This was in written by alumnae Carling Barry-Spicer and the members of Sol Express.
For over 35 years, L’Arche Toronto has provided support to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in regard to daily living, employment, and community participation as well as Sol Express.
Sol Express is a day program that is open to committed individuals who have been labeled with a developmental disability and love to perform. The group meets twice a week to develop skills, and explore the creative process which results in original works in front of various audiences. Sol Express involves music, movement, dance, arts & crafts, theatre games and story development.
Last year at the Toronto Fringe Festival Sol Express put on a play called Seasons. In Seasons, Sol Express performers explored life through the lens of the four seasons as well as the seasons in our lives (the changes we go through) in a one hour play full of movements, dance, music, poetry, film, as well as a funny clowning piece. Seasons was a great success with almost every show sold out. Audiences loved it and felt greatly entertained.
Sol Express is performing another play this year at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The play is called “Birds Make Me Think About Freedom”. The play reflects on our humanity inspired by the stories of people institutionalized for being labeled with developmental disabilities, their families, and friends. The play goes to dark places by touching on sensitive material regarding institutional mistreatment of individuals with developmental disabilities. However, it doesn’t end there as it delves into thoughts and discussion on freedom, hope, choice and living on our own.
Birds Make Me Think About Freedom was created by L’Arche Toronto’s Sol Express, in collaboration with Victoria Freeman, and their team of supporting artists: Angela Blumberg, Natalie Breton, Madeleine Brown, Katherine Duncanson, Carrie Hage, Ruth Howard, David Rawlins and Lieke van der Voort. The play is in consultation with their project’s survivor consultants.
Sol Express Performers are R. Boardman, Robert Gray, Nicholas Herd, Nafiz Ismail, Agnes Kenny, Michael Liu, Melissa Marshall, Irene Pollock, Andreas Prinz, Matt Rawlins, Kevin Schmidt, Cheryl Zinyk. Volunteer performers are Carling Barry-Spicer, Fiona Strachan, Madeline Burghardt and Joan Curran.
Dates & Times of Performance
Friday 6th July 6:30pm-7:30pm
Saturday 7th July 7:00pm-8:00pm
Sunday 8th July 3:15pm-4:15pm
Tuesday 10th July 1:00pm-2:00pm
Friday 13th July 6:15pm-7:15pm
Saturday 14th July 5:45pm-6:45pm
Sunday 15th July 3:30pm-4:30pm
Information on Theatre and Accessible Performances
The Al Green Theatre is located at 750 Spadina Ave in Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2J2. The Theatre holds 215 people. Al Green Theatre is barrier-free. Only certain building entrances are wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in front of the front row, and may have poor sightlines for certain productions. Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
The Accessible Performances are as follows:
Friday, July 6th,6:30 pm – Open Audio Description
Sunday, July 8, 3:15 pm – Relaxed performance
Tuesday, July 10, 1:00 pm – ASL & Relaxed performance
Friday, July 13, 6:15 pm – Open Audio Description
Sunday, July 15, 3:30 pm – ASL
The Touch tour table is available 30 minutes before all performances. Tactile Audio Display (TAD) seating is available at all performances from July 8th to 15th. Seating can be reserved through the box office. For more information on accessibility please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
My career path has taken many twists and turns to get to where I am today. 8 years ago I was faced with the most important decision of my career, and it set the tone for every decision that I made after that. I had been working in service delivery of developmental services for over 5 years. I had always envisioned myself working up through the ranks to senior management, but over time I began to see that while I was happy in the roles I held and committed to them, I couldn’t knock the feeling that there was something very different out there for me.
It was humbling and soul-baring, but I had to be open to the fact that the career path I had been focused on for so many years was not the right fit for me. The culture wasn’t right, the role wasn’t right, and the leveraging of several skills was missing. I wasn’t using my strengths to live my best me, I was only living part of me.
While completing my BA in Disability Studies, I became aware that I was equally as inspired by the content of my Minor in Organizational Leadership (business acumen, communications, change management, organizational behavior) as I was by the content in my core courses. It was this balance that helped me to open myself up and see what my true calling could be.
I pivoted dramatically into the broader non-profit sector (an organization that provided integrated summer camp opportunities for children from low-income families) and entered into a place of reflection. From that point forward every time I moved on from a job I spent a lot of time thinking about the role and how to pick an even better fit next time…what I liked and what I didn’t, which skills I used and which ones I didn’t (and was I okay about the ones that I didn’t get to use), in which areas did I underperform (and are they areas that I can and should improve in or inherent weaknesses).
My advice? Reflect on every aspect of every job. If you’re not happy then don’t settle. Figure out what isn’t working for you and what is, be fearless, and try again. Sometimes it means changing roles, functional areas, organizations, or pivoting into a different sub-sector or career path altogether. When I found the courage to do this, I found my passion, I began tapping into my true strengths, I discovered what I really wanted, and I realized a life where my career is a source of incredible joy, personal growth, and reward.
I spent time identifying my core wants in a job. Over the years I have identified these 6 core wants:
A team of people that are enthusiastic, passionate, and ambitious.
An opportunity to create change.
A role that is dynamic.
Flexibility to work when my mind is buzzing the most.
A job that is results-oriented.
Intense challenge (I enjoy jobs that get so hard that it makes me question if I can do it, makes me problem solve, and forces me into a place of discomfort and uncertainty so that I can learn the most).
Focusing on these 6 things I have spent the past 8 years working for organizations in roles such as Director of Development, Interim Executive Director, National Program Manager, and Projects Leader, and have loved every position I’ve held. I’ve loved different things about them, and not every job ticks every one of my 6 boxes, but I’ve always weighed out fulfillment and compromise in each of these core areas.
A lot of people comment on how unique my career path has been. Unique in that I started in direct service, pivoted significantly, and then carved out a path equally across leadership, strategic growth, fund development, and program/project management. I attribute the windy road that still appears continuous to one thing: strategy. I strategically pursued positions in several functional areas of non-profit organizations in order to position myself well for leadership. I developed skills in financial management, team management, project acquisition, risk management, program management, communications, stakeholder relations, and fund development. Although the path looks windy, I find employers are able to see exactly what I was doing and pinpoint my strategy.
Strategy. Everything I do in life I try to do strategically. Every role I’ve taken I’ve considered the 6 points I discussed above, and then considered one big question. Which of the following things will I gain from this role?
Will it get me towards my goal?
What skills or lessons will I learn from this role?
What relationships will I form in this role?
Will I gain credibility in this role?
How will my next employer perceive this role?
Sometimes in sectors that focus on soft skills, strategy can be a dirty word. As if strategizing in your career is too contrived, but strategy is how vision is realized. Organizations don’t just happen upon success, they strategize to get there and careers require the same type of focus and strategy. The focus can pivot, and the strategy can be adaptive, but I believe that having a goal in mind and strategizing towards that goal is very helpful. It doesn’t make any one experience less authentic or sincere. Each of my roles have been pursued at the most visceral level because my gut told me that I was meant to take them on, but I consider strategy as well.
Here are a few strategic tips and tricks on job applications:
Pursue activities that align with your field of interest. Every element of your resume and cover letter that focuses on your field of interest demonstrates your commitment, peripheral skills, and understanding. If you want to pursue a sector that you don’t currently work in, then use the skills you have to volunteer in that sector, or try to work with the same target population.
Be sincere and invest yourself. Take the time to invest yourself in every prospective role. Don’t send out the same resume for jobs across multiple focus areas. It’s not a numbers game; it’s quality over quantity. Print out the job posting, highlight and chart every single skill, aptitude, experience, or asset that they are looking for and then write a cover letter that hits every single item in the posting. This is strategic in two ways, 1) if they’re using a digital application scanner then you’ve hit the key words necessary to get an interview, and 2) you are positioning yourself as someone who checks every box. Take the time to speak directly to the employer or recruiter in a sincere way. Position job experience, skills, and lived-experience to hit all of their points. No deposit, no return.
Articulate your passion. If you work in a field that is rooted in positive social change and you write a cover letter that in no way summarizes why you are compelled by the work of the organization, how their mission aligns with your values, and why you would be committed to them, then you are missing out on a key piece they are looking for. This should be covered in one of your initial paragraphs.
Have several variations of every resume. Every resume you send should be uniquely positioned for the job. You should have at least 2-5 resume variations that focus on core skill sets or are catered to specific sub-sectors or roles. Everything in the resume from the upfront profile, and skill sets to the detailed information in each of your former jobs, should all be tailored to the job you’re applying for.
Sell transferable skills. Every job you do is somehow connected to a job that you want to do. Think about the job you’re applying for and then think about how you can position your experience in a way that highlights the skills that they’re looking for. So much of application writing is actually just focusing on the right experiences. Be confident. You’re not suggesting that maybe your experience might sort have prepare you for a different role; you know with every fiber of your being that you are the best candidate for the job because your previous experience has provided you with a unique perspective on the role.
Highlight your strengths and acknowledge your gaps with transferrable skills. This is a big one. Sell your strengths hard, but don’t skip over the skillsets and experience that you don’t have. This will only make them jump out more at the person reviewing your application. It will be flagged that you are not only missing the skills but don’t understand what the job takes. Instead write about how a transferrable skill prepares you for that part of the job. Never start a sentence with “I don’t have experience in that but…” Instead position it in a positive light; “I am confident in my ability to complete XYZ because I have experience in XYZ. This experience has provided me with the foundational knowledge required to take on this aspect of the role”. Spell out the transferability for them if you need to.
Be confident. When it comes time to interview, focus on skills such as confidence, presentation, and a good handshake. These go a long way. I don’t see confidence as a way of being; I see it as a skillset that you develop. Confidence is more about instilling trust and calm in people than it is about your own self-concept (your belief in your ability to do the job). Practice your tone of voice, word choice, and body language. The goal of displaying confidence is to put the person hiring at ease; to have them feel secure, trusting, and calm in your presence because they believe in you. In fact it can be a beautiful cycle…you feel a bit unsure because you want to take on this big challenge, you demonstrate confidence in the interview, they trust you, they hire you, their confidence in you improves your self-concept and voila, good things are happening!
One tends to make a few general realizations, especially when considering higher education. First, life always takes you on a journey. Second, having direction within your life journey is not only a unique gift, but is the difference between having the time of your life verses just ‘getting by.’ The perfect motif for this idea is that of this blog’s title, Vision, Passion, Action. That is to say, if you possess, and can allow yourself to appreciate, your own unquenchable thirst to learn from life, in all of its numerous forms (Vision), and your educational opportunities and situations allow you to match and realize your goals (Passion), then conceivably your life while completing these goals (Action) may offer you a more meaningful and enjoyable experience. So yes, you can do it, and yes you can have the time of your life (while getting paid! …very little).
However, there are a few conditions—what works for one may not work for the other, and if what is stated here does not resonate with you, then this information may not be as useful to you. For example, we all have different interests, goals, and means’ to accomplish those goals. Essentially, if you can easily work out the logistics of doing graduate work (MA or PhD), then for you it may simply be a choice of either going or not going. However, this post was written specifically for those potential graduate students in Disability Studies or Mad Studies who find themselves face-to-face with challenging obstacles (perhaps facing resistance from family, friends, culture, socio-economic situation, etc.). For people living in precarious environments, graduate school may seem out of reach, even though it may not be that far out of reach. When considering graduate school, I have found the following three overlapping considerations (and series of questions, comments) to be helpful, based on the DST’s blogs maxim, Vision, Passion, Action!
Is there an issue or topic that is thematic within your life that you would love to research full-time for the rest of your life? Do you possess a burning desire to explore a set of thoughts, assumptions and/or phenomenon? Do you think, somewhat obsessively, about how you would carry out your own unique style and type of research projects(s)? If so, please proceed to the next section….
What is that you have always wanted to research with almost full autonomy? Do you find yourself thinking that a Disability or Mad studies framework could provide you with a set of (almost) perfect models upon which to help you realize your research goals (…with a little tweaking)? Do you find the thought of doing an MA or PhD alluring, yet also a tad stress-inducing? If so, please proceed to the next section….
The above questions are important to keep in mind, but are, for the most part, not really much more than a thought experiment. Unless one actually throws their hat into the ring, so to speak, one will never realize their own Vision and Passion. Action is the doing part; but Action may also include not doing. In this case, I mean that it is perfectly acceptable to simply apply to an MA or PhD program (that resonates with you), which you may actually end up turning down. I said and I did just that. In my case, I just wanted to see if I would get accepted (NB: each program application can cost upwards of $200 CAD). However, I found that, after the shock of being accepted into York University’s Critical Disability Studies PhD program (the only one I applied to), I might actually be able to do my own PhD! Why not? I was accepted, was I not? So, while I continue to feel like an imposter within ‘the academy,’ I have come to realize that I may just simply be where I am supposed to be in life. It was under these sets of assumptions (as informed by reflection, information gathering, and careful assessment of resources and family connections) that I finally made my decision to follow the path before me.
Aside from your exploration of all other practical considerations, the above questions and ponderings may help you to make an informed decision about whether or not to do your graduate work. So, if you have a burning desire to learn about social issues that focus on inequality, social justice, or anything in between, then doing focused graduate/post-graduate work may be the vocation for you.
I wish you all the best, and urge you not to limit yourself. If you are careful, and have the desire to learn (to live in your head a bit more than you did yesterday) then you may be ready to (gradually and gently) commit to graduate school. If the above information resonates with you, perhaps it is time to speak with one or two of your favorite faculty members, friends and family about the process (for me it was Kathryn, Rachel, Tobin, and my friend Russell from York U’s, PhD program). These teachers have supported me, and I am very fond of them. Such teachers will mentor you through your academic career, if you can open yourself to their wisdom and guidance. The last piece of advice I can offer you is about people: Pay-it-forward is always a good motto to follow in graduate school. As professional teachers, you will both teach and be taught. Final words of advice: be informed within y/our own VPA (whatever that means to you), and simply be there, open to the experience and your potential.
I wish you the best of luck on your next great life adventure!
This post was written by graduate, Brittney Van Beilen.
Throughout my last year in the disability studies program I didn’t quite feel ready to leave my studies behind just yet, so I decided I would pursue a Master’s degree. I did some research online to find a program that would suit my needs and allow me to continue to engage in disability studies enquiry. The Social Justice Education program at University of Toronto – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) seemed to be the perfect fit, so I went to an Open House that was held at the OISE library. There I was able to meet some of the professors, hear testimonials of current and past students, and learn more about the courses offered. It wasn’t long after that I made my decision to apply.
I began preparing my application in late fall of my final year. As part of the admissions requirements, I had to write a 2-3 page statement of academic and professional intent relevant to Social Justice Education and list one or more faculty member/s whose work is relevant to my interests and concerns I was also required to obtain two letters of reference – one academic and one professional, provide a resume, transcripts from previously attended post-secondary institutions, and provide a sample of written work related to social justice education. For this, I had many options thanks to the coursework and experience from the Disability Studies Program. Once I had all the required documents, I was able to easily apply online via OISE’s admissions application. I have to admit, it was quite a busy and stressful time, and as daunting a task it seemed to be, it was all worth it in the end. My advice for applying to grad school is to do a lot of research to find out what programs are available, which ones will work for you in terms of delivery and timing, which ones match your interests, goals and lifestyle, what the admissions requirements are, what types of courses are offered, when they’re offered, who the faculty is and who you might want to work with (especially if you plan to pursue an MA).
The Social Justice Education department offers both MA (Master of Arts) and MEd (Master of Education) degree options and students may choose to study full time or part time. This was one of the aspects that drew me to the program. It was a nice transition from the Disability Studies program, allowing me to continue to work full-time while pursuing my education part time. The MA requires less coursework but students write a thesis – something graduates of the Disability Studies program are well-equipped to do after completing the capstone project. MEd students complete more coursework but do not write a thesis. The Social Justice Education program offers studies in education, with a focus on equity and social justice from various perspectives such as history, philosophy, sociology and political science. Students are encouraged to focus their studies on one area or discipline as courses are offered in a variety of studies and I am focusing on disability studies. The Disability studies program at Ryerson helped me to think critically about my role within a “helping profession” and to consider the power relations at play that work to individualize and pathologize disability. It taught me to analyze and critique the social, cultural and political aspects of disability, giving me a solid critical framework to move forward with and at OISE I feel like I’ve picked up right where I left off at Ryerson.
This post was written by alumnus Scott Allan White, PhD(c), OCT, Reg. Psychotherapist.
On my own path toward a PhD Critical Disability Studies at York University, I made several ports-of-call along the way. I was a part of the Gay Purge from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1991 and began looking into different colleges and universities at that time. I set my sights on Loyalist College which had just opened up a new student residence and entered the School of Human Studies in 1992. I served on the DSW Program Advisory Committee at Loyalist for two years, as a Don in the residence and worked as a tutor through Student Counselling Services. When Ryerson started a Disability Studies Program in 1999 I came onboard and was excited to be a part of this new beginning in the Faculty of Community Services. I served as a representative on the Search Committee for the School of Disability Studies first faculty member and Director, and was later a recipient of the Bill and Lucille Owen Award in Public Policy. Over time, I’ve worked for a number of Toronto non-profits including Community Living, LOFT, Cota, the AIDS Committee of Toronto and with Canada’s National Ballet School. While at NBS I worked primarily with the Junior Boys at the school and decided I’d be thrilled to train as a Primary Junior Elementary School Teacher. I returned to studies and attended OISE at the University of Toronto to complete a Bachelor of Education in Social Justice Education. After my training at OISE I worked in a role as a workshop facilitator with Neighbourhood Link where I started my Master of Education part-time while also working on my competencies for registration with the newly forming College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).
I’ve prioritized my studies over some work options, but I’ve also enjoyed the work opportunities I’ve come by and tried to happily transition moment to moment with my own dreams in mind. At the heart of the issue was always my own vision and mission for the work and social justice issues I felt personally connected to as a human being. While I’ve certified myself in a number of areas including CBT, ABI and in CAM therapies, my general professional approach to counselling has always been holistic in nature. I connect well to the post-modern, holistic, vitalist and emancipatory politics of both study and work. More often than not, if the work isn’t connected to something philosophically and ethically grounded I feel the earth shifting and the arc of my own trajectory leaning in new directions. I’m more committed to causes and people than the places and bureaucracies and happy say, that’s worked out great! I’m not sure I’d have instrumental advice to provide others, but simply to say follow your heart and reason and you rarely go wrong.
My own journey has taken me from place to place and I’ve learned a lot about human nature and human services that I hope to connect to my current work in academia. I’m now pursing a PhD at York University in Critical Disability Studies in the Faculty of Health and work as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Equity Studies. I’ve committed myself to a number of initiatives at the school, including work on the Critical Disability Studies Student Association Executive Committee, as a representative on the Faculty Committee and I’m currently serving on the 2018 CDS Admissions Committee. I’ve allotted a bit of time to also work with the Board of Directors of AccessTO, a non-profit devoted to highlighting accessibility in the City of Toronto. A work life balance would be impossible without a healthy sleep and gym routine, and maintaining good relationships with others – so I’ve tried to keep these in my wheelhouse along the way. If I had a motto, it’d be something about keeping busy and lending a helping hand.
No successful journey is without advocates and people who can say a few kind words about you, about your level of commitment, focus and energy. It’s important to keep people close who can help you navigate the waters.
This post was written by current student Ryan McInally.
I remember June as an extremely stressful time in my life. In previous years working as an Educational Resource Facilitator, the end of the term was a time to reflect, organize and prepare as a team for the following year. This year as a teaching assistant was different. Instead of coming together as a department, I reflected alone while scraping gum off lockers for the last three days of the year. I was left feeling simultaneously drained, from excess last-minute duties, yet unfulfilled, knowing there had to be more I could do. I wasn’t the only one; many of my colleagues were dissatisfied with a new paradigm that had started mid-year and intensified towards the end of the school-year.
As I’ve come to realize over the past few years, many of my peers in the Faculty of Community Services have similar positions in various boards of education throughout Ontario. It’s hard for me to explain what a teaching assistant or youth worker does to those who have never held such a position. I think the best answer is simply: it is complicated. Our roles are not finite or rigid, and we tend to gravitate to areas that need the most attention and support. But that’s what makes it enchanting as well, given certain conditions. If your supervisor supports you and respects you, they are more likely to give you some level of autonomy. However, it’s not always the case. I have never worked in a role where my function can change so rapidly, and on the whim of those who may or may not understand exactly what I do. I felt trapped by a position and status that wasn’t being used to its full potential. The benefits and security were something that I heavily debated giving up. I remember telling my wife that I couldn’t return to my job for the following school year. She suggested that I create a flow chart to list my options. I realized that I really only had two; first, I could quit, secondly, I could take a sabbatical and pursue more courses at Ryerson. I decided with the latter, knowing full well that if the board did not permit me to have the year off I’d likely quit and take more courses anyway. Thankfully they accommodated a one-year unpaid sabbatical.
I have said this before but never fully embraced it till this year, but self-care is the most important thing you can do as an individual. We are constantly filling up other people’s buckets, but how often do we let ourselves or others fill ours? This year off has been an opportunity for me to reflect on my educational, professional and personal goals. It hasn’t been an easy transition from steady employment to loans, but there have been supports to help me along the way. For one, OSAP bursaries have been a great help. Secondly, I have also been applying for every single school-wide bursary and award, and was honoured to be awarded the 2017 Faculty of Community Services Undergraduate Award for part-time students. Not to mention, filling out any and every survey Ryerson sends me. Necessity is the mother of all creations and by forcing myself into a precarious economic situation I have had to become thrifty. I don’t think life works in such a way that there is ever a right time to do something, such as going back to school full-time. There will always be some obstacle or reason that prevents or stops us, but this fear of the unknown can force us into stagnation and complicity.
I realized that much of my dissatisfaction for my former role was there long before this year started. Deep down, I knew it was time to pursue something different, yet I would never have arrived here without that experience. Being a part of the education system has been a big part of my life for several years now, and moving on will be bittersweet. I came to the decision a week ago that I would not be returning to work once my sabbatical is over. Instead, I am jumping out of a metaphorical plane. There is no safety net or parachute, but I feel like the first time in a long time, I have options.
This post is an introduction to the members of the School of Disability Studies Student Alumni Advisory Committee. You can find the latest meeting minutes on this site. To learn more about the committee contact Kim Collins at email@example.com
Kim Collins is the student engagement facilitator for the School of Disability Studies. She is an alumna of the program class of 2015.
Committee Vice Chair:
Greetings! My name is Carolyn Lee-Jones and I am a 2016 graduate of the Disability Studies program at Ryerson University. I first joined the Disability Studies Student Advisory and Alumni Committee (SAAC) while I was still a student in the program. After completing the DST course Strategies for Community Building I was looking for a way to increase my involvement and activism at Ryerson and becoming part of the SAAC was just the ticket. I am thrilled continue on with the SAAC, now as an alumni member.
Influenced by over a decade working front line in the disability sector my research interests include social justice, accessible learning and equity through social policy, Mad studies and the geographies of space and movement. When I am not engaged in research or working I keep a healthy balance in my life by pursuing my other passion; training for and running ½ marathons.
Members at Large:
Driven by passion to promote access to education for all, Marsha Ryan entered the program to explore how Disability Studies can enhance her knowledge and skills. On her academic path, Marsha immersed into a vast pool of theoretic and practical tools to further advocate for access. This resulted in her thesis project, in which Marsha described her journey of following (virtually and live) a charismatic Canadian disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, as she believes David will be one of the first to bring the Canadians with Disabilities Act. After her graduation, Marsha continues implementing educational strategies that would meet the needs of so many. She is proud to be a Disability Studies alumna and part of the SAC, as this is a way to bring change.
My name is Laura Mele. I am in my second year of Disability Studies and a member at large. I join the SAAC last January to become more involved in the school. I grew up in a small town called Point Edward in southwest Ontario. I have been involved with individuals with various disabilities for the past 23 years. If you want to gain experience you should considering joining the committee.
Ms. Pauline Wangari Mwangi is a passionate community leader. As a
Developmental Service worker with over 10 years experience, she stands
for more than simple approach to leadership, her goal is to inspire
unconventional thinking and transparency that delivers unparalleled
results in the area of developmental services, community housing,
women’s rights & mental health. Ms. Mwangi currently sits at Human Rights Committee Review board and Student Alumni Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Hi. My name is Hazel Williams and I am currently taking my second course in the Disabilities Studies degree program. I am really excited to be in this program and looking forward to expanding knowledge and continuing my work as an advocate.
Trevor Smith is a member at large who is in his second year of Disability Studies.
Lee Armstrong: Lee planned a degree in art history but found a more satisfying career path through a Developmental Service Worker diploma that led to Disability Studies. Working in a range of service settings “sparked the fire” in her to learn to think about disability in new ways which she has done through five semesters in our program. Based in an Ottawa hospital, her job in augmentative communication and writing services challenges her every day to apply classroom knowledge to advocacy for people’s right to a voice.
Naleni Jacob: Naleni immigrated to Canada in the 1990s with her two sons, one of whom is disabled, and has been the sole provider for them ever since. It is through experiences of parenting that she has come to Disability Studies, specifically through fighting for her son’s rights to education. She knows intimately the struggles that immigrants, in particular, face in attempting to achieve substantive inclusion, and has been heavily involved in parental outreach, and addressing issues of long-term care. She has become an activist mother.
Joanne McQuinn (not present due to debilitating back pain): A new student to Disability Studies, Joanne is “incredibly excited and proud to be part of such an amazing program”. She is employed as an Educational Assistant in a high school program for autistic students. In this context, she is an advocate for rights, justice and change in what is still called “special education.” Her goal is to work in post-secondary student accessibility services or helping disabled students transition to post-secondary studies.
Alisha Barfoot travelled from her home in Owen Sound to celebrate with us today. she has dedicated her academic and professional career to the practice of inclusive education. It is her passion — even if it means being unsettled in a job where disabled students are denied the meaningful learning experiences. A 2017 graduate of our program, Alisha’s final independent study painted portraits of inclusive education based on accounts of actual practice provided by inclusive educators.
Ryan Mcinally is filling the routine periods of unemployment that he experiences in his job with courses towards his Disability Studies degree – which he expects to complete by 2019. He works in an alternative classroom supporting at-risk youth, many of who have mental health labels. In our program, he is thinking about the contradictions of his own role, and using those reflections to develop strategies for improving the lives of students. This award supports Ryan’s educational aspirations, and his growing advocacy as an educator.
Ronnie Samarita: As a high school student, a co-op placement in an adult day program for labelled people sparked Ronnie into a Developmental Services Worker program and from there to Disability Studies. As an Educational Assistant, speaking up for students is a daily part of practice. Ronnie is grasping the complexities of the “support worker” role and looking to broaden his work into a range of age groups and school settings.
Nabella Siddique is of Pakistani origin but was born on the tiny Middle Eastern island of Bahrain where she perceives a powerful need for disability rights activism and the voices of disabled people. Taking up disability from a Canadian perspective has caused her to think about marginalization and discrimination as a global issue. As a teaching assistant with the Peel school board, she can feel the impact of Disability Studies in the way she deals with her students. As the twin sister of a disabled woman, she has a personal stake in inclusive education, human dignity and peace.
Megan Suggitt (unable to attend) is a first year student in our program who reports that she is already perceiving the world around her in ways that are more culturally alert – whether it is to Indigeneous people in Canada, the Hearing Voices movement or students with learning disabilities in educational settings around the world. Her studies with us and with Child and Youth care inspired her to start a non-profit business which offers support services to disadvantaged youth.
Sophia Owenya is a teacher and educational assistant from Windsor Essex who has spent more than 20 years providing support to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Involved with charity organizations locally and internationally, she has done volunteer work in Rwanda and Tanzania. She is passionate about Disability Studies and determined to complete the program on schedule. This award upholds her hopes.
Nicole Cadwallader: In her application, Nicole tells us that Disability Studies has shaken her world. She started this program with zero knowledge about disability as social and political – but after three years, she is critically examining the world through potent new theoretical lenses. She works in the educational sector where disabled children and their families are still fighting for their rights. She knows what it is like to question the programs and systems that employ her but this program has given her tools to analyze how those systemic issues are being created. This award supports Nicole’s refusal to accept educational gaps as “normal” – and her pursuit of purposeful education for disabled students.
Melissa Rideout: For the past four years, Melissa has worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Peel District School Board. She came to Disability Studies to increase her knowledge and become a better advocate, to know how to speak back to demeaning comments in the face of the powers that teachers wield in classrooms. As her course work deepens, she reports that she is “gaining backbone”, getting fueled up to be the advocate she wants to be. She has learned that being a disability advocate means you are an advocate for every race, class and gender. She writes: “The job I may get after this program is not as important as the knowledge I foster and the leader I become.”
Francis Pineda: From first-hand experience as a racialized student, Francis can testify to the barriers that students face in completing post-secondary education – starting with high tuition fees. For several years he has been active in student politics and marked his third term with the Continuing Education Students’ of Ryerson by being elected its president. Through a range of collective projects, he tries to center marginalized voices such as those of disabled students. In Disability Studies, Francis finds support for deconstructing, challenging and unpacking the dominant system. His engagement in this program is shifting the pathway he will take after graduation.
Darlene Murrain: Darlene has always wanted to be involved in community organizing for the inclusion of disabled people. Her final independent study was about placing disabled people in the anti-black racism movement. But Darlene’s big aha! moment was learning about Inclusive Design from Charles Silverman in DST 614. “That was it”, she writes, “I had found my calling!” Now, as a graduate, she feels that she has tangible ways to apply her learnings. Her aspiration is to follow her passion by pursuing graduate studies in the field of Universal Design and education.
After a decade in the sector, Meghan Hogg is grounded in a feminist social justice approach to counselling and support in response to violence against women. In 2009-10, for Nellie’s Shelter, she co-researched and wrote a position paper on the intersections of trauma and violence, picking up on the ways that women’s voices and experiences are pathologised through systemic medicalized responses to trauma. In conference presentations and training workshops she draws upon the work of Mad activists/scholars, and describes the conversations that ensue as “sticky, profound, emotional, illuminating and deeply relevant” for professional practice.
Marsha Ryan: Originally from Moldova, Marsha brings to Disability Studies a political consciousness drawn from the confluence of Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian identities, languages and cultures. In Canada, Disability Studies has become her second home – a place where she encounters people who demonstrate leadership around injustice in a complex world. Last year, for her final independent study, Marsha spent most of the winter shadowing AODA activist David Lepofsky in his relentless pursuit of a provincial Educational Accessibility Standard. Using visual mapping, word walls and Twitter analytics, she teased out the ways that he builds community, shapes and disseminates ideas towards a more inclusive society.
KATHRYN: Disability Studies has an active Student Advisory Committee working with Kim Collins, our Student Engagement Facilitator to demonstrate community engagement strategies for/amongst part-time learners at a distance. This year, the committee wishes to recognize Paris Master-McRae for her powerful contribution to their work and the life of the School. Marsha Ryan will speak for the committee.
MARSHA: Paris Master-McRae is the gold standard when it comes to the School of Disability Studies. She knows the system from within. She knows it both as the Student Affairs Coordinator and as a program student, now Graduate and Alumni, Class of 2015. She is also an award winner, the recipient of the Malcolm Jeffreys Leadership Award. To Paris, “disability studies is not just a job or a program it is a community, a family.” She is a change-maker and a tireless advocate for values of the school, faculty and university. Guided by the Disability Studies motto “Vision. Passion. Action” her day-to-day work propels the work of equity, inclusion, and diversity. She will do whatever it takes and more to support staff, faculty and students, to offer encouragement and to explore new ideas. Paris’s welcoming smile, infectious laughter and open door create an environment that cultivates collegiality, camaraderie and solidarity in seeking disability justice.
Rukiyah Ghani: Rukiyah is a first generation post-secondary student whose experiences reflect the challenges and joys of both immigration and disability. Close in age, Rukiyah and her brother navigate their community together, as he faces both discrimination and institutionalization. Much of her knowledge and skill in disability advocacy is gained from this lived experience. An accomplished student, she makes powerful links between the classroom, community and professional practice. Described as “exceptional” by her instructors, she is serving as a member of School Council where we benefited from her gentle intelligence.
Laura Mele: Laura’s application came in with two shining letters of reference: one from the mother of a young woman who is designated Medically Fragile and with whom Laura has worked for 18 years. The other came from Dr. Chelsea Jones, an instructor in our program who writes that “Laura’s work revolves around the task of improving the lives of others – from small gestures to large strides in various fields of study.” A resident of Sarnia, Laura identifies as a disabled rural woman, and often pulls the geographic peripheries into class discussion. She is making her mark through participation on the Student Advisory Committee and relationship-building in its many projects.
DAVID: In its attempts to “change the conversation” around mental health, Disability Studies at Ryerson links social movement issues and actions with the fresh scholarship of Mad Studies. To mark my 70th birthday, some friends paid the tuition fees for someone to take Mad People’s History – the course that I helped to create and taught here for many years. That gesture has become a yearly ritual as has the involvement of Working for Change, the community organization from which the recipient is selected and where I am pleased to be a member of the board.
We regret to tell you that last year’s recipient, Adrienne Mageenis, passed away this year. Adrienne was a graduate of the Women Speak Out Leadership Training course at Working for Change and a passionate advocate on issues related to mental health. She participated on numerous committees and Boards of Directors for non-profit mental health agencies. She was very committed to furthering her education in the field of mental health. Our community misses her strong voice, perspectives and wisdom.
This year’s recipient is Desiree Bowen. Desiree is a graduate of En Route to Employment and is now working as a Program Assistant at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health CAMH. She has a keen interest in Peer Work. Mad People’s History will provide her with a strong background and understanding of the history of the survivor movement.
Erin Poudrier: Erin graduated this Spring. In reflecting on her time in the program, she is most proud of her development as an academic writer. Her application included course papers on cultural representation, and bioethics, as well as her final independent study titled Precarious Terrain: Narratives of American Sign Language Interpreters. She explained that her disability consciousness “did not happen overnight. Rather it was a journey through reading and writing about learning” with feedback from professors that overcame her skepticism and uncertainty. Erin had the pleasure to get to know Helen in the summer of 2014 when they both took the community building course.” I am thrilled to accept”, she wrote. “I feel truly honored to receive this award in Helen’s name.”
Maria Teresa Larrain: A mature student in our program, Maria Teresa is a Chilean Canadian film-maker and community organizer. She has just released Shadow Girl, a film that follows her journey into blindness and her encounter with a group of blind Chilean street vendors from whom she learns a different way to look and to see. Maria spent several years making this film – some of it shot on the Ryerson campus during one of our summer institutes – and much of the past year in its international promotion. The film has been recognized by the Circle of Chilean Art Critics (Best Documentary), DIVA Film Festival (Best Film, Best Director, Best Sound), FEDOCHI Film Festival (Best National Documentary), DocsBarcelona Valparaiso Festival (Best National Film Audience Award), FIDOCS Film Festival (Audience Award) and the Vogyakarta Film Festival (Special Jury Award). We are so pleased in Emma’s memory to recognize Maria Teresa and to support her ongoing work.
Jerusalem Bete: A recent graduate of the Developmental Service Worker program at Centennial College, Jerusalem is looking to increase her knowledge and her impact as a worker. Member of a family who migrated from Ethiopia, she and a brother who is autistic grew up in the diverse Toronto neighborhood of Flemingdon Park. She knows the many challenges that racialized disabled people face in life. With educational challenges herself, she is keen to expand her capacities to support others.
Hedy Ng (not present): Resident of Markham, Ontario, Hedy works as an Adult Education Literacy Program Assistant. Unable to complete her early studies, she is now a single parent raising a son who has been diagnosed with ASD. She regained her educational pathway by taking any seminars or class she could find. Her path to our program began with the Accessibility Practices Certificate which, after seven courses, she used as a platform for launching into program admission. Great stamina, Hedy.
John Okot: Following his completion of the Developmental Service Worker diploma at Fanshawe College in London, John comes to us with a strong desire for further education and a broader range of job opportunities. Prior to returning to school in 2013, he drove transport truck for almost eight years – which was a living but one that did not allow him to make the kind of difference he wants to in other people’s lives. One of his long-term goals is to use the skills he develops to educate young people in his country of origin, South Sudan, Africa.
Ann Beatty: With connections to disability in her personal life and her job as a support worker, Ann enjoys learning new theoretical frameworks, risking challenging topics, connecting her coursework with her personal life and generally thinking through the complexities of how disability is understood in society. Since 2005 when she started the program, she has completed nearly all of the DST courses and is poised to begin her final independent study towards degree completion in April 2018. Having faced challenges as a working student, this award will provide very meaningful assistance to her in completing her studies.
Christina Devlin: Christina started her Disability Studies program in 2014 as a self-advocate who was running a support group for Autism Ontario (London chapter). Being a co-researcher on Esther’s parenting possibilities research introduced her to Disability Studies and this program has given her greater confidence as an autistic person living in a neurotypical-dominated society. Christina draws direct connections between course materials, assignments and her growing activism including leadership with a grassroots, intersectional, user-led, peer support and advocacy organization that is run collectively by autistic people. She is headed into Research Methods this fall, pressing towards degree completion and savoring a dream to work for the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Adriano Aguiar – Life measured in feet: An arts-informed inquiry
Linh Chau – Illness and disability in the workplace: Living the organizational experience
Nadia Lembo – Disability as a story that connects us: Exploring the impact of narrative moments
Karine Roy – (not present ) Critical Discourse Analysis of InVitro Fertilization (IVF): “Your embryos are not grade A”!
Brittany Van Beilen – ABLLS-R Activated: The invisible connections within ABA: An institutional ethnography
This post was written by graduating student, Darlene Murrain.
From the beginning of my scholastic career in Disability Studies, I always looked forward to the Major Research Thesis Project. As I navigated through the core courses of the program, I became more and more intrigued with various schools of thought around inclusion, intersectionality and activism. I knew that I wanted to carry these themes into my final project. Choosing a topic for my final project was a daunting process but thanks to my supervising professor Esther Ignagni, she helped me narrow down my topic in a way that brilliantly captured all of my interests: Placing people with disabilities in the movement against anti-black racism movement using a Disability Justice lens. The aim was to look at various local activist organizations (e.g. Black Lives Matter Toronto) whose missions seek social justice for black people and to determine how disability is addressed in their organizing efforts. With approximately 60-80% of state violence victims being black people with disabilities, I felt committed. So my research question became: “How is disability taken up within the movement? This meant to explore representation, ableist assumptions about disability embodiment, the vulnerability of differing bodies without perpetuating that vulnerability, internalized attitudes of ableism within the black community, inclusive spaces, and creating alternate ways for people with disabilities who cannot take to the streets. During the research process, I had to be intentional about not criticizing or assessing the efforts of the community organizations to determine if they were successful. I just simply wanted to see how it was done.
The research methodologies I used were Ethnography and Discourse analysis. It was impossible not to place myself in the research as I am a black woman and there were moments when I experienced a wide range of emotions, especially when reading newspaper articles about state violence and discrimination against black people. I used these moments to interact with the material from a personal perspective as well as a researcher’s perspective. Ethnography permitted me this opportunity since it’s a research method that respects the research’s subjectivity and does not make the assumption that the researcher is separate from the research. Discourse analysis helped to complement Ethnography through exploration of discriminatory language and social concepts, which I did by locating our cultural understanding of the word “normal”.
I used many sources to collect information. I collected data not only from scholarly articles and informational interviews but I also read blogs, followed social media accounts, visited visual art exhibitions during Black History Month and attended community speaking engagements. Looking back, I believe I was quite over zealous because the amount of information I accumulated became really overwhelming at one point. However, I recognize that I did this because I had so little in terms of scholarly research explicitly on disability inclusion in the modern movement against anti-black racism. I really had to process and organize the data in a way that made sense to my research. I accomplished this by focusing on the shared experiences of black people and people with disabilities. Three concepts that stood out to me in this area that I would like to share are Consciousness, The Weather and Internalized Racism/Ablesim. They are defined below: Consciousness: This is idea of a social movement group and it’s members adjusting its way of organizing or its “conscious” to address the changing ways of systemic oppression. An example of this would be taking up an intersectional approach to black issues that include various identities, because not every one who identifies as black faces the oppression in the same ways.
The Weather: This is a concept shared by Canadian Poet and Documentarian Dionne Brand who has written about racism and state violence in Canada. She describes racism against black people as “the weather”. It is anti-blackness rooted in white supremacy and it is accompanied by the glance and the stare. She says just like the weather, racism is constant, casual and happens every day.
Internalized Racism/Ableism: This is when the individual feels inward hatred and inadequacy because of how society discriminates against them based on their identity. Also media representations can have a negative effect on the individual’s perception of self and contribute to their feelings of internal discrimination.
So back to my burning research question: Is disability taken up in the movement against anti-black racism? Absolutely! How is disability taken up? For the sake of this post, I will not go into extensive detail but from the articles I read, the organizations that I interviewed and the events and art exhibits I attended, serious considerations are made for black people with disabilities, whether visible or invisible, to participate fully in the movement. This can be anywhere from the frontlines to leadership roles to social media engagement to adding disability-related issues to the agenda. My analysis revealed that in order for the movement to be successful on a political front, the organizers had to consider the intersectionality of the multiple identities that claim blackness within the movement itself. Space is the top consideration when inviting people with disabilities into the movement, making sure it is accessible, inclusive and safe.
Black Lives Matter Toronto advocating for queer-disability rights is an example of the intersectional shift of consciousness to bring to the forefront the issues that affect everyone, not just people of colour. At the 2016 Pride parade, BLM-TO halted the parade to present a list of 9 demands to the head of the parade. Although the backlash from the media focused heavily on BLM-TO requesting the removal of police floats, what they failed to acknowledge were that 2 of the demands were requesting improved accessibility for queer people with disabilities and hearing impairments, which is awesome!
To conclude, I believe that the modern movement against anti-black racism has done a great job of being a intersectional model of inclusive and safe spaces as well as a platform for black people with disabilities.
I want to end with a quote from Feminist and Civil Right Activist Audre Lorde that says: It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make the strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
This post was written by Disability Studies alumna, Katherine Ridolfo.
Though I have a long and dedicated history of working with people who have a developmental disability, I felt that I needed more post-graduate education to continue to pursue my career path, personal goals and dedication to the field. My role has largely been as a Family Support Worker and I felt that coupled with the Disability Studies and Master’s degree in Social Work would be a good fit.
For me, as a single parent, the challenge was in finding a program that would allow me to continue to work full time and pursue an education that considered my current educational background. The MSW for Working Professionals, offered through the University of Windsor was a perfect fit! The education was delivered locally (for me-Mississauga, but I understand that it is also offered in Oshawa) every other weekend starting with Friday afternoons at 3 pm to 8 pm and then all day Saturdays from 8 am to 4 pm. It was not necessary to have a BA in Social Work, however, this meant that I was making a 32 month commitment of not having a life beyond the program!
The program is generalized and is not specific to any particular counselling modalities (my understanding is that this is more the norm, all programs have taken on a broader approach) and is very fast moving. A new module is covered approximately every six weeks. The curriculum consists of lots of reading, and a combination of essays, group presentations and tests. There are two field placements consisting of 450 hours. It is difficult (and discouraged) to work throughout this time. There is also a final capstone/research project at the end of the program. In addition to the cost of books, be prepared to do lots of additional photocopying of required and recommended reading. The approximate cost of this program is about $30,000 with books in. Thankfully, the whole amount does not need to be paid upfront! (A word of caution is warranted at this point…students who pursue this avenue and are expecting to get an entry scholarship (based on a high GPA) are NOT entitled-however, the students on campus taking the same program are. I tried to advocate for the same rights but was not successful. Perhaps a fellow Ryerson alumni who pursues this avenue can take up the good fight).
Once admitted, you will complete your journey with the same cohort-which is a bonus. Through these bonds I have managed to forge incredible ongoing relationships and connections. My cohort retains a FB page as well as communicates routinely through Messenger-so that we all know what is going on with our graduating class at all times.
Currently, I continue to work at a local Community Living agency, teach part time at Humber College in the CICE program (Community Integration through Co-operative Education)-which is a unique two year college experience program for young adults who have a developmental disability. It is a passion of mine and I am hoping for full time employment in the near future. I am also beginning to build a private practice as a social worker and am hoping to build a niche for working with families who have a child with a developmental disability as well as for individuals who are cognitively capable of participating and benefiting from counselling. I have a long standing vested interest in End of Life Care for people who have a disability, specifically-developmental, and as such I am also actively pursuing a PhD program though I am not sure if I’d like it to be in Social Work or Disability Studies at this time.
And… on a final note-Kathryn Church, writes phenomenal letters of support!