” Most recently, Nicole has assumed a position as a child and youth mental health worker. She hopes to re-enter the education sector in the future, bringing insights she’s gained from her time in Disability Studies.

Laura Mele

Laura is a familiar face around the School of Disability Studies, taking many courses on campus and serving on the School’s student alumni advisory committee. Distinguishing herself as a hard-working and dedicated student, it is unsurprising that Laua works remotely in her position at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and at her family’s restaurant, Salvatore’s, in Point Edward, Ontario.  We look forward to witnessing the changes she will make in her home community of Sarnia.

Lisa Nelson

Lisa lives and works in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband and children and has most recently been juggling the demands brought by remote learning and employment. Day by day they are embracing the change. Impacted by the funding and service changes to developmental and autism services in 2019, Lisa has reconstructed her work life. She gained a first hand understanding of how neoliberalism contours and constrains the lives of those who work in and use social and community services. 

Aisha Thomas

Aisha’s final independent study beautifully sums up her time at the School of Disability Studies and her engagement with what the program offers. Grounding her work in mad studies and the organizing work of her professor, David Reville, Aisha created a transformative photography exhibit, re-presenting the faces of those whose lives and bodies are caught up in psychiatric institutions. We know her aspirations were truncated by the pandemic, but we hope this meant she spent more time with her other lovely creation, 8 month old daughter, Danika Lillian.

Four racially diverse individuals stand, wearing blue protective masks and white shirts

COVID-19: Race, Discrimination, Stigma and Impacts on Health

This piece was written by current Disability Studies’ student, Pauline Wangari.

Stigma and Discrimination

The Coronavirus is associated with racial stigma and discrimination. Stories and stereotypes have already had a major impact, specifically on Asian populations. Most countries, if not all, have imposed travel bans and restrictions on Chinese nationals and non-citizens to the area. Discrimination has manifested in the form of evictions, cutting off of business ties, bullying, as well asphysical and verbal altercations. 

The phrase “We’re all in this together” has become a rallying cry during this pandemic. Although the Coronavirus has affected most everyone in some way, regardless of race, gender, age and even socioeconomic status, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but global. Instances of racism fuel the risk of perpetuating stereotypes and triggering health inequities. This is particularly true for female healthcare workers. Evidence now points out that Black and Latinx workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 as compared to their Caucasian counterparts . 

The impact of the Coronavirus will leave a lasting mark on society for years to come. The disparate racial impact of COVID-19 comes as no surprise, given the ongoing legacy of racism that continues to produce inequities affecting nearly every aspect of life, particularly in the US.There is a notable racial impact of the virus in our social and economic aspects of life. Persistent racial differences in regard to health status, healthcare accessibility, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to increased susceptibility to the virus – both economically and physically.

Racialized healthcare workers face greater underlying pre- and post-pandemic health insecurities making them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Some of the challenges include a heightened risk of contracting the virus, increased workplace violence, underpayment, being under-valued, pre-existing health conditions, lack of health insurance, housing conditions, shame and stigma.

Increased  Risks

All frontline healthcare workers have an increased risk of contracting the virus. However, as women are predominantly  tasked with the role of providing care, they will be disproportionately affected. Gender and power dynamics  increase the likelihood that men will be prioritized over women, or male-dominated roles such as doctors prioritized over female-dominated roles such as nurses in distribution and decision-making around personal protective equipment (PPE). Given women’s additional gender roles as primary caregivers in their households, a ripple effect of increased risks will occur. 

From a recent incident in Ontario, Canada:

“Over 1675 troops have been deployed to five long-term care homes in Ontario and a further 25 in Quebec over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ontario officials were notified of the report by the federal government in a memo citing concerns on deficiencies in home care infrastructure for example PPE’s.” 

“Nurses/PSWs were often observed not changing PPE for several hours while moving between numerous patient rooms. Equipment is seldom ever observed to be disinfected but is used in between patients.” 

Wage Differences-Underpayment

Female workers are often paid less than their male counterparts. This inequity in pay can also be seen in healthcare workers. Additionally, racial inequities in pay also exist causing Black workers to face significant pay penalties., Black workers face significant pay gaps in the labor market, and research has shown these pay gaps have grown since 2000 and in the decades before (Gould 2020a; Wilson and Rodgers 2016). 


We have witnessed severe restrictions in day-to-day activities due to the  lockdown associated with the pandemic in hopes of  “flattening the curve”. These measures may lead to particular safety concerns for women going to and from their places of work, given that they are also constrained by part-time employment. Drastic changes have disrupted the normal protections afforded in typical daily life–such as the presence of other people, well-lit transport routes, variety of options for travel times, etc.— and leave women vulnerable to violence, including sexual violence. In some contexts, where workers regularly commute across national or state borders, take an example of Swiss healthcare workers commuting to northern Italy, more stringent restrictions on movement may also increase vulnerability and risk for women such as getting stuck on the opposite side of the border. Women frontline healthcare workers will need to continue to reach their jobs each day, despite the risks, and with fewer options available. 

Prior to the pandemic’s onset, research from northern Italy found 45% of healthcare professionals reported workplace violence. This research found that men were more likely to commit physical violence than women, and that assaulted professionals were more likely to be female.Already, there are reports of violence against healthcare workers during the COVID-19 outbreak in numerous countries, with the majority of  victims being women. 

As fright of the pandemic spreads, so does panic and panic behavior. Women frontline healthcare workers are at an increased risk of shame, discrimination and stigma from their community and family members for their perceived role in managing the pandemic. Additionally, there may be fears that these individuals are also spreading the virus within the community.. Examples of this were drawn from the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where health workers were expelled from their homes because landlords feared they would transmit the virus. There may also be unintended consequences to sudden upswings in community health workers or volunteers, who may also face shame, discrimination and stigma based on their involvement with the response and/or bending of traditional gender roles.

Lack of Supports

In times of crisis, care and wellbeing for ourselves, staff, volunteers and others tends to get overlooked for the more ‘urgent’ work of ensuring lives are saved. This results in fast burn out, a decline in the quality of healthcare being provided, stress and can have long-term harmful effects for frontline workers.

We have already witnessed many equity and justice challenges that need to be looked into before further damage is caused. We mustrecognize and stand up against racial discrimination and stereotyping. Our federal, state and local governments have to ensure that necessary policies and practices are implemented, so that needed information, training, resources, and care are equitably available to all people and communities. As we think about the upcoming Census and elections, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the ongoing need to push for affordable and quality healthcare coverage. Workers must be well-trained and have a diverse understanding of healthcare and medical research. Healthcare and healthcare resources must be accessible to all,regardless of race, gender, age or other differences.

What can be done?

To mitigate the risks  to healthcare workers with regards to the virus, certain measures need to be put in place:

  • All health care workers need to be given adequate PPEs;
  • The needs, risks and concerns of the healthcare workers must be heard and communicated up the chains of command;
  • Gender and equity policies need to be put in place to ensure equity in the workplace;
  • Female healthcare workers need to have representation in decision-making; 
  • Supports in the form of  increased wages, promotions and leaves should be given to healthcare workers; and 
  • Higher ups need to facilitate the movement of healthcare workers in contexts where movement restrictions have been imposed.


  • China Labor Bulletin (5 March 2020). Women workers on the frontline in the battle against the coronavirus. Retrieved from
  • Gould, Elise. 2020b. “The Unemployment Rate Is Not the Right Measure to Make Economic Policy Decisions Around the Coronavirus-Driven Recession: Policymakers Should Use the Employment Rate to Continue or Stop Economic Assistance.” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), March 20, 2020.
  • Gould, Elise, and Heidi Shierholz. 2020. “Senate Coronavirus Bill Is Crucial—But It’s a Fraction of What’s Needed.” Working Economics Blog (Economic Policy Institute), March 18, 2020. Rho, Hye Jin, Haley Brown, and Shawn Fremstad. 2020. A Basic Demographic Profile of Workers in Frontline Industries. Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 2020 Meepagala, Shawn, and Carl Romer. 2020. “Mapping Racial and Ethnic Differences with COVID-19” (interactive data tool). Center for Global Data. Accessed May 29, 2020. 
  • WHO. COVID-19: Operational guidance for maintaining essential health services during an outbreak [Internet]. Geneva; 2020. Available from: file:///C:/ Users/ebarasa/Downloads/WHO- 2019-nCoV-essential_health_services-2020.1-eng (2).pdf
  • Wilson, Valerie, and William M. Rodgers III. 2016. Black–White Wage Gaps Expand with Rising Wage Inequality. Economic Policy Institute, September 2016.

A headshot of Dr. Ricky Varghese, smiling for the camera.

Introducing Dr. Ricky Varghese, incoming Tanis Doe Postdoctoral Fellow

At the end of May, I, Amanda Lin, Student Engagement Facilitator for The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson, had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ricky Varghese, the incoming Tanis Doe Postdoctoral Fellow. I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce Dr. Ricky Varghese to our students, alumni, blog readers, and wider community. What follows below is our great conversation and introduction into Ricky’s life, work and interests.

Amanda: What led you to Disability Studies?

Ricky: I had always been fascinated by the body, but in a non-medical sort of way. I suppose my interest in the body has always been more phenomenological and philosophical than clinical, being moved by a desire to explore a body’s experience of – and how it is simultaneously perceived by – the world around it. Further to this, I became interested in aspects of bodily or corporeal existence that aren’t easily perceivable or discernable, which led me to an interest in mental health. My training is in psychoanalysis, and Sigmund Freud once wrote that each of our “ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface.” I became interested in this logic as a way to break down the mind-body split that is often thought of as an acceptable “norm.” I became particularly intrigued with how a sense of an ego and its relationship to the body might be informed by an experience of disability, debility, or illness, questions of access, and our immediate experience of the physical world.

Amanda: Tell us a little about yourself, your life, and interests?

Ricky: I like reading a lot, and I read pretty much anything that arrives at my desk, from so-called “high theory” to pulp fiction. I also have an interest in the visual arts. I consider art criticism a bit of a “side hustle” that I’ve developed in the last few years since completing my PhD, so I’ve written exhibition reviews, critical essays for art publications, and catalogue essays for shows that I have been invited to contribute to. Writing about art and about artists that I admire allows me to be experimental in some wildly interesting ways that I try to apply to my scholarly writing as well. I also have this uncanny interest in reality TV. I watch a lot of it, perhaps too much, and although most of it is always already overproduced, I find a lot of it to be startlingly revealing about human character and behaviour.

Amanda: What is your academic background?

Ricky: My academic journey has been somewhat circuitous. Believe it or not, I started out as a chemical engineering student back in 1997, with the intention of actually going to medical school after, like my parents had hoped I would. However, much to their consternation, I switched out at the end of my first year to major in Psychology, minor in English Lit. and History. While I was at Queen’s, during that time, I also started getting involved with Kingston’s HIV/AIDS Regional Services and with H’Art Studio, a visual arts program for adults with developmental disabilities. I think that’s when I realized I wanted to become a social worker. So after I completed my degree at Queen’s, I moved back to Toronto and enrolled in the Bachelor’s in social work program at York University. Then I went on to do my MSW at the University of Toronto. During both these programs, I completed my placements at the Toronto District School Board, in the Board’s Human Sexuality Program, specializing in anti-bullying and anti-homophobia education and counselling. Years of working hands-on in various communities made me miss theory and also realize its importance in my work, so I went on to do an MA and a PhD at OISE in Sociology of Education, that’s where and when I developed my interest in psychoanalysis. Ever since I completed my PhD, for the last few years, I have had a private practice as a psychotherapist here in Toronto, a practice in which I see a diversity of clients dealing with all kinds of emotional stressors and psychical traumas. After a few years of working within the context of my private practice, I decided to train to become a psychoanalyst at the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis. I started that training in 2017 and am entering my fourth and final year at the Institute this September.

Amanda: Can you tell our students /readers about your work around suicides on campus and how universities respond?

Ricky: I have been interested in suicide as a subject for quite some time. The word “suicidal” gets used quite a bit when referring to a variety of psychical states and behaviours and I became curious about what this word means and how it is being used both colloquially and in the media. Therapeutically, I’ve also been driven to understand how self-destructive behaviour comes to inform a person’s emotional world. What are the limits that a person might be pushed to, emotionally speaking, that make suicide a choice that someone might take? Furthermore, I’ve been interested in the intersection between masculinity, race, and suicide. The philosopher Gilles Deleuze committed suicide as his health deteriorated and when continuing to write and work became impossible. The writer David Foster Wallace suffered from severe depression for years, which resulted in him taking his own life. The philosopher Walter Benjamin (on whom I wrote my doctoral thesis) is believed to have taken his own life while attempting to escape the Nazis. I’ve been compelled to think closely about the relationship between masculinity, the perceptions and fantasies attached to the category of the “genius,” and the romanticized way by which male suicides are sometimes valorized. I want to understand how systems and structures, such as universities, may create undue pressure in toxically calibrating masculinity in such a way that causes it to tend toward the death drive.  

Amanda: Lastly, with current challenges due to COVID-19, can you tell our students/readers what it is like to start a postdoc remotely?

Ricky: I was saying to a friend the other day that starting to conceive of writing a book about suicide and the death drive in the midst of a global pandemic is in itself an uncanny experience, especially as you see the effects of late capitalism trudging along as lives are being lost. I hope I get to meet my colleagues and the students at the School of Disability Studies soon, but I understand the need to work remotely as a collective attempt to take care of and be responsible for one another’s health and well-being. One thing that this pandemic has brought to the surface is that it feels unfortunately inevitable that its impact will be felt most severely by those of us who are in marginal positions, folks who are racialized, disabled, gendered or identify as sexual or gender minorities, those experiencing mental health struggles, or are older, or have precarious health statuses, or those who suddenly find themselves unemployed or having to bear the brunt of financial uncertainty, those who are underhoused, homeless, or street-involved, and it’s important to be alert, now more than ever, to all of their very specific needs.

Ricky: I am very much looking forward to meeting all the faculty, students, and staff at the School of Disability Studies soon. I am hoping to find myself part of a vibrant and enriching community of scholars, activists, artists, and policy makers. I am super excited that the School will be my professional home for the next two years.

A light blue background with a sun in the centre. Layered on top are leaves growing around the words "What Can We Grow From Crisis."

Areas of Concern for Disabled People in Accessing Communities of Care During COVID-19

I, Amanda Lin, Student Engagement Facilitator for the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, had the pleasure of interviewing Loree Erickson, the current Ethel Louise Armstrong Post-Doctoral Fellow. The following blog post is a summary of the highlights from our hour-long conversation together.

Our conversation took place in the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, information regarding the high numbers of cases of the virus in long-term care facilities and prisons as well as the challenges of accessing communities of care were at the heart of our conversation. Throughout our interview, Loree identified three concerning areas surfacing in relation to COVID-19. The areas of concern were: 

  1. ICU Eugenics; 
  2. The erasure of disabled people from pandemic policies and practices; and 
  3. The ways marginalized communities are at a greater risk of contracting the virus. 

As a Venn diagram, the area created by where these three issues overlap exposes an extremely worrisome convergence.

Venn diagram of the three overlapping areas of concern listed above.

ICU Eugenics

Loree and I discussed how disabled lives are not seen as worthy of saving from the virus, both across Canada and throughout the world. Many of the ICU triage policies and practices currently in place do not prioritize disabled lives and are operating from dangerously discriminatory perspectives. Decisions regarding life-saving treatment and access to equipment such as ventilators are being made using determinations of value largely rooted in racist, disablist, and capitalist standards of productivity. Recently, we have seen disability communities and our allies come together to challenge these ICU policies that de-prioritize disabled people. Disability justice activists are directing our attention to how this pandemic shines a light on the many different ways that eugenics views are at play in these life and death decisions; highlighting the ways that existing systemic inequalities are being exacerbated within marginalized communities. Loree and I are both excited by this organizing.

Erasure of Disabled People from COVID-19 Policies and Practices

Disabled people are being erased from this pandemic through current public health policies and practices that failed to take disabled people’s lived realities into account. Loree pointed out that there are many “how to” videos or instructions on how to put a mask on yourself. But there is a lack of protocol surrounding how to safely put a mask on someone else. Many disabled people require support in facilitating activities of daily living (ADL), during a pandemic, this includes putting on a mask. This is just one example of a lack of public health protocols that include disabled people and our needs. It is as if disabled people do not live on this earth and therefore there is no need for such protocols to exist. However, we all know this to be false. Many refer to the lack of protocol as a “small oversight.” But we see this as yet another example of how disabled people are being overlooked and written out of the dominant ideas of who consists of “the public”. 

Disabled and Marginalized People at Greater Risk of Contracting the Virus

This failure to acknowledge the existence and needs of disabled people is also seen in the high infection rates in institutions of care and confinement, like prisons and long-term care facilities. Recent walkouts and widespread positive testing for the virus within group homes and long-term care facilities, have illustrated the inadequacies around the level of care that many deem “suitable” for disabled people and their caregivers. As Loree pointed out, the risk in contracting the virus exponentially increases the more a community of people is exposed to barriers and pre-existing inequalities. This exposure, occurring through an interlocking matrix of structural inequality, is why we are seeing such an increased risk in institutionalized people, homeless people, poor people, disabled people, indigenous communities and racialized people.  We also need to be paying attention to the ways that disproportionate risk is falling on marginalized communities. This is especially true for the personal support and/or attendant care workers as this frontline work is racialized and gendered work. Much of this unsuitable care within group homes and long-term care facilities have come from a lack of protocols surrounding these institutions and the people that work in them. The government and those in power have regularly failed the disability community and their caregivers. The pandemic has only brought much of their failure into the spotlight for unimpacted communities. Prisoners, frontline workers and disabled people have been intimately aware and trying to make change long before COVID-19.

The System Isn’t Broken – It Was Built That Way and We Need to Change It

Loree shared that prison abolitionists have a saying about oppressive systems of power “the system isn’t broken, its working as intended and was built that way.” Unfortunately, this makes a lot of sense. Disabled bodies and lives have long been under-valued. Loree and I both feel this interview is just the beginning of some very important conversations that need to be had. We need to talk about this within the disability community, but also within broader society. 

Those who have created these oppressive systems need to not only consult with disabled people, but they also must provide permanent space at the table, particularly for multiply-marginalized disabled people. Policy and practices surrounding should not be made without the people who are directly impacted. Policy-makers need to understand that by being proactive, there will be less of a possibility for atrocities to occur. The COVID-19 pandemic has publicized the continuation of eugenic practices within current times. No longer is anyone able to point out “how eugenics is a thing of the past, never to be repeated.” Loree and I both agree that ICU eugenics are a chilling reminder that eugenic ideas around worth and value continue into the present. There is no better time than now to address these issues. We are hopeful that those in power will listen to disabled people and take in our experiences as valid, knowledgeable and necessary. Disabled people are the experts now! 

"Learning" over "schooling" is written like a math fraction in white chalk on a blackboard.

Spring/Summer 2020 DST Courses

Looking for an interesting course to take this Spring/Summer with Ryerson University?

Check out these great options: DST 501 – Rethinking Disability and/or DST 603 – Law & Disability. Both are being offered online, as early as May 2020! Please find course descriptions below.

DST 501 – Rethinking Disability Course Description

This is the first required course in theDisability Studies program and is designed to introduce you to the underlying premise both for this course and for the Disability Studies program. Which is that disability must be viewed from a socio-political and a socio-cultural perspectives.

Such perspectives contend that the situation of people with disabilities does not flow from their particular impairments, but is influenced by the way society’s is organized such that it privileges those who perform human in a way that’s considered normal,  and defines and responds to disability as a “problem”. 

The course will introduce you to key models and theories underpinning disability studies and in particular the concepts of normalcy and ableism. Exploring disability through different theoretical lenses will illuminate the parallel and intersecting circumstances of disabled people with those who experience race, gender, sexuality, class, immigration-based oppression. It will be argued that many current responses to disability (at the individual, program and policy levels) reflect dominant, restrictive and prescriptive assumptions about disabled people and, therefore, rather than being of benefit, have often served to deepen their disablement.  The course seeks to provide a framework for critically examining these assumptions that have shaped societal responses to disabled people and for exploring what alternative views and responses might be.

This course seeks to reflect the experience of disabled people, highlighting both the social roots and the impacts of discrimination, exclusion and rejection as well as responses of survival, resistance, empowerment, affirmation and cultural flourishment.  Ultimately the course seeks to articulate new possibilities for imagining and indeed desiring disability.  In this sense, we consider, with Rod Michalko (2002), the difference that ‘disability makes’, what it teaches us about our worlds, how disability ‘works’ culturally and how it opens up avenues to new social, political, and cultural possibilities.

DST 603 – Disability and Law Course Description

DST 603 will focus on the way in which the law and legal system can be used as a vehicle for change for the benefit of people with disabilities, both individually and collectively.  Classes will cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on laws for achieving inclusion, access and autonomy for people with disabilities.  The lessons will explore these issues in a way that merges the disciplines of law and disability studies. Actual cases and reform efforts will be used as a basis to illustrate various techniques for change and will examine how to assess options and avenues under different circumstances.  A component of each lesson will be to learn the basics of substantive areas of law.  Students will be taught skills of dissecting and understanding legislation, cases and policies so they will have the tools to enable them to work with law and policy frameworks they encounter in their careers and lives.

A breadth of tools will be explored, including litigation, and formal and informal methods of legislation and policy reform, all within the backdrop of navigating the diverse perspectives in the disability community.  

The goal is for students to complete the course with knowledge of some of the legal issues which arise on a day to day basis in advocating for, or providing services to, people with disabilities in Ontario. Many of the most challenging legal issues involve balancing competing rights, responsibilities, and interests.  These involve, in a fundamental way, the independence, dignity, and personal and economic security of individuals and families.  Students will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different options.

Readings will be drawn from books, articles, government and other web sites, as well as cases, legislation and government policies. Students will be encouraged to find other materials which will help in understanding the issues covered in the course. 

Law is often a new area of study for students taking the course.  The course is taught knowing that the material may be new to many of the students, and does not require or presume any background legal knowledge.  The instructor will guide the students through the learning process.

The School of Disability Studies looks forward to engaging with you in the classroom!

A person in a large pink sweater looks off into the distance while their two hands cup a third hand that is providing support.

On Being Deemed an Essential Service

This piece is written by an alumna of the Disability Studies Program, Barbara Steele.

On March 16, 2020 the Ontario government declared a state of emergency due to the Covid- 19 pandemic.  This state of emergency closed all non-essential services.  Since April 15, the Ontario government has extended the state of emergency to May 12, 2020. For many support workers, developmental service workers, personal support workers and social service workers, this is the first time our jobs have been labeled as essential by our government. Having the government declare our jobs essential was an acknowledgment of the necessary care work we provide.  Until this point our jobs have been a mystery to many.  Most of us can recall trying to explain to someone what our job entails. We are often met with “oh, that job must be so hard” or “you must be an angel to do that work.”  This pity and/or saintliness directly correlates to how society views the disability community.  Stereotypes about disability abound. These stereotypes tell us that disabled people are unable to live active lives like everyone else.  As essential workers, our care labour is now seen as necessary and valued while the people we labour with are still systematically de-valued. 

Being declared an essential service has an impact on our work. Right now many support workers are, for the first time, learning how to work with new personal protective equipment (PPE). Not all community agencies were prepared for this type of crisis. Since becoming an essential service support, healthcare workers have been seen as heroic.  To anyone who works with disabled people we have always known our jobs were essential.  It is society that needs to understand the value of our work and the value of care. I work as a developmental service worker within a residential setting with people labelled with intellectual disabilities. Due to COVID-19, it is not business as usual as physical distancing practices are in effect in people’s homes.  Support workers are trying to ensure mental, physical and emotional well-being for those they support while trying to work with new procedures and equipment. Physical distancing practices are not practical for those who need support for completing daily activities such as getting out of bed, getting dressed or having personal care needs met. For some disabled people this reliance on others for care happens every day. Being an essential service has not necessarily improved our work conditions or the supports we and disabled people receive.

 Although many of us often think we are independent, we are not.  This idea of independence is false.  Most of us need others’ help to get our car repaired, many of us do not sew our own clothes, or grow our own food.  Although we might think we are independent, meaning we do not rely on others for assistance in daily living needs, we all need some form of human connection, support and care.  For instance, right now  there are those who are unable to leave the house. These individuals are relying on others to provide them with much needed supplies.  This support could be from a friend, other family or a company that delivers food and other products to their homes. Many disabled people and support workers are used to thinking through these systems of interdependence, and figuring out daily survival strategies in both formal and informal arrangements. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on our interdependence and our collective need for care.  The questions we are left with is what will happen after the pandemic? Will there be better procedures and supports in place for our newly recognized essential services?  Will we still value interdependent care? Will support workers go back to being unknown or will this essential status remain?

Written by alumna, Barbara Steele.

Black and white photo of manual wheelchair sitting next to a window with floral curtains

COVID-19 and Disabled People: Managing in Changing Times

This post was written by current Disability Studies student, Paul Benson.

If you are a disabled person like me, you are facing new challenges due to the COVID 19 pandemic and you may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about your future.

This post is designed to share  information that helped me to meet my needs for safety, access to necessary resources, and also to reassure us  that – with appropriate support from those who care about us, the various levels of government, and local community – we will find a way forward.

We are dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime situation and it is changing the way we live. Be reassured that a large community of support is being mobilized to help us all to remain safe and healthy and to enable us  to create a successful future in the post-COVID 19 world.

In a recent announcement, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas said ‘”People with disabilities feel they have been left behind… containment measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation, may be impossible for those who rely on the support of others to eat, dress and bathe.”’ 

As disabled people, we also face increased risk of death if we become infected with the virus. If our immune systems are compromised, we are more likely to be hospitalized and need a ventilator to support our breathing until the virus has run its course. We need reassurances that, if infected, we will receive all the care necessary for recovery and not be treated as a lower priority than the non-disabled. Advocacy groups are lobbying the government to ensure that we are not discriminated against in this ableist society.

You may also be facing financial issues as a result of increased costs, and a loss of income due to being laid off, or having reduced employment opportunities in the coming months (e.g., the loss of summer jobs). There are programs out there from the government and other organizations to help us manage during this difficult period. See below for more details.

Getting the help you need

Dialling 211 at any time will connect you with your local Community and Social Services Help Line where you can get information about government and community-based programs that may be able to help. Or you can go to their website at

Depending on where you live, dialling 311 can connect you with municipal support programs (e.g., if you live in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, or Halton).

For those of you who were working and are now laid off, or are working reduced hours, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) can provide 16 weeks of support at $500 per week until your Employment Insurance (EI) claim can be processed

Building up your supports, planning for a bright future

Now is the time to get connected more closely with those around us, even as we practice physical distancing. This is where technology can help. Through Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, email, and other tools, we can reach out to family, friends, and others to get the supports that we need and to provide support to those we care about. If you are not yet tech-savvy, there are likely volunteer groups within your community who can provide remote support and access to technology. If you need help, consider calling 211 to request support.

Advocacy groups such as Canadians With Disabilities – Ontario (CWDO) have created guides to how to get assistance

Other organizations are building lists of where you can obtain services such as food delivery, vital medical supplies, courier services, etc. For example, the Access from Home initiative

Ryerson University now has a dedicated COVID 19 website at

Through the university, college, and school systems, you can get support to continue your education and ensure that your children can continue to learn. For more information, see:

Protecting yourself and your care workers

If you require the support of care workers, then you need to be confident that they do not have the virus and that they have appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) when assisting you (e.g., gloves, a face mask, and a face shield if required). They must be checking themselves for symptoms (e.g. testing for an elevated temperature) every day before they visit you and they must stay away if they have any symptoms. If, for any reason, your care workers cannot come to assist you on your regular schedule, then contact your provider (e.g., the LHIN) to ensure that you have the level of care that you need.

Getting healthcare support

Your doctor’s office may be temporarily closed. Ensure that you know how to contact a healthcare provider if issues arise. 


Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000

Toll-free TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Toronto Public Health COVID-19

Telephone: 416-338-7600

TTY: 416-392-0658

See also the CWDO guide for more detailed instructions.

An opportunity for building stronger communities

While attending to your own needs first is paramount, you may also be in a position to help others. Consider reaching out to community groups, religious organizations, and other local resources. You might be able to volunteer to help others and you may also find new resources locally to help you.

We are in the middle of creating a new more socially responsible way of conducting our lives. Let this be an opportunity for creating a better situation for ourselves and those around us to thrive and prosper. We will get through this and, hopefully, we will build a new and brighter future by working together for the good of all!

Other resources

All Access Life – resources for persons with disabilities

AODA Alliance and the Virtual Town Hall on Disability Issues During COVID 19

ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Open Letter: Ontario’s Triage COVID-19 Protocol” (

Local Health Integration Networks 

Ontario Autism Coalition

Ontario Health Coalition

Colour silhouette of person holding a mason jar in front of stars

A Response to Deaths at Participation House

The following is a contribution from a new instructor in the School of Disability Studies, Dr. Maria Karmiris. Please join Dr. Karmiris in DST 501 – Rethinking Disability this summer!

“I am naked and the waters are rising” (Frazee, 2009, p. 119). Here Frazee is foregrounding both the tangible everyday encounters with precarity and vulnerability for disabled embodiments as well as grappling with the fundamental question of what it means to be human. During the current pandemic, human interdependencies are inescapable. However, we can also come to recognize that some humans more than others disproportionally encounter the everyday precarity of rising waters. Frazee’s work (2009) reminds us of the ways the current crisis faced by the residents in Participation House is sadly not new. It is part of a long legacy of sustaining the conditions of unjust relations of power that continuously show that some lives count as worth saving while other lives count as expected losses. Frazee (2009) also reminds us of the complicated quagmire we find ourselves in when we call on care as the solution. When the precarious position of countless Personal Support Workers is juxtaposed with the precarious position of disabled residents depending on others for direct support with physical needs, the tangibility of that rising water is ever more dangerous. Frazee (2009, p. 199) poignantly writes: “The waters have risen. We are intimates in dangerous times.” It is this intimacy of the present state of precarity that necessitates a refusal to blame individuals for the tragic loss that is reverberating within this community of disabled peoples. Rather, we must call upon each other, to reconsider our current immersion in the toxic soup of the neoliberal normative order. The lives that have been lost and will be lost as the water rises, deserve to have their legacies honoured through an invitation to think and embody disability and disabled embodiments differently. Instead of turning away from these intimate encounters with disability, we need to turn toward disability and disabled embodiments. Let each of us be touched by intimate encounters with disabled lives in the hope that through this touch we can find our way out of the toxic rising waters. 

– Maria Karmiris

Frazee, C. (2009). Media Review: Disability in Dangerous Times. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 15(3), 118- 124.

Blank perforated white label with string attached to it

DDC – Disabled During COVID-19

This post was written by former Disability Studies student, Michelle Hewitt.

We are living in strange and uncertain times. From a personal context, in many ways, my life continues just like before. I stayed at home most of the time, and from my wheelchair or my bed, I participated in many meetings and continued my studies. However, beyond the protective bubble of my home, life is very different.

COVID-19 has exposed many weaknesses of our medical systems worldwide, but I think that the cracks in our societal systems are even greater. The same systems that many of us relied on before this are now overwhelmed as everyone lives “our life”. Even the systems being put in place for “the elderly and the vulnerable” are being swamped by those who are neither elderly nor vulnerable. Those on low income cannot afford to pay for grocery delivery, those with restricted diets are struggling with the lottery of what food might be available, and our medication supply chains are overstretched by overfilling of prescriptions, protectionism from the countries with the raw ingredients for many of our drugs, and a US president that just bought 29 million pills of hydroxychloroquine on a whim, with no thought to the people who already use the drug and need it as part of their daily medication regime.

I could go on and on. No single country behaving like this – I see the same in Canada, the UK, the US, all over Europe, Australia. Every country seems to have its own video of people fighting in grocery stores over toilet paper. Collectively, we need to give our heads a shake. We need to do what’s right for people from a fundamental level. We need to care about people. We need to go to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, start from the bottom and work up.

I’ve been struck by the language I see being used. “The elderly and the vulnerable” – but who are the people behind these labels? In BC, where I live, 2 separate task forces have been struck by the provincial government – the COVID-19 Seniors Working Group and the Vulnerable Population Working Group. The senior’s group, with funds from the government, set up a 211 service for seniors to reach out if they need support getting groceries, medications, that kind of thing. It’s not available to disabled people under the age of 65, but it’s potentially available to everyone over 65 whether they need assistance or not. The vulnerable population group “is working to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced in particular by five groups – people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private SROs and tenants in social and supportive housing buildings.”  ( This is the group that is also responsible for the issues faced by all disabled people. However, given the mandate to support the most complex and urgent societal issues imaginable, is that group even going to find the time to sort out, for example, groceries for disabled people under the age of 65 – an issue that has already been solved by the Seniors group?!?

There are times that we resist labels as disabled people and times that we need them to access services, as annoying as that might be. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson offers a new term – misfit. She says we fit when we are in harmony with the environment we are situated in, and misfit when we do not, and, importantly, “[a]ny of us can fit here today and misfit there tomorrow” (p.597). Certainly, within our current situation, many people who were previously able to work, be out in the community, and still live safely while immune compromised, now find themselves misfitting, unable to go out of their own homes. I paused to consider this label of “vulnerable” that is now applied to disabled people, while reflecting on Garland-Thomson’s description of vulnerability – “a way to describe the potential for misfitting to which all human beings are subject” (p.598). I would argue that vulnerability is no longer potential. For all of us, that vulnerability is here, a constant presence, where a virus has created the fear of the unknown in everyone’s lives, and where my way of living has become the new normal. So, if this is the case, who are “the vulnerable”? How can this label provide any help to disabled people who had systems in place, but now find them gone? And how can it help those who were already living precarious lives – lives that have become even more precarious?

Right now, more than ever, we have no need for labels and we certainly shouldn’t be delivering services by label. The continued reliance on labels is exacerbating the cracks in our system, creating duplications and gaps, with access to services based on arbitrary categorization. Every time a service is offered to one group, another group is left out. I believe, or at least hope, that, as disabled people, we live in solidarity with each other and with other marginalized people. Now is not the time to pit us against each other. Now is the time to look at need, and to make sure that no-one is left out.

I wonder what “normal” life will be like, once a vaccine is found and COVID-19 fades into the background. Will those of us who had previously participated in life from home be forced to constantly explain the need for that “accommodation” again, or will it be the “new normal”? Will the label “vulnerable” continue? Will services that we needed all along, such as financial increases to provincial Disability Allowances, remain, or will they be clawed back? As an advocate, I feel a sense of opportunity,  that maybe we can establish some practices that will stay with us past these current times, and that as a society we will finally see the needs of people, not labels.

Garland-Thomson, R., (2011), Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept, Hypatia, vol. 26, no. 3, pp  591-609

Hidden Cities II

By Nici Cornforth

“When I first bought my condo, I was privileged enough not to need to look at it in terms of accessibility.”

I was excited that I had found a place I could afford on my own and that it was so new I got to decide what upgrades went in my suite. Granted I bought before they had even broken ground on the building, but I had not asked, nor had it even crossed my mind to inquire about its accessibility. In the years I’ve been living here I’ve noticed a few things that make this building less than accessible, so when an opportunity came up to consider hidden barriers it did not take me long to decide that my own building should be further scrutinized.

In the Neighbourhood Watch episode of the This American Life podcast, the host says “it’s not a question of should, but how?” (Goldstein et al., 2010). While he was referring to being careful, this same question can be applied to the accessibility of an area. It should be accessible, but how is a person to access it with obvious and not so obvious barriers in place.   

Let’s start outside the building and work our way in. There are two disabled parking spots for this building and both are in visitor parking. They are on either side of an approximately twenty metre cement apron that is the front entrance. If you exit your vehicle onto the parking pad and not directly onto the sidewalk you will have to pass over a speed bump regardless of which stall you use. If you have parked in the east stall you will have to traverse the twenty metres on the road as the ramp to get you up onto the sidewalk is on the west side of the cement apron.

At main entrance, there are two sets of oversized glass double doors. Neither set have an automatic door button. Between these doors there is the fob box to allow residents entry and an intercom system so residents can buzz visitors in. The intercom box faceplate and buttons are silver and marked in black and the display is in smaller black print on a gray background, neither of which is a high contrast for the visually impaired. Nothing on the box is labelled in braille nor are the numbers voiced when pushed. While the fob box is low enough to be accessible, you have ten seconds to get from the fob box to the door, before it latches again. The intercom system is too high off the ground for persons in wheelchairs to be able to easily access and, if unable to stand, cannot read the display. Residents must be called through the intercom system as that is the only way residents can engage the door release to allow visitors into the building. To exit the building through these doors a release is located 143 centimetres up the door; a difficult maneuver for wheelchair users. The area between the two sets of doors is done in a darker coloured tile. The tile baseboards are done in the same tile; there is no contrast colour around the perimeter of the space to indicate when a person is getting close to a wall, window or door. The foyer is carpeted in a dark carpet, no doubt to hide high traffic areas and stains. Like the space between the double set of doors, the carpet is brought up the wall to use as a baseboard, again there is no contrast to define the area. The foyer houses a hundred odd mailboxes for the residents. The boxes start 1.6 metres off the ground and are numbered by suite with the ground floor boxes at the top, the boxes are not marked in braille.

This building houses one elevator. While the buttons on the inside of the elevator are marked in braille, there is nothing on the outside to indicate it is an elevator, nor are the buttons on the outside of the elevator to request a floor change labelled. When the elevator reaches a floor a bell dings to indicate arrival, but there is no display in the car, nor is there a voice to tell you which floor you have indeed arrived on. The elevator is extremely slow moving and if the doors are held or propped open an alarm goes off and the elevator ceases to work. At this point the service centre needs to be called to ‘fix’ it. Residents have been threatened with the financial responsibility of these calls; $400 during the week, $800 weekends and statutory holidays. That aside this elevator can be booked, at a cost, for three hour blocks to move in or out. Moving without booking the elevator can result in a $500 fine. One such Monday, the elevator was booked twice, leaving the elevator unavailable for six full hours and anything above the main floor accessible only by stairwell. Neither suite doors nor doors to the stairwells are marked in braille.

The condo board of this building reinforced Tichkosky and Michalko’s (2009) discussion in their book Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader that the pervading idea in western culture that a “disability is a personal problem”. (p. 2). When the board was approached about the lack of an automatic door, the response was that it was not a pressing issue nor was it a board problem (S. Jones, personal communication, June 19, 2016).


Goldstein, J., Burt-Wintonick, M., & Duhaime, C. (Executive Producers). (2010, November 19)[Audio podcast episode]. Neighbourhood watch: Act two, baby steps (No. 420). In This American Life. WBEZ Chicago.

Titchkosky, T., & Michalko, R. (2009). Rethinking normalcy: a disability studies reader. Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Introducing Lauren Munro

Image description: Lauren, a fat white woman with long wavy brown hair is smiling with her eyes closed and head tilted slightly upward. She is wearing a leopard print sleeveless jumpsuit and a crescent moon necklace. She has on neon blue eyeliner and a ray of sun is hitting the top of her head. Various leafy green fronds crisscross the fence in the background.

Lauren Munro has been selected as the newest Limited Term Faculty (LTF) in the School of Disability Studies at X University. She recently sat down with Tiffany-Anne Stones to chat about her trajectory to Disability Studies and what she is looking forward to this year. 

While Lauren Munro may be unfamiliar to the core students within the School of Disability Studies, she has been an instructor in the department for the past two years, team teaching DST 500: A History of Madness. Lauren describes herself as “a mad scholar, an artist, an aunt, a daughter, a partner, and a friend,” prioritizing her relationships in the way she moves through the world. 

When asked about how she came to the field of disability studies, Lauren shares a bell hooks quote from Teaching to Transgress:

“I came to theory, when I was hurting, when the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend what was happening around and within me… I saw in theory then a location for healing.”

(p. 59)

Explaining how the quote “profoundly resonates with me in a kind of retrospective way,” Lauren confides that her discovery of mad studies in the early stages of her academic career – through the Mad Students Society – was a balm for the isolation and alienation she experienced related to her madness and her interactions with the psychiatric system. At the time, she was working on her undergraduate thesis in the psychology department at Laurier and decided to focus on mad students’ experiences with stigma and discrimination. She quickly realized that she “…wasn’t going to be theorizing or thinking this [topic] through in the way that psychology typically would.” This began her formal engagement with writing and theorizing in disability studies and mad studies – a passion that would continue to grow and inform her work moving forward. For graduate studies, she made her academic home in community psychology, which is an interdisciplinary field that takes a social justice-based approach to issues of community health and well-being. In addition to its social justice orientation, she was drawn to the field due to its emphasis on community-based research, compatible with the “nothing about us without us” ethos of disability activism.

Lauren has since been involved in a wide variety of projects focused on the health and well-being of 2SLGBTQ+ communities, body diversity and weight stigma, disability justice in arts-based research, transformative approaches to mental health, sexual health service access for women with psychiatric disabilities, centering service user epistemology in medical education, and issues related to sexual health and HIV vulnerability. Talking about the threads that connect her scholarship, she says her work “…interrogates the idea of there being an ideal body or mind.”

On the teaching side of things, Lauren has extensive experience in a variety of classrooms. Beyond teaching DST 500 at X University, she has taught courses on research methods and community partnerships, and how critical theories can be used to inform the development of social interventions at Laurier. She has also designed, developed, and taught a mad studies course to psychiatry residents at the University of Toronto for the past five years, alongside Lucy Costa of the Empowerment Council. She does this educational work with the goal of contributing to transformative change that tangibly benefits mad community.

I am passionate about teaching and learning and am really excited to get to know the students in the program, and to learn and work alongside them.

Reflecting on her life outside of academia, Lauren shares that part of what keeps her grounded is maintaining some sort of arts practice, whether its zine-making, mixed-media collage, gifts for her nibblings, or simply adorning her planner. Just as important has been staying connected to community, activism, and peer support outside of the confines of traditional medical and social service models. During the pandemic, her primary company has been her partner and a badly behaved cat named Stan. 

In her new position, Lauren is keen to connect with the exceptional scholars within the program. Looking ahead to the 2021/2022 academic year, Lauren will be teaching DST88 and DST99, in addition to DST500. When asked about her approach to teaching, she highlights the importance of “…making space for people who have been harmed by academia, who have been traditionally left out, or who have been taught that it is not a place where they can think, learn, and theorize.” She is looking forward to getting to know students in the program and finding ways to support them to do the kind of work they’re passionate about. While she doesn’t have a physical office at the moment, Lauren encourages students to drop by online, reach out to say hello or to share their curiosities. Acknowledging that academia can reinforce hierarchies that make it hard to send that first email, she shares her hopes around making connections, saying, “…whether it’s sending a late-night email, or really just pressing send on one you composed hours ago,” she can’t wait to hear from you!

Accessibility: Mapping a Shrinking World

Blog Post Written by recent graduate Amy Evans based on her DST 99 Thesis. 

The Coronavirus has significantly impacted the lives of individuals across the world, in more ways than one. We are each battling the pandemic in our own ways, and trying to overcome current circumstances. 

As Ontario started to close, I lost my job as a program coordinator at a recreational center that offered daily programming to adults with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. Within months of my dismissal, I was hired to work with a young woman in her home., I began to see new struggles through my job, initiated by the pandemic. 

I started documenting these new struggles and experiences at work and in turn wrote, Accessibility: Mapping a Shrinking World; an ethnographic paper addressing and outlining accessibility or lack thereof within grocery stores, shopping malls, museums, and other local amenities in the city of St. Catharines and how the pandemic has affected individuals’ access to daily programming. 

The purpose of my paper was to collect data showing what accessibility and programming were available prior to COVID 19 and the decline in accessibility during the pandemic. 

I wanted to focus my paper on a range of barriers present for individuals, not just physical barriers. How does signage, opening hours, attitudinal barriers, and lack of resources make accessibility difficult? I chose six locations within St. Catharines: Walmart, No Frills, Avondale, The Pen Centre, Landmark Cinema, and Lock Three Museum. Collecting data from a range of amenities was an important factor in analyzing whether accessibility was limited in specific industries or across the board. 

For data collection from websites, I took these locations and examined how accessibility is advertised on each of their websites before and during the pandemic. I analyzed how any original forms of access may have been lost because of the pandemic and whether new rules/restrictions were impacting accessibility.

For the second part of my data collection, I used government announcements and daily schedules from the Boys and Girls Club and in-home supports to see the changes during the pandemic. 

Image Description: A chart showing the weekly activities (Monday to Friday) at the Boys and Girls during the week of March 2nd to 6th 2020

Website Accessibility Prior to Covid-19

Based on the website data I collected, it is very evident that even prior to covid restrictions, amenities in St. Catharines were not completely accessible. 

Information on accessibility was not easy to find and links were often broken or not accessible to all. One aspect each website did very well was ensuring physical accessibility information was present on the website(s). Only the museum offered accessibility information regarding braille, text to audio options and sensory-friendly hours.

Tracing a Disappearance: Government Announcements and Regulations

I also traced the disappearance of accessibility through government announcements. 

One of my main takeaways from these announcements was how individuals with disabilities and their needs were disregarded by the government.The announcements outlined how businesses/organizations could open during the pandemic but not how stores, malls and other amenities could accommodate individuals with disabilities while open. 

St. Catharines Response to the Government Announcements

St. Catharine’s response to the announcements was disappointing and accessibility was not a priority during all of the changes. 

I followed through with my website data collection and went back to each website to see what changes had been made to accommodate the pandemic and closures. Aside from large notices of closures on each website, not much had changed. It was almost like accessibility was not impacted. 

Walmart started offering exclusive shopping hours from 7:00am – 8:00am for individuals with disabilities and the elderly to shop in a less chaotic atmosphere, but shopping malls, who were now only open for curbside pickup, did not outline how they were making their curbside accessible.  The reality of this was that Walmart offered these hours for a short period of time, then continued to advertise these exclusive hours on their website but were not honoring what was being advertised. 

So, after the numerous government announcements, what’s left?

With all the closures, it was hard to keep up with what was left. As a result of the recreational programs closing, the program that I previously worked for was forced to close and parents were left with no support for their children. 

It was at this point I started working with the young women I am now. This was a huge change. I went from a program that offered weekly swimming, a cooking program, day trips and other educational and social programs to working with an individual in their home with limited resources and being surrounded by a closed city. 

at the beginning of August 2020 closures were not as heavy, the weather was warmer and there was still the option to socialize with other households. This made working one on one new and exciting. We spent a lot of time outside in the pool, going for walks, meeting friends, with little time spent indoors. As the colder weather hit, restrictions heightened, and our schedule slowly started to decrease. 

Image Description: A chart showing a weekly schedule (Monday to Friday) of activities done between September 2020 and January 2021 in a 1 to 1 home setting.

We spent more time inside, doing puzzles, crafts and watching movies repeatedly, which became tedious. We are left with little resources to be able to make the day fun and exciting and the government has no idea what effect the pandemic is having on individuals with disabilities and their access to programming. 

Now as I finished collecting all my data and the realization of how accessibility has been affected because of the pandemic, I thought I would be surprised, but I am just disappointed. It is disheartening to see individuals with disabilities being left behind, without adequate resources.

Doug Ford stood before the public several times, addressing the struggles families were experiencing regarding childcare, but he failed to acknowledge the loss of support and resources for individuals with disabilities in most of his announcements. When individuals with disabilities were considered during government announcements and by amenities in the public, the supports and resources were lacking.

A final point I want to make is the concept of time. If we think about our everyday lives it revolves around time. We all must be at work for a certain time, attend lectures for set times, our daily schedules revolve around time. 

Time was once used to maintain order and to help provide structure. Now, time and what that means has changed significantly. With less to plan and more hours in the day consumed by less activity, we may still need to be at work by a certain time, have lunch at a certain time, but what we are doing in between these times is being filled with empty space, everyday routines have disappeared along with the accessibility I mapped throughout this project.  

Marginalized/marginalizing Community Groups in the COVID 19 Crisis

Did/How Did A Local Government Respond?

By: Lyn Callaghan

Written by recent graduate of the Disability Studies Program at X University. This post is based on her DST 99 Thesis and has been edited for length and clarity.

For this research, I decided to challenge myself to look beyond my personal world. I wanted to know more about the disability issues of Ontario’s local government. The way my city governed during the pandemic would give me insight into what matters, who matters and what my city is doing about it.

Recorded general council meetings were my main focal point. I began to watch the videos and to listen to the tones and attitudes, as well as what was and wasn’t said. 

Due to the pandemic, the meetings went virtual. Therefore, there was no opportunity for the citizens to express their concerns or needs, a fundamental component of the meeting. 

Image Description: A dark skinned wheelchair user with long hair and a beanie sits at a small table, using their laptop to participate in a video meeting. The laptop screen is shown to their right, with the call being live captioned. The main speaker is a dark skinned person wearing a hijab and glasses, and 3 other participants are at the bottom of the screen, in smaller windows. In the bottom right corner, a yellow service dog bounds towards the wheelchair user.

Only two meetings into my research, and with no real data,  I began asking if there was a disability voice or is disability completely excluded from conversations within the walls of the town hall and the minds of those that sat inside it. At this point in the pandemic, I honestly thought there would be more discussion about the pandemic’s effects on the citizens.

I expected a true concern for citizen’s well-being. This was not the case. On May 25, 2020, Kitchener requested support for a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. The letter urged the provincial government to pursue a partnership with the federal government to establish a universal basic income- resulting in positive effects, including: 

  • Reducing strain on health care and social assistance systems, 
  • Reducing poverty
  • Supporting the economy
  • Reducing crime, 
  • Reducing administrative complexity
  • Creating efficiencies for those in need. 

YES! Finally, some real discussion!! Not just about money and business but about the people and their needs. You can imagine my surprise when McCaw spoke with utter disgust. She felt that this would create a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Her biggest concern was, this universal basic income would insight many workers from work. People collecting CERB are refusing to come back to work now. She found it too politically driven and there was no way she was supporting it. It was now clear to me that the attitudes and discourses of my very own council were those of discrimination, oppression, and exclusion. McCaw being a white privileged businesswoman clearly has no understanding of the world outside her narrow-minded one. I knew going into this research that there would be signs of elitism, capitalism and colonialism. McCaw with her body language, tone and words made it clear that she was only on the council to serve like-minded citizens. 

My next encounter was found in a budget meeting. The police chief was speaking to his budget, justifying why he went over. He blamed his overspending on having to deal with individuals with mental health issues. He blamed a lack of funding, the closure of institutions and the increase of police manpower required to deal with domestic and other mental health crises within the city.

He even suggested that institutions needed to be brought back in some capacity to deal with the rising number of cases.

During discussion, Councillor Kelly expressed the concern for community safety because safety is good for business and good for tourism. Sandison suggested there is a community disengagement, wanting to see an increase in community involvement. This was the first time in five months that I witnessed a discourse centred around the citizens and what the community needed. I will point out though that he did not indicate which citizens he felt should be involved. 

At this point, I feel my council is still living in caves. They have a very medical model approach to disability and are all about intervention, rehabilitation and reinstatement. There is never any discussion of what society has done to create these vulnerabilities or what society will do to alleviate them. People with disabilities or anyone marginalized appear to be void from both governance and mindfulness of the council.  Councillor Malette expressed a need for a community forum to address what I had stumbled upon in the budget meeting. Yes, that is correct the police chief’s concerns regarding the meal health crises.

The next meeting discussed the community forum, deciding that only the concerned citizens and the professionals would be invited to take part. No mention of people in the mental health crises; no first-hand accounts. I was surprised that not a single individual on the council thought that this aspect was important.

My research project has helped answer the question of who is and isn’t visible and who is accepted to be out and about within our society right now. The mayor stated they attended to matters of the utmost importance, yet no marginalized issues made the cut. 

Image Description: Six disabled people of color smile and pose in front of a concrete wall. Five people stand in the back, with the Black woman in the center holding up a chalkboard sign reading “disabled and here.” A South Asian person in a wheelchair sits in front. Image from the Disabled and Here Project:

I conclude that municipal government is a business, an abstract concept with no lived reality. Any issues arisen are pushed off to social services, or excused due to a lack of services and/or funding. It is like a ping pong game with no tangible outcome unless the rest of its citizens are in danger. As the police report or the motion for a community forum indicates, it is clear that there is a division of abled/disabled or, more importantly, worthy/unworthy and who the council members represent.

So how does my local government respond to marginalized community groups? They treat them as outsiders, pet projects to rehabilitate and then send back out into the workforce to generate revenue. The council members use the ‘not our problem lines’ and ‘for the good of our citizens’ as rhetoric to justify and legitimize their discrimination, exclusion, and oppression. The perspective of the council members is that of ignorance. They genuinely feel that they are doing good for their citizens; however, they neglect to see that not all citizens are represented. As a result, they perpetuate the social norms rather than take the opportunity to be leaders. 

Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We condemn the Israeli state’s brutal settler colonial violence and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. We live in Canada and are painfully aware of our complicity with the settler colonial violence against Indigenous people and the continuing dispossession of their land on Turtle Island. We insist on our ethical and political responsibility to raise our voices against settler colonialism and the Canadian government’s support of Israeli apartheid. 

We condemn the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, the raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque, the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, and the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which by international law is illegally occupied territory. Israeli settlers, with the support of Israeli police and military forces, are taking over streets, invading homes, and brutalizing Palestinians. We do not subscribe to a “both sides” rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine. This is not a “conflict” that is too “controversial and complex” to assess. Israel is using violent force, punitive bureaucracy, and the legal system to expel Palestinians from their rightful homes and to remove Palestinian people from their land. Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Illegal Israeli settlements choke and police Palestinian communities, and Palestinians are cut off from each other by a network of checkpoints, laws, settler-only highways, and a separation wall that swallows illegally occupied Palestinian land. Both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid. Yet, the Canadian administration remains silent in the face of this violence, refusing to recognize Israel’s persistent violations of international laws and human rights obligations.

As scholars and solidarity workers who seek justice everywhere, we respond to the call of Palestinian feminists and Palestinian activists for transnational solidarity and assert that Palestine is a feminist, queer, and disability justice issue. Settler colonialism is the primary cause of disablement around the world. Thousands of Palestinians have become disabled from military and police violence. Furthermore, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been denied the basic requirements of life, including access to food, shelter, water, and health care. Recently, Israeli air strikes have killed Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, head of internal medicine at Shifa hospital and part of the coronavirus team, impacting Gaza’s medical capacities. We also recognize that while Israel has been celebrated globally as a leader in COVID-19 vaccinations, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been denied the vaccine. 

Lastly, we object to the curtailment of academic freedom when it comes to critiquing the apartheid State of Israel. The conflation of objections to the Israeli state’s settler colonial violence with anti-semitism is itself a violent oppressive form of censorship and an insult to our academic and moral integrity. We state unequivocally that Zionism and the state of Israel are not and should not be conflated with Judaism or Jewish identity, and foreground the critical allyship of Jewish groups including If Not Now and Independent Jewish Voices Canada. We uphold and support the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) censure of U of T following the withdrawal of a job offer to a qualified applicant who had published articles on Israeli illegal settlements, and condemn the silencing of academic voices on Palestine. 

We join a vibrant, vast, and growing international solidarity community, composed of those raising their voices in support of Palestinians right to freedom, return, safety, flourishing, and self-determination. We call on Ryerson University and our colleagues at institutions across Canada to support the boycotts, general strikes, and other calls to action organized by the Palestinian people, and to amplify the voices of Palestinians.


Members of the School of Disability Studies

Ryerson University

Paid Internship: Digital Accessibility Creation Course

Image Description: A green poster with a picture of two students looking at a computer. Both are young, east asian people with glasses. One person has long hair in a ponytail, wearing a white shirt. The other person has a blue shirt with pink headphones around their neck, and they are typing at the computer as the other person sits next to them and looks at the screen. Text to this left of this reads, "Summer course spotlight. Digital Accessibility Creation - Special Topics Disability Studies 2291B. Paid, for credit work. Internship course. Sponsor: CEWIL Canadian Government. Ryerson Contact: Tali Cherniawsky"

Dear Ryerson students,

The School of Disability Studies (DST), in partnership with King’s University College, is offering paid internships to participate in a new online course at King’s, Disability Studies 2291B – Digital Accessibility Creation

Course credit and payment:

The course will also count towards a Professional or Open Elective credit in DST, provided you have not taken your maximum DST prefix electives. For DST students, it can count towards the challenge credit exemption. The payment for taking this course will cover your tuition and offer a small stipend, so it is a free course!

Who can take this course:

We are looking for 5 Ryerson students in third and fourth year, from any faculty or department, with a minimum GPA of 3.5. We welcome all students. This project prioritizes applications from students who are disabled and other equity seeking groups, or who are parents or caregivers.  As such there are funds available for childcare and access.

About the course:

Students apply course concepts to a real-world project in collaboration with professionals working in disability, arts, and social media (at ReVision@RyersonU). Students learn key accessibility and media production tools and use them to help co-create innovative, AODA-compliant Disability Studies course materials that involve an array of digital design and research activities such as digital story-telling and community-driven podcasts. Evaluation is through Learning Journals, engagement in work and a summative report.

The course is flexible, online, and highlights work-integrated learning with a practical focus. This course might be helpful for students who are thinking about teaching or going into accessibility practices.

To apply:
Please contact Tali Cherniawsky at with your expression of interest and a statement indicating if you meet any of the priority criteria (no need to disclose which group).