Category Archives: Disability Studies

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.

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!

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). 

Lonely Crane’s Mourning Song

Screen still from Hedy Ng's video "Lonely Crane's Mourning Song." An interior shot of a side table with a wooden top and metal legs and bars on the side is seen from the top down, at a slight angle. There are four folded white paper cranes resting on the table. The floor is brown carpet.
Image Description: Screen still from Hedy Ng’s video “Lonely Crane’s Mourning Song.” An interior shot of a side table with a wooden top and metal legs and bars on the side is seen from the top down, at a slight angle. There are four folded white paper cranes resting on the table. The floor is brown carpet.

The following is an excerpt from Hedy Ng’s DST 99 thesis work. It has been edited for clarity and length. In her words:

“I’m a little weirdo who has never belonged. The similarity of this theme of displacement has always resonated throughout the disability community. We have never really belonged. I wrote a long story about this and that is my thesis in a nutshell.”

Last year, when the global pandemic found its way to Ontario, our organization was hit really hard. Just before Easter Weekend, 2020, we went into an outbreak, and we had many front-line staff walk off the job. Only a handful of us were left to care for the residents of our facility, members of management, who all (including our executive director) took on front line roles, program staff like myself, who took on PSW roles, and a couple of PSWs. I left my autistic son in the capable hands of my aging parents and volunteered to work as a PSW on night shifts, because none of us wanted to leave our residents and our home in the hands of agency strangers. 

I actually had my tent with me and lived in an office space, serving on night shift for four weeks before I finally got sick and was sent to a hotel to recover. It was during this time I was off that I made a few videos and wrote the first couple of sections of my COVID story, trying to process my experiences. I was really sick for nearly two months, and still experience residual symptoms – COVID completely turned my world around.

That story of my experiences became the backbone of my final project. I extended my narrative to the end of 2020 and wove in disability studies commentaries throughout the paper as footnotes, where I analyze my thoughts, word choices, events, circumstances, and issues that came up. My final project became a short, critical novel. An autoethnography.

Perhaps the most meaningful outcome of writing in my journey has been to process thoughts and thought patterns, learn and understand, and begin a shift in thinking away from a purely medical-model-based type of processing. Covid and this final project changed a lot about me and my thinking: I used to be a very traditional, methods-based, give-me-an-outline-to-follow-to-complete-my-tasks-in-the-most-orthodox-fashion-imaginable person.

Many of the opportunities I have had to write more creatively in my academics, I have used to record different observations about power imbalances, oppressions, and ableism in the interactions I encounter each day (both in my work and in the larger society). In DST 99, I have finally used my writing to turn my observations inward, to myself, my thought patterns and behaviours, and my internalised ableism.

Here is one of my favourite excerpts, or a little story from my project, when I was at the hotel and feeling alone and struggling with my identity:

Over the next week, I fought with my body, desperate to be back at work. Sitting alone in the room, I felt impotent. I felt useless. I felt what I imagined wounded soldiers felt when they were sent home in the middle of a war, away from their brothers and sisters in arms. Like I was abandoning them. I felt beaten, like I had failed. I felt weak. I felt only brokenness. 

My pride was busted. My confidence was shattered. And I was intensely angry with my body – further incensed that even taking Tylenol did not always seem to help. 

I never medicated. 

I hated how long it took me to shuffle down the hall just to enjoy a few moments outside. 

I hated the short list of things I was physically allowed to do: 

Breathe. Walk. Hydrate. Sleep.

The only solace I found was that in spite of continually being told I could not quite return to work yet; I could still follow orders and not sneak in – though there was one morning I wrestled with the idea for over an hour before I convinced myself that being able to follow orders was all I had. 

I felt alone again. Alone, with my broken body that would not obey the orders my mind was giving. 

Video by Hedy Ng, titled “Lonely Crane’s Mourning Song,” music is “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.

A Black person with short, thick hair and prescription glasses sits at an organized workstation, using a magnification app to navigate a webpage. Their posture is proper and relaxed. On the desk: a computer, a mouse, a large desk lamp and a small notebook.

Mental Health ‘Talk’ on Campus

By Jeanette Korosi

The following research was conducted as part of my Final Independent Study and is the culmination of my learning from Disability Studies, but is also the launching point of a deeper interest in the construction of mental illness, specifically on post-secondary institutions.  

Mental Health and Wellness at Ryerson, the data

My data collection largely started before even solidifying a research topic.  Since being named a global pandemic in March 2020, I started to notice an endless stream of messages regarding mental health and wellness across many venues of my life.  Specifically,  I collected an overwhelming amount of communication in the form of emails, articles and workshops centered on mental health “talk” put forth by Ryerson University.  Themes began to emerge around resilience, self-care, and personal wellness.

I want to share a few poignant details from my data collection before I dive into a deeper analysis and discussion.


The first workshop I attended was called How to Help Online Learning Students Manage their Vulnerabilities and Grow their Resilience for educators.  During the workshop, the presenter said, “some students are more vulnerable, at particular points, in their journey than others, whether temporary or recurrent.”  While some may argue that it is positive that teachers recognize that vulnerabilities, including mental illness, exist within the classroom, it is important that we question how employees of post-secondary institutions are taught to respond to such vulnerabilities.  From this workshop and clearly stated within the title, the goal is to teach students to “grow their resilience.”  This narrative is woven throughout all student service provisions at post-secondary institutions.  

Risk in Vulnerability

On deeper examination, I discovered a specific policy that allows student service providers at universities to remove students from the system should they pose a potential risk.  ’Risk’ is highly interpretable and ultimately gives service providers the authority to decide what is risk, who is at risk and therefore, how to respond, whether with a psychiatric referral or more likely with removal from campus.  It also puts students in jeopardy of losing student housing, government grants, and threats of deportation if a student is removed from their studies.  

Additionally, this policy does not encourage students to seek out support when needed because there is an ever-present threat of removal from campus following a counselling appointment.  Therefore, this policy labels mental illness as problematic to the university. From this policy, it is clear that students must perform in normative ways or we will experience referrals, psychiatric intervention, and removal.  


I attended another workshop with similar messaging.  It was called Building Resilience and was part of a larger series called surviving and thriving.  One of the opening lines of the workshop can be summarized as follows: your organization wants to harness our current pressures and turn them into performance.

The presenter also said that one of the ways we can harness this pressure and turn it into performance is by building resiliency.  He offered up several ways to build resilience including eating healthy, sleeping, building relationships and building our inner skills, such as focus and awareness.  These may seem like simple, attainable suggestions, but are terribly presumptive.  During a global pandemic where many have lost their jobs, healthy foods, consistent sleep patterns and relationships are something few can access.  They are also individualistic in nature. They are framed as things we do for ourselves at no responsibility of institutions or government to support us in accessing.

These are individual solutions to community problems.

Individual Responsibility

These workshops are just two examples of the countless workshops offered over the last 8 months, many of which contain buzz words rooted in psychiatric practice such as self-care, managing stress effectively, mindfulness, achievement, goal setting, therapy, and thriving within a pandemic.  

Additionally, they all involve individual responsibility to maintain wellness and are rooted in notions of productivity.  Each workshop is offered from the standpoint that in order to produce, which is how folks are rendered valuable in our neoliberal society, one must individually overcome their personal obstacles.

This discourse is perpetuated within academia and reinforced through workshops that are embedded in both student life and curriculum.

The idea of self-care surfaces over and over again throughout these workshops and tips from weekly FCS newsletters.  The following is not exhaustive but here are a few examples: “practice self-care by going for a 10-minute walk,” “avoid burnout by ‘keeping gas in your tank’ by eating three balanced meals a day plus snacks,” “practice self-care by taking a water break after every fifty minutes of studying or classes.”

These tips may offer relief to some symptoms of distress for those who can access the tips; however, they do not address the stressors faced by students who are navigating enormous student loans in a time when students are expected to continually do and engage in more, including online workshops centred around building resilience. 

Key Takeaways

I could share much more regarding the data collection; however, I feel it important to detail some of my takeaways.

  1. The cultural behaviour of post-secondary institutions is to “treat” mental illness and distress with messages of personal care and responsibility.  In cases where individuals need support, the only options are to seek psychiatric treatment on campus.
  2. Psy-discourses maintain power within universities.  The institution remains in control of the students when service providers have the ultimate authority regarding who remains on campus and who is removed.
  3. Because students are required to register for the workshops and services listed above, an element of surveillance is at play.  When a student attends a counselling appointment, they must complete extensive paperwork, leaving a paper trail that can be used for continued surveillance of the student.
  4. Any behaviour or action that is in line with thriving, productivity, wellness, and normalcy are permitted.  Any behaviour that falls outside the perception of these words is labeled as abnormal and problematic to the structure of the university.  Therefore, when some behaviours are favoured, others are rendered problematic and therefore, made more difficult.

Moving Forward with Radical Love

Inspired by both Jenna Reid’s short documentary entitled Mad Love and a workshop hosted by Rachel Waddingham, I began looking into the concept of mutual aid as a response to mental illness and distress during the pandemic (and beyond).

I first started exploring this concept more deeply after listening to Rachel Waddingham’s workshop.  She shared an image of two hands holding onto one another with text that read “we need each other.”

It was simple yet profound.  This is because it serves as a reminder that we need each other, during the Covid-19 pandemic but also before and after.  We are interdependent on one another and our lives are made richer by community and the natural diversity of community.  This sense of community is something that is not only missing from post-secondary institutions but feels far removed from the discourses present.  

We need alternatives that reject psychiatry as the only solution for distress and look to the Mad community for examples of alternatives that are rooted in collective action and community; ones that are based on humanitarian, holistic perspectives where people are understood within the social and economic context of the society in which they live.  We need the radical love described by Jenna Reid.  We need radical love that urges us to look bigger, think bigger and abolish systems of violence, in this case, against those of us labelled with mental illness.

Rather than self-love, self-care, and personal resilience, I propose that radical love is the alternate response to Covid-19 that I have been looking for and craving.  In the current global context, radical love manifests as mutual aid and collective liberation.

My hope is that by discussing the problematic nature of mental health talk on campus, I will be more aware and well equipped to challenge and resist it myself and encourage others to do the same. 

Effects of Mandatory Online Learning on Single Parents

COVID-19, Online Learning and Impact on Single Parents  

By Pauline Wangari, January 2021. 

Image Description: A photo of a parent and their child working at a table together. The parent is covering their face with their hand, while the child is writing on a sheet of paper next to a laptop.
Source: Adobe Stock. 
Image Description: A photo of a parent and their child working at a table together. The parent is covering their face with their hand, while the child is writing on a sheet of paper next to a laptop.

This blog post was written in January 2021 during a wave of the novel Coronavirus. It has been edited for clarity and length.

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise with each passing day and so are the reported number of fatalities. More than 1.575 billion students in approximately 188 countries around the world are reported to have been affected by the closure of learning institutions due to preventive measures taken by countries against the spread of COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020). Due to isolation, the use of technology has been considered the most appropriate (if not the only) alternative to keep educational systems functional in many countries during this period. 

In this blog post, I explore the mandatory online learning which has left single parents with  impossible choices in Toronto, Canada.


The pandemic has affected all areas of life, including education. As the situation worsened, the  global lockdown culminated in a lockdown of educational institutions. This closing of schools,  colleges, and universities resulted in a stressful event for educational administration with highly  limited options.  

The closure of educational activities around the world as a result of the ongoing COVID-19  pandemic caused an unplanned shift from traditional learning to a setup that almost exclusively involves digital teaching and learning.  

Image Description: A photograph of an empty classroom with childrens art on the walls and many unoccupied desks.
Source: World Economic Forum 
Image Description: A photograph of an empty classroom with children’s art on the walls and many unoccupied desks.

Online learning has been widely promoted to replace traditional face-to-face learning during the  COVID-19 pandemic. This shift has an immediate and long-lasting effect, particularly for more vulnerable and  disadvantaged communities. In my research, most parents generally had negative beliefs about the values and benefits from online learning and preferred traditional learning in early childhood settings. They tended to resist and even reject online learning for three key reasons: the shortcomings of online learning, young children’s inadequate self-regulation, and their lack of time and professional knowledge in supporting children’s online learning. The implementation of online learning during the pandemic has been problematic and challenging for most families as they were neither trained nor ready to embrace online learning.  

Covid-19 Impact on Single Parents 

Source: Canadian Women’s Foundation  

The pandemic has intensified the economic barriers that women are already facing throughout  Canada as research suggests that pandemics can take a higher toll on women’s income as  compared to their male counterparts. 

Women constitute up to 60% of those in Canada that are “economically struggling,” meaning  that they report difficulty in affording their basic needs. Following the travel bans, layoffs have predominantly hit industries with a greater proportion of female workers. These include those in the hospitality and travel industry. In Canada, 80% of single-parent households are led by women, who are overwhelmed with  working and taking care of the children at the same time. 

Covid 19 is a disaster for feminism. Most likely, the partner who makes the least money, generally women, will absorb most of the caregiving. 

Some of the challenges single parents are facing include the following: 

1. Economic Strain  

There is an additional economic strain on single mothers in the move to online learning. Many of these parents are not able to afford the devices and internet that their children require so as to be able to participate in online classes. Some of these parents have had a change in their employment status where some were laid off and others furloughed. Without expensive high-speed internet, they simply aren’t able to support video calls on programs such as zoom.

“Classes are conducted on specific timings, so we have to be available with the internet at any cost, it’s  difficult when we have more than 2 kids at home going in the same school having classes at the same  time.” 

COVID-19 crisis has reinforced social inequality in education as represented in schools. 

2. Priorities and Balance  

Even though parents now have more time with their children, the pressure to juggle multiple  tasks is stressful. Mothers felt overwhelmed by having to help in their children’s education and at the same time manage house chores.

There is a notable struggle to balance parent employment demands and learner needs while struggling to assist multiple children in the home with learning. A lack of personal, work, and parenting balance has turned out to be overwhelming.

3. Balancing Multiple Levels of Learners in Home  

It is difficult to  balance multiple child learners in the home. As one mother described this struggle, “try to help 2 kids at once with different subjects and who are at different grades.”  

4. Insufficient Space  

Homes now have to function simultaneously as schools, offices and living space. A  single mother may not be able to afford a large apartment and may live in smaller, more affordable spaces. This has left them in a bind.  

5. Difficulties in Keeping Children On Task  

Many children are considering this time as a vacation from school, and they want  nothing to do with a normal school-like routine. Instead, they want to sleep and wake up  according to their own wish and spend the rest of the time playing video games and watching  cartoons/movies. It is difficult for many parents to keep children focused on their educational tasks, which can have repercussions on their social, educational, and physical development.

6. Disability Accommodation Challenges  

Another barrier that has been cited by single mothers was supporting disabled learners. There is a struggle to meet the disability-related needs of their children during COVID school closure. A parent of students with learning disabilities shared the following: 

“My  biggest struggles have been in working with my daughters (grades 3 and 5) who struggle with  learning disabilities (dyslexia and ADD respectively). I am not equipped to try to teach them  material and both struggle with organization and focus. This has resulted in several long days  when the guidance from their elementary school has been that work should take approximately 1  hour to complete daily. In reality a normal day is 3- 4 hour and some are 7-8” 

What then needs to be done?  

Parents, especially single parents, need the right kinds of support from teachers and schools. They need teachers and schools to realize that they are barely able to make it through each day and are doing their best to support students. Without support and even acknowledgment of their feelings, they will not be able to maintain a healthy mental and emotional status or support their children to do the same. 

This pandemic will soon pass. The true test however is how mothers, and parents in general, are able to navigate around it and help their children remain positive and healthy. This is a time for love, care and support as parents strive to help their young ones grow. 


CDC. (2020). Stress and coping. Retrieved from – ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.

Chang, G. C., & Yano, S. (2020). How are countries addressing the Covid-19 challenges  in education? A snapshot of policy measures. Retrieved from World Education Blog: addressing the-covid-19-challenges-in-education-a-snapshot-of-policy-measures/ 

Dai, D., & Lin, G. (2020). Online home study plan for postponed 2020 spring semester  during the COVID-19 epidemic: A case study of tangquan middle school in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China. Best Evidence in Chinese Education, 4(2), 543- 547. 4. Women’s Worry Work in the Covid 19 Pandemic 

Black, E. W. (2009). An evaluation of familial involvements’ influence on student  achievement in K-12 virtual schooling. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. 

Giannini, S., & Lewis, S. G. (2020). Three ways to plan for equity during the coronavirus  school closures. Retrieved from  25/three-ways-to-plan-for-equity-during-the-coronavirus-school-closures 

Hasan, S. (2020). Schools close, children free -parents face a new conundrum. Retrieved  from new-conundrum  

Jinshan, H. (2020). Parents grapple with e-learning as Chinese schools stay shut.  Retrieved from grapplewith-e-learning-as-chinese-schools-stay-shut 

Mehmish, Z. A., Ahmed, Q. A., Schlagenhauf, P., Doumbia, S., & Khan, A. (2020). No  time for dilemma: Mass gatherings must be suspended. The Lancet, 395(10231), 1191- 1192. doi: 

Curriculum Town Hall for BIPOC DST students

ID: 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.
Credit: Dana Chan for Disabled And Here. Link: Disabled And Here project page

Dear Black, Indigenous, and racialized DST students and alumni,

In an effort to be more inclusive in the curriculum we teach in the School of Disability Studies, we invite Black, Indigenous and students/alumni of colour to take part in an upcoming curriculum town hall. This town hall will take place on May 25th, from 6-8pm via Zoom. The town hall will be facilitated by a Black student, alumni, or instructor (TBA).

This town hall will facilitate a discussion of how we can better support you and your studies. 

It will be a place for you to discuss your experience as a Black, Indigenous, and racialized DST student and give us feedback on how our curriculum can better reflect Black disability, mad, and Deaf studies. We will introduce you to a new initiative led by DST’s Anti-Black Racism Committee, Black Disability and Mad Perspectives Speaker Series: An Open Educational Resource Project. Perspectives is a series of three online accessible discussions that will feature Black disabled, mad, and Deaf scholars, artists, and community activists throughout the summer. We will record these discussions and turn them into webcasts that will be used in DST classes. This project is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen and more predominantly emphasize Black disability, mad, and Deaf studies across DST curriculum.The town hall facilitator will describe this project more fully and contextualize it in the recent history of addressing racism and anti-Black racism in the School. There will be lots of time for questions. In the meantime, you can find the full project description here:

We will select the themes and the speakers for the Perspective Series with your direction. We would like your feedback as to what histories, current events, and social issues you would like to be covered through Black disability, Deaf, and mad studies perspectives in DST courses. We are also looking to you for who to feature in this speaker series.

Here are the questions you will asked at the Town Hall:

  • What have your experiences been over this past year as a BIPOC student at Ryerson? How are you feeling?
  • What barriers related to racism and ableism/saneism/audism have you encountered in the classroom:
    • From readings and lectures?
    • From class activities?
    • In the teaching method?
    • From peers?
    • From faculty?
    • In the assessments (assignments)?
    • In technology?
    • In accessibility?
    • In course management policy (e.g. academic integrity, late assignment policy, non-academic accommodations)?
  • What kind of support would be helpful to you around your student experience?
  • How can the School better support you?

*At this point we will introduce the Perspectives Speaker Series*

  • What topics related to Blackness and disability, Deafhood, and madness would you like to see explored and taught in our classrooms?
  • What are some current topics, debates, or areas of concern that should be addressed through the perspective of Black disability, Deaf, & mad studies and activism in our classrooms?
  • Who would you like to feature in this Speaker Series?
  • How would you like to participate in the Perspectives Speaker Series (e.g. as a moderator, discussant, or another role)?

This will be the beginning of the conversation. We will follow up with you as we plan the Speaker Series, taking your direction, as we promote the Series, and we hope that some of you will be involved in the Series.

There will be ASL interpretation and Open Captions. If you have any access questions or concerns, please contact Tali at

If you have any questions, please contact Eliza as the chair of the DST Anti-Black Racism Committee ( or anyone else on the committee. Eliza can put you in touch with the student/alumni representatives on the Anti-Black Racism Committee, who can answer questions as well.

Please confirm your attendance by emailing Eliza and she will email you the Zoom link ahead of the town hall.


The DST Anti-Black Racism Committee 

Idil Abdillahi

Tamika Walker

Fiona Watson

Ricky Varghese

Paris Master McRae

Esther Ignagni

Adan Jerreat-Poole

Tali Cherniawsky

Eliza Chandler

An infant/toddler changing station fastened to the wall, table portion of this station is unfolded and is suspended in the air, ready to place a child on it to be changed

The Memorable Experience

by Katrina Hill

Originally posted for the Hidden City Blog Post assignment in DST 501

It had been a long summer; a summer of changes and a summer of success.  On that last day of school in June 2017, our five-member family moved out of our home located in our rural community into a 30-foot trailer on the lake.  We were moving to the country located twenty minutes from town however first, we needed to build our home.

Hudson was four years old and would be transitioning from daycare to school.  His daycare was instrumental in his learning and care; the teachers came alongside us when he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease.  Leaving them behind was like leaving a pillow and blanket, our comfort and familiarity.  Hudson would start school in the fall.  Would he be accepted?  Would he be invited to birthday parties?  Would he die while a student at this school?

The hole was dug, walls formed, and the first nail went in on Canada Day weekend.  My husband built our home in record timing; he ensured we could be in our new and accommodating home for the fall.  Everything worked out seamlessly and on October 30th we moved into our new home, fully finished top to bottom. 

School was perfect for Hudson; he was loved, adored and all the children wanted to play with him.  My heart was filled with joy however cautiously reserved for that moment when Hudson would not be popular anymore, after all it was Junior Kindergarten.

Shawn and I believed taking the children on an adventure would be something we could all benefit from; after all, the girls hardly complained during the summer, we were busy building, planning, and finishing a home, and school had been a success so far. One of the few activities Hudson could keep his focus on was hockey, and we were ecstatic that our team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, would be playing in Ottawa.  Shawn and I booked the afternoon off on November 16th so we could take our time to drive to Ottawa, have supper, and find the best place to park.  Of course, a hockey game would not be a hockey game without the five of us wearing our Penguins jerseys in a sea of Senator fans.

Before the game started, we went down to the ice to watch the players warm up. The smile and excitement on our children’s faces made me forget that one day our life will look different. In that moment, we were the Hills on an adventure ready to catch a glimpse of ‘Syd the Kid.’ 

I left with Hudson just before the first hockey period was over; every woman knows to beat the rush and the lineup at the bathroom, you must sacrifice missing a bit of the game.  Success!  No line up!!  Hudson and I walked hand in hand while I carried his diaper bag.  I stopped and looked anxiously at the change table built for an infant and toddler in the direct line of women that were coming in behind me. The builders placed the change table on the wall in between the washroom sinks and the door. I could feel my anxiety rising. The hockey period was over, and it was getting busy in the washroom.  I lifted Hudson onto the table, and I observed the table fall further toward the ground.  I could feel the physical stress and anxiety in my body, the table that marginally fit Hudson lengthwise, now appeared to be unfit to hold Hudson’s weight.  I attempted to take my things out to change Hudson however I was worried the change table would break.  I looked around and found the accessible washroom; we went into the stall and as I shut the door, the tears fell down my cheeks.  I found his one-piece pair of pyjamas in the diaper bag and laid them on the floor and then placed Hudson on top of them.  I proceeded to change Hudson’s diaper on the floor of that bathroom stall. The anger, worry and anxiety shifted to tears of sadness, helplessness, isolation, and fear. I gathered my belongings, picked my son up off the floor and excitedly said for Hudson’s sake, “let’s go see Crosby.” 

In my mind, body, and heart, I was utterly crushed with despair. That change table told me the world around says I am defeated, unworthy, and embarrassing. It further told me that my son was not valuable enough to be a consideration in this harsh world. It was a reminder that the spaces and places I will take my son moving forward in life, as he further declines in cognition and mobility, will be conceptual ideas based on the ‘normal’ person. “Ableism is connected to all of our struggles because it undergirds notions of whose bodies are considered valuable, desirable and disposable.” (Mingus)

I returned with Hudson to our seats. He sat with a smile on his dad’s lap intently watching the hockey game I knew he would love. I bought those tickets for that exact moment for my family, for the joy of being together, and providing everyone with a memorable experience. I sat for the duration of the game with a different memorable experience.

I identified with Ryan Knighton in his podcast “Baby Steps” on This American Life when he said, “Out of her came a glee so powerful enough to start my heart again. A laugh like I’ve never heard before.” In other words, even though my son was treated unjustly and it broke my heart into further pieces, I was relieved when I saw the joy in Hudson’s face when he returned to his seat. Likewise, Ryan taking his daughter for a walk, he was surprised and relieved to hear the laughter from his daughter but the podcast ends with the SUV driver saying, “You should be careful, he said from out the window, and sped away.” This statement leaves Ryan and I both understanding that ‘at the end of the day’ disablement is still our reality.

“I imagine a world where our organizing and activism is less segregated, where our movements and communities are accessible and don’t participate in the isolation of disabled communities. I imagine places where we fight for whole and connected people, families and communities.” (Mingus)

An infant/toddler changing station fastened to the wall, table portion of this station is unfolded and is suspended in the air, ready to place a child on it to be changed
An infant/toddler changing station fastened to the wall, table portion of this station is unfolded and is suspended in the air, ready to place a child on it to be changed