Category Archives: School of Disability Studies

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!

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). 

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. 

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

Welcome Dr. Idil Abdillahi, Assistant Professor at the School of Disability Studies

Image Description: A photograph of Idil taken outside in front of a building wall of cement blocks painted purple with street art of a racoon reclining on top of a car holding a bat. Idil, a Black woman, leans against this wall, one leg bent against it. She is wearing a wide brimmed black hat, large black sunglasses, dark red lipstick, gold earrings, a black dress with a ‘V’ neckline, and black shiny leggings. She has on tan heels that match a rich tan coat with her hands in the pockets.
Image Description: A photograph of Idil taken outside in front of a building wall of cement blocks painted purple with street art of a racoon reclining on top of a car holding a bat. Idil, a Black woman, leans against this wall, one leg bent against it. She is wearing a wide brimmed black hat, large black sunglasses, dark red lipstick, gold earrings, a black dress with a ‘V’ neckline, and black shiny leggings. She has on tan heels that match a rich tan coat with her hands in the pockets.

The following conversation took place in September 2020 between Amanda Lin, Student Engagement Facilitator, and Idil Abdillahi, new School of Disability Studies faculty member. It has been edited for clarity and length.

Amanda: Idil, welcome to the School of Disability Studies! Congratulations on your success and becoming the Advisor to the Dean on Anti-Black Racism in the Faculty of Community Services. I’m super excited to get the opportunity to interview you and introduce your work to our students, alumni, and readers. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life.

Idil: Thank you, I used to work in the School of Social work and now work at the School of Disability Studies. I am cross-appointed in Social Work but my ‘home’ is here in Disability Studies.

To introduce my work to students, I would like to say that I have always been part of a care community and that this community is very important to me. I have been a practitioner and a person who works and supports people for almost two decades. This work has been in a wide range of services and supports, including hospitals and larger carceral institutions around ‘care’. Furthermore, my work is and has always been located in grassroots activism.

Over the years I’ve worked extensively with mad identified people, primarily in the carceral system. I come to Disability Studies with a particular kind of expertise around understanding the Ontario Review board, issues around the title of Not Criminally Responsible, and discourses in both criminality and madness. In particular, I’m interested in the ways in which these systems are deployed against Black people, either by overuse or abusive-use.

Amanda: I think you’ve touched a little bit on this, what led you to your academic work? And can you tell us a little bit about your academic journey or background that led you to disability studies?

Idil: While I continue to develop a background in socio-legal knowledge, I am interested in legal issues for mad identified people as they pertain to sentencing, the securitization, and the ‘management’ of mad identified people within institutions. I want to pay particular attention to the way these issues affect the people who we do not see, the people that are left behind and locked away, who activism and activists cannot readily access unless you are within those systems.

My journey to disability studies does not begin in the context of the academy. For many of us who are on the peripheries of formal education, we do not come to these places by just learning about them. We actually come to them by virtue of something else, that has been lived through, known. Oftentimes, we are already doing the work but just need that piece of paper to be really clear. I come to the university by virtue of the realities of BlackLife, one word, not two, [laughs] my BlackLife and that of others, who I’ve had the privilege of living and being alongside.

Editor’s note: In their book BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom, Idil and Rinaldo Walcott define the term BlackLife as words necessarily joined, saying “living Black makes BlackLife inextricable from the mark of its flesh, both historically and in our current time.”

Disability studies cannot be separated from BlackLife in my work. I’m a Black Canadian studies scholar and being a Black Canadian scholar ultimately is a direct challenge to ideas of discipline rigidity. My writing and research is not just within social work or disability studies because BlackLife cannot be contained within any one discipline. BlackLife happens everywhere and all the time and part of my work is challenging discipline rigidity in these fields [while some white mad scholars want to debate this].

Therefore, I do the broad work of Black Canadian studies and within that work there are multiple prongs including disability studies, policy, and issues around the sociopolitical legal system, women, systems, and institutions. Even some of my writing work, where I am starting to write about art, television, and music, is within Black studies. This is to say that as a Black scholar, I entered disability studies by understanding the ways in which disability has been mapped onto Black people and ‘bodies’, regardless of formalized ideas of being disabled.

Ultimately, I come to disability studies with a commitment to the freedom of all of us. I also came to disability studies by way of interacting with my colleagues in the School of Disability Studies working at Ryerson (DST). I have been observing the scholarship of Eliza [Chandler] and Esther [Ignagni], and the work of several of our staff and postdocs, for some time. I felt an alignment in seeing and interacting with the School. Over the last few years, through interacting and getting to know the people working in DST, I felt a real value for the scholarship and activism I was creating within my previous School of Social Work. More so, DST does not just visibilize the importance and worthiness of my scholarship but provides tangible support by examining its meaning in their own work. From my perspective, the people at DST are interested in doing this work alongside me.

Amanda: My understanding is that you are one of the founders of the Black Legal Action Centre, can you tell us about your work there? And can you tell us a bit about your podcast work?

Idil: Yes. I am one of the founding members of the Black Legal Action Centre, the only legal clinic in Canada that works and focuses on the issues of Black people, specifically issues of anti-Black racism in the context of larger policy related cases.

As for podcasts, a colleague, Prof. El Jones, and I developed a series during Covid called No Life Left Behind. This podcast, like anything else I do, was born out of a gap. In my ‘work’ with lifers in prison, many of us across the country were doing advocacy at the provincial level around releasing incarcerated people during Covid. The podcast is attempting to complicate questions around abolition and defunding. All of the podcasts were co-hosted by lifers who participated along with academics, activists, scholars, and researchers across Canada.

Amanda: How are you going to bring all this work to your new role as the Advisor to the Dean on Anti-Black Racism?

Idil: [laughs] It’s not lost on me that institutions often have neoliberal responses to sociopolitical circumstances and/or often to critique. I need to be able to name that while also being excited and looking forward to this new role. However, people have to understand the limitations of it, as a one-year contract position. Given the mechanics of the way the academy, or any institution, works, we all have to be realistic about what can be expected and accomplished in a one-year period of time. In terms of what it means to be an ‘advisor,’ I am not changing anything about what I was doing prior to this role. I will continue to be the person I was before and have the same investments towards BlackLife and freedom. This role doesn’t change my commitments, the person that I am, my comportment, or the way in which I challenge the institution. Perhaps, all it does is acknowledge my time for doing this work and all the suffering that I endured and continue to endure as a result of this role.

Part of my role within the next year is to support and challenge FCS in their anti-Black racism work. I’m not and have never been known to be a quiet person or a person who is afraid. I believe that some of our most meaningful changes and relationship building can come out of conflict.

I think that part of what this new role offers are possibilities for particular kinds of access for students, faculty (who decide to participate), and for FCS to make relationships with community members. Now that Dean Barnoff has announced she will no longer be dean moving forward, my hope is that this work continues regardless of who is in that role. As such, a part of this work is to register my concern around the lack of sustainability for this advisor role. I implore FCS and the institution to think about what this lack of sustainability means for completing the current FCS action plan, and how that work should not end with the tenure of Dean Barnoff.

Another important aspect of being Advisor to the Dean on Anti-Black Racism is to be clear that Black studies is not specific to a discipline. Issues of Blackness and race cut across disciplines, and we need this scholarship to be able to do this work. In Black studies, we are creating the ways in which having an analysis around Blackness, anti-Blackness, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and every other form of interruption can create possibilities. These learnings enrich our classrooms and the social world through our graduating students. They have not only had an excellent experience within the institution but have learned the critical content that is required to make shifts within their respective fields of the nine schools in FCS.

Amanda: Can you tell us about some of your interests and inspiration?

Idil: I am hugely into TV and pop culture. I watch horrible stuff and I love it. I am interested in writing about ideas of ‘reality’ in reality television and the ways in which we engage ‘reality’ in the context of surveillance. In particular, I want to examine how surveillance and its interactions with lust, desire, relationships, Blackness, and queerness are all taken up in these contexts.

I am a big music fan, and I love old school R&B and hip hop. I am also inspired by many Black Canadian artists who are doing amazing work.

A colleague of ours at Ryerson, Prof. Abdi Osman, creates work that is phenomenally reflective of my own kind of living, personhood, and aesthetic around Black Queer Muslims.

Abdi Osman’s website and twitter.

[In September 2020], a song just came out by Toronto-based artist, Mustafa, called Air Force.  Mustafa is an artist and public intellectual who creates radical music of love that centers a Black critical Muslim perspective.

Mustafa’s twitter and instagram, and his new song, Ali.

I also want to draw attention to another young Black woman, Farxiyo Jama. She uses her radical artist practice and work around mental health to center Black women. I continually learn from her courage and creativity.

Farxiyo Jama’s twitter and instagram.

Eliza Chandler, a white disabled woman with short brown hair, sits smiling, looking down at a laptop on a table, holding a microphone. She appears to be in a classroom with people out of focus in the foreground.

Catching up with Dr. Eliza Chandler

The following interview took place between Amanda Lin and Eliza Chandler in September 2020. It has been edited for length and clarity. The interview begins with a discussion of Eliza’s newly awarded SSHRC grant on accessibility in the arts and then we get to hear about her recent Royal Society of Canada appointment.

Researching Accessibility in the Arts

Eliza: Yes, absolutely. The question we’re asking is how does access change, specifically in the arts, when we start with the expertise, experience and politics of disabled people? 

It’s wonderful to see so many arts organizations begin their journey towards making their programing accessible and showcasing disability artists. But for all kinds of reasons, the ways that organizations approach accessibility is through what we so often refer to in disability studies and activism, as a checkbox approach of, ‘ok the show’s in two days, what ASL interpreter is available?’ Increasingly, what we’ve heard from the crip communities of artists and arts audiences is that this approach does not work and that there is knowledge in the disability, Deaf, and mad community that is not being resourced. 

“how does access change, specifically in the arts, when we start with the expertise, experience and politics of disabled people?”

I did a series of mini-consultations before putting together the grant and we heard a sort-of annoyance, for lack of a better word, or curiosity perhaps, at how arts organizations put together their access plans. Oftentimes they invest a lot of resources and work with skilled access providers. But still, their access plans aren’t as effective as they could be. For example, there might be a whole theatre festival of programming and only one play on one night has ASL interpretation. Respondents considered that it might be too costly to have ASL interpretation for every event but questioned why non-disabled theatre producers are choosing which show becomes interpreted, when that show is, and who the interpreters are? So, in this example, working with Deaf people to design your access would be really beneficial. They can create a team of skilled ASL interpreters, make sure the interpreters have the script well in advance to properly rehearse, consult with the Deaf community to choose a particular play of interest, and ensure that the performance date and time doesn’t conflict with another (or many other) Deaf and/or ASL-interpreted cultural events. This narrative highlighted for me that when you have Deaf, mad and disabled people creating and enacting access plans, you arrive at different, more effective, practices. 

In another consultation, Alex Balmer, a blind theatre artist, talked about how, for her, wanting to go to theatre shows might require someone to come to pick her up at her house and bring her to the show. We’ve heard similar what we might call ‘access dreams’ from other people that might be unfamiliar with theatre culture. For those people, someone accompanying them to the theatre can then help them navigate those awkward moments in between arriving at the theatre and waiting for the show to start. I think it can be ableist to assume that everyone can easily navigate social spaces, that they know where to hang up their coat, who to chit chat with, and all the rest.

Inspired by these consults, this project is interested in how access practices change when they centre disabled people and politics. This grant will work with people from our Deaf, mad and disability communities in co-design workshops focused on developing practices for putting together access plans around what we might call ‘crip cultural practices. We are also trying to figure out how to put in place accreditation so that participants receive a certificate upon completing these workshops demonstrating that they are trained in disability-centered designs for accessibility. Our hope is that such an accreditation will be useful in finding employment opportunities to do this work across the arts and cultural sector. 

Amanda: Who are your partners in this grant?

Eliza: Creative User Projects, a disability arts community organization with whom I work quite closely. Creative Users has started a new digital strategy project wherein they are building a digital platform, a website, called Accessing the Arts. This website will connect people from disability, mad, and Deaf communities with calls for participation, training, and networking opportunities, and accessible arts and culture events in Canada. Right now they are piloting this project through their Connector weekly listserv. This is my go-to source for all things disability arts and culture. I’d encourage everyone to sign up through this link!

The work that Creative Users is doing shows how important communication is to the effectiveness of accessibility and access plans. For example, if you’re a blind person and there is offered audio description at a theatre performance, you might not find out about this event because of the theatre company’s historic lack of accessible practices; it might not be part of your weekly routine to check their listings. Creative Users bridges connections between disability, Deaf, and mad communities and creative opportunities through newsletters and online communities, like their new project, Network Connector, and eventually the Accessing the Arts website and search engine. In attending to their community consultations that inform their work, I’ve noticed that there are so many other access practices that Deaf, disabled, and mad people are imagining that organizations aren’t considering.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the ways we are trying to bridge this gap is by training Deaf, mad, and disabled people in creative, diverse, and non-conventional access practices, and then have this group of access facilitators partner with organizations to program a festival. We can then show other festivals and art galleries that this is what access can look like when you work with disabled people.

The other part of this project would be to work with lots of different disabled people as event participants, including DST students if anyone is interested. In this role, you would attend some of the events for which our project has created an access plan (likely via Zoom) and then attend a focus group wherein you would give feedback on your experience. You don’t have to be an artist to participate, you can simply be interested in attending art events. 

Royal Society of Canada Appointment

Amanda: That’s amazing! This is going to be a really great opportunity for a shift in thinking. I also want to congratulate you on being named a member of the 2020 class for the college of new scholars, artists, and scientists by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). I’m super excited to learn about what that means.

Eliza: Thank you. I, myself, am just getting acquainted with what it means. I’ve just started reading about the history of the RSC. It’s quite an old organization; it was started in the 1870s under the leadership of the Governor General of Canada. The RSC was established to formalize a relationship with the academy and social issues and current debates. This relationship is an effort towards public scholarship, which is something we’ve long cultivated in the School of Disability Studies. It’s interesting to think about how public scholarship is shaped by whoever is leading the initiatives. For a long time, like most academic institutions, there wasn’t much diversity in who was leading the charge at the RSC, which shaped the kind of public scholarship that the organization produced. I think the RSC is currently reckoning and reconciling with the role the  organization played in perpetuating inequity – again, like a lot of academic organizations are now doing. For example, in 2017, the RSC established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force to respond to the TRC’s call for institutions to “examine the RSC’s historical role in the Indian Residential School System and academia’s larger role in the marginalization of Indigenous knowledge.” And the establishment of the RSC’s College of New Scholars, which I’ve just been inducted into, is part of the organization’s effort to bring new people to the table, so to speak; people who haven’t been recognized by these kinds of scholarly institutions, historically. I think the hope is that by continuing to induct scholars that represent a range of disciplines, methodologies, and communities will change the kind of public scholarship the RSC can produce.

You have to propose what public issues you might engage with when you apply for RSC membership because they’re very clear that it’s not simply an honorary nomination and title. It’s a working body, it’s a working institution. I proposed to think about the implications of the first federal accessibility legislation, the Accessible Canada Act, for higher education. I think it might be an interesting case study for members of the College to think about and to evaluate, particularly in regards to disabled, mad, Deaf students and students with accessibility barriers, as well as faculty and staff. How does it change experiences for everyone at the university? 

You can meet Eliza in classes DST 508 and DST 501!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda: What led you to Disability Studies?

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

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

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

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

Amanda: What is your academic background?

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

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

So I turned to cultural studies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity and care,


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