Community Association for Student Support

This post was written by current student, Heather-Ann Mesquita.

graphic of words such as "ULD, solutions, teaching, learning, assistance"

As another Community Association for Student Support (CASS) group meeting is coming up this Thursday, I have been thinking more about what the hopes and plans are for the group. I am sometimes a bit overwhelmed by the amount of interest there is surrounding the group and how we are coming together. Our first ever meeting was back in November in Mississauga, and it was an amazing evening! We shared some of our frustrations, and dare I say anger, about our experiences working with professionals (teachers, administrators etc.) who are so misguided about disability and what access really looks like for students with disabilities. Some shared their experiences as a person with a disability and what it was like for them in the classroom, what access to education looked like to them and what the barriers were, both attitudinal and physical. We talked, shared, listened and once again realized that we have found solidarity in our shared experiences and desire to move forward to influence changes in attitudes, policies and practices in the schools and classrooms.

As a group, we discussed where we feel the biggest changes are needed and brainstormed ideas about how to make it happen. Boy, did we come up with some great ideas! The general agreement was that change first needs to begin at the attitudinal level – but how do you change the attitudes and perspectives of “educated” and “qualified” professionals? Well…you RE-educate them! The long and short of it is…We believe that every teacher, principal, board administrator, teaching assistant and parent (frankly, the whole world!) needs to take DST 501!

So…what do YOU think? Is bringing DST perspectives to the school boards a realistic idea? What do you think that could look like? We want to hear your thoughts on this.
(This is where I put the plug for our (very soon) upcoming CASS meeting). Very soon…like this Thursday evening (March 3rd) at 7pm here at Ryerson (SHE building room 560). Come! Bring your stories, experiences and perspectives around disability and access to education, whatever they may be. Come! Bring your ideas and your passion for equality and access for people with disabilities. You don’t need to be a TA or and EA. CASS is open for everyone who wants to become a part of the creating solutions and influencing change!

DST students this is for you!

It true! I am in my last and final course in my journey through the Disability Studies program (a shout out to all my fellow 99er’s – we’re on the home stretch!). Some time ago, I had reached a point in my learning that I began to think “Okay…I understand this – barriers, able-ism, inaccessibility, discrimination, and more. Now…how do I change it?!” I had compartmentalized my learning as it applied to my job as a TA and I now saw my work in a completely different light. I wanted to change the shape of the “box” that I worked and taught in. Actually, I wanted to take the whole stinking box apart!

As I have had the opportunity to share on a number of other occasions, I met fellow DST student who were also TA’s and EA’s,(and others who had similar experiences to mine. There were so many, in fact that I began to think “why don’t we collaborate and go at this issue together? This could be a great opportunity for us as students, to take it up and use it as practice for what we have learned in Disability Studies.”

S0…this is your official invitation! If you are still reading this blog post, and are with me in what I’ve said, than CASS can be a place for you to participate in community organizing (in whatever capacity and at whatever level you wish) and to engage your learning in a tangible way. See you Thursday everyone!

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