All posts by rads2013

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.

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

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).