Category Archives: Uncategorized

Illustration shows a black and white sketch of hands holding a video game controller on top of a background showing abstract video game icons in white layered on top of a coloured rectangle that has gradient colouring from bottom to top of blue/purple to a red/purple.

Gaming From a Feminist Lens

This post was written by Akhila Varghese, a Bachelor of Social Work student at X University who is currently taking Whose Lives Matter (DST 300) at the School of Disability Studies.

Even though women helped develop technology, and the gaming population consists of 74% women, gaming culture is dangerous and toxic to women (Crooks & Magnet, 2018). The harassment of women perpetuated in gaming culture is a feminist issue as seen through the over-sexualization of women, heteropatriarchy practices, and lack of intersectional lens. 

The gaming industry was not always this way; in the past, video games were advertised for the entire family, appropriate for all genders (Murtaugh, 2015). Sexist advertising in the 90s began to exclude women from gaming (Campbell, 2018). It promoted gaming as a “boys’ activity” to reflect traditional concepts of leisure, play, and relaxation for boys while confining girls to domestic spaces (Campbell, 2018). Today, sexist video game marketing and gamer culture perpetuate this exclusion and capitalize off bigotry. For example, in marketing a special edition of the game Dead Island: Riptide, a decapitated bikini corpse with blood all over her breasts is depicted (Crecente, 2013). A sexualized corpse serves to remind how female characters are routinely portrayed as sexual objects (Crecente, 2013).

The hypersexualization of female characters in games affects female interactions with male players, who are more likely to harass female players if the games they play objectify women (Cote, 2020). A survey states that 77% of female gamers experienced gendered discrimination involving condescending remarks and sexual advances (Sinclair, 2021). As a result, 59% of women hide their gender while playing games to avoid such harassment (Sinclair, 2021). The objectification of women is portrayed in the representation of unrealistic body types, inappropriate clothing for the storyline, damsel in distress characters, and pornographic character tropes (Cote, 2020). 

In gaming spaces, players are increasingly aggressive and hostile towards others, especially if the person does not seem to fit the masculine rhetoric (Cote, 2020). For example, trash-talking in multi-player gaming is seen as an aspect of competition, but what does it encompass (Cote, 2020)? Racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes and remarks. It is manifested through jokes about rape, assault-based threats, and sexualized insults that are evidence of a harassment culture motivated by misogyny (Cote, 2020). Gaming culture is sexist because of the hypersexualization of female characters and harassment of female video game consumers (Cote, 2020).  

Colonizers first established hierarchy through patriarchy, which rests on the gender binary system in which only male and female exist, men dominating women (Smith, 2016). The prevalence of sexualized female characters assumes that the only audience the industry cares about is heterosexual males who enjoy sexually appealing female characters (Cote, 2020). This assumption is based on heteropatriarchal gender roles of men and boys as logical and rational (Cote, 2020). By doing so, they assert spaces like technology as intended for men, and unfit for girls and women who possess “softer” characteristics which associated them with a lack of competence (Murtaugh, 2015). In spaces like gaming dominated by men, women’s presence is perceived as a threat to the heteropatriarchy by interfering with male bonding or softening the field with stereotypical female characteristics (Cote, 2020). Just as how the colonial world order depends on and is built on heteropatriarchy, the hypersexualization of female characters and gender-based assaults are indicators of gaming as founded on heteropatriarchal structures (Smith, 2016).  

The discussion over the inclusivity of women in mainstream gaming culture proposes a cyberfeminism framework (Murtaugh, 2015). Cyberfeminism is feminism interested in critiquing cyberspaces and confronting toxic digital environments (Murtaugh, 2015). Cyberfeminism also brings to digital spaces an intersectional lens. Harassment is more profound for those with intersecting identities (Cote, 2020). Latina women within gaming experience racism, sexism, and heterosexism, as many identify as sexual minorities (Cote, 2020). Black women experience a form of gendered racism that stems from their unique experiences (Cote, 2020). Intersectionality in gaming culture recognizes that racialized, sexual minorities and women are disproportionately harassed (E. Cagulada, personal communication, week 2).

Ironically, feminist presence in technology has been labeled toxic and unnecessary by predominantly white male gamers, those who dominate the heteropatriarchy, who wish to maintain the oppressive structure of gaming (Murtaugh, 2015). There is a particular belief in virtual spaces and any male-dominated space that depicts women as sabotaging male activities and attacking masculinity (Murtaugh, 2015). For example, the GamerGate controversy in 2014 stemmed from accusations that game developer Zoe Quinn had sexual relationships with male game journalists to give her newly released game positive reviews, despite this allegation being proven false (Murtaugh, 2015).

The GamerGate movement posed itself as a journalism ethics movement, but it had underlying misogynistic rhetoric (Murtaugh, 2015). As a result of GamerGate, women began to speak out against sexism in the movement and gaming as a whole (Murtaugh, 2015). However, proponents of GamerGate harassed and bullied them, arguing that gaming is solely an entertainment space that should not be politicized (Murtaugh, 2015). The plights of GamerGate’s supporters to depoliticize gaming remind me of the invalidation of the political/relational model of disability by literary critic Dennis Dutton and others. Dutton believed disability should not be softened and spoken about in social terms, and instead, he described disability as solely the “medical condition” associated with it (Kafer, 2013, p. 5). Viewing disability as objective is to depoliticize disability (Kafer, 2013). A political issue is an issue that has to do with a distribution of power; it challenges naturalness that underlies many social problems today (Kafer, 2013). Disability, like gaming spaces, is assumed to be obvious; disability is a medical condition, and gaming is an entertainment medium. Evidence that racialized women and sexual minorities are disproportionately harassed, and the GamerGate controversy suggests differently. Gaming is embedded in a society where sexist and racist assumptions are rampant; it does not occur in isolation (Kafer, 2013). Politicizing disability understands the experiences of harassment and hypersexualization experienced by minorities as a loss of power due to heteropatriarchal structures.  

Forms of resistance to a toxic gaming culture include the efforts of feminist advocates to help gaming companies take responsibility for how their harmful practices can impact audiences consuming their content (Cote, 2020). Anita Sarkeeisan began a Kickstarter campaign to create web videos that address and examine sexism in video games (Campbell, 2018). It started fundamental shifts in the industry as more developers realized how they enable oppression (Campbell, 2018). Andreas Zecher, of the independent studio Spaces of Play, sent out an open letter to the gaming community, recognizing that everyone has a right to play games without fear of harassment (Dewey, 2014). 

Even though I am not personally a gamer, unless playing Mario Cart on my phone in the Go Train counts, gaming culture impacts me, and it impacts everyone. It is part of a more extensive debate over who is included in the mainstream culture (Dewey, 2014). It stems from discomfort about women’s growing representation and voice in culture and professionalism, and it is this very logic that motivates gender-based violence in the workplace (Dewey, 2014). I fear this backlash and assault as I prepare for entering the workforce, and I fear for my younger sister, who wants to join the male-dominated medicine career. Challenging gaming culture is an opportunity to challenge heteropatriarchal structures that have long dominated who is accepted and targets of violence due to markers of difference. 

 Knowing Canada’s history of colonization and patriarchy, toxic gaming culture is no surprise; technology is merely being used as an instrument to exercise misogynistic and racist fundamentals that have founded our society. But what can be done? We must participate in feminist activism that raises awareness of the blatant and more subtle ways oppression is perpetuated (Campbell, 2018). Feminism is a complicated movement that challenges existing biases and stereotypes because it is always easier to conform to the status quo. We need to examine how we enable oppression, and we must hold male gamers and gaming companies accountable for the oppression they perpetuate (Campbell, 2018).   


Campbell, C. (2018, July 25). Gaming’s toxic men, explained. Polygon. 

Cote, A. C. (2020). Gaming sexism: Gender and identity in the era of casual video games. New York University Press. 

Crecente, B. (2013, January 15). Dead Island Riptide’s bloody torso statue sparks anger, confusion. Polygon.

Dewey, C. (2014, October 14). The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read. The Washington Post.

Kafer, A. (2013). Introduction: Imagined futures. In Feminist, queer, crip. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 1-19. (19 pages).

Murtaugh, M. C. (2015). Gaming feminism: An analysis of feminist discourses in the video game blogosphere

Sinclair, B. (2021, May 19). Surveys says 59% of women hide gender to avoid harassment while gaming online. Games Industry Biz.

Smith, A (2016). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy: Rethinking women of color organizing. Women in culture: An intersectional anthology for gender and women’s studies, 66-73. (7 pages). 

The Spectacle of Disability in the Inaccessible Retail Environment

This post was written by Matthew Karam, a Criminology student at X University who is currently taking Rethinking Disability (DST 501) at the School of Disability Studies.

Image Description: Home Depot aisle with both sides filled with products. Many of the products on the left are in small boxes. The placement of products begins with some on the ground level going up to higher shelves. Many of the products on the right side of the aisle are in big boxes and are stacked from the ground level to high on the shelf. In the middle is the smooth concrete floor.

It was another hot and sunny day in the summer of 2020. Feeling the humidity and air conditioning clash was nothing new for someone working at The Home Depot. Eight aisles made up thousands of hardware and building material products. In each of these aisles were products of varying weights. With my location choosing to staff the department at the absolute minimum, customers’ only helping hands were often whoever they brought with them. At the time, the only barrier to having a good customer experience in my mind was the shortage of products. It was not until I met a customer named Joey that I noticed how physical barriers are seemingly endless in retail environments, especially my own.

Like with all customers, I always strike up a conversation about their project before offering services in any way I can. Joey, who uses a rollator, could easily navigate the wide and flat aisles. However, once Joey found the bulk box of screws needed, there was a physical barrier: the product was relatively heavy and placed on the lowest shelf. After helping Joey with his shopping, he later explained how it would be nearly impossible to reach down and lift the heavy box of screws. Joey’s experience displays that just because mobility devices can navigate a space does not mean the space is accessible.

When talking about the societal construct of normalcy and disability in Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader, Titchkosky & Michalko state, “We recognize that the centre builds into environment-both physical and attitudinal-from the blueprint or standard of normalcy” and “we recognize that, for the most part, this blueprint does not include us” (2009, p. 7). What is excluded from the blueprint in many retail stores is accessible shopping environments for customers who use mobility devices. For example, The Home Depot has yellow “tilt and roll” ladders. This ladder communicates the norm that if a customer cannot reach a product, it must be a matter of their height. Having such ladders in The Home Depot presumes that when a customer cannot physically reach a product, they can lift the ladder, move it to the desired aisle, and climb its steps. Only the customer who fits within the “able-bodied” norm has accessibility consistently met within retail environments, further isolating customers who use mobility devices.    

Image Description of the Tilt and Roll Ladder: Yellow metal ladder that has two steps. The ladder has four rubber bottoms for traction and two wheels. The demonstrator in the image is standing wearing construction attire such as blue jeans, a checkered long sleeve shirt, tan safety boots, and a white hardhat. The demonstrator tilts the ladder, so only the wheels touch the ground to enable movement.

In Nick Purdon’s Hidden City podcast, Naomi Overan explains how disability becomes a spectacle with mobility devices. Naomi said, “You become a spectacle all of the time, and in an inaccessible environment, you become even more of a spectacle” (Purdon, 2007). Later that summer, I encountered many customers who used different mobility devices. While monitoring my aisles, I noticed that other customers would observe customers letting go of their mobility device and grabbing a product in one swift motion. The inaccessibility within many retail environments ultimately contributes to disability being a spectacle.

After reflecting on Joey’s experience, we might quickly think of potential tools to improve the shopping experience for customers who use mobility devices. While such a solution may be considered to improve accessibility, disability will remain a spectacle in society. Part of what contributes to disability remaining a spectacle is the “myth of independence” (Mingus, 2011). In Changing the Framework: Disability Justice. How Our Communities Can Move Beyond Access to Wholeness, Mingus explains the myth of independence is that everyone can and should be able to do everything on their own. The issue with the myth of independence is that by focusing on independence, we may be contributing to inaccessibility and disability remaining as a spectacle. For example, without workers assisting in situations like Joey’s, customers may have just watched Joey attempt to reach for the heavy product and strain his back. With COVID-19 and the normalization of social distancing, people are even more hesitant to help others which ultimately reinforces the myth of independence.

Mingus teaches that society must question our culture “that makes inaccessibility even possible” (Mingus, 2011). In the dominant culture, disability is viewed as an individual’s problem. If the lack of access does not impact us directly, we may often not recognize its existence. In the introduction of the course Rethinking Disability, Professor Cheuk references a quote about disability. Titchkosky said, “Disability is an invitation to see our world a bit differently.” After understanding concepts like the myth of independence and disability as a spectacle, we must begin to use disability as a framework when reflecting on how culture and norms are the true culprits behind inaccessibility.


Cheuk, F. (2022). Welcome to DST 501: Rethinking Disability [Google Slides]. Retrieved from

Mingus, M. (2011). Changing the framework: Disability justice. Leaving Evidence. Retrieved from

Purdon, N. (2007). The Hidden City. [Podcast Transcript]. CBC Radio Canada.

Titchkosky, T. & R. Michalko. (2009). Rethinking normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press. (pp. 1-14). 

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

Accessibility: Mapping a Shrinking World

Blog Post Written by recent graduate Amy Evans based on her DST 99 Thesis. 

The Coronavirus has significantly impacted the lives of individuals across the world, in more ways than one. We are each battling the pandemic in our own ways, and trying to overcome current circumstances. 

As Ontario started to close, I lost my job as a program coordinator at a recreational center that offered daily programming to adults with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. Within months of my dismissal, I was hired to work with a young woman in her home., I began to see new struggles through my job, initiated by the pandemic. 

I started documenting these new struggles and experiences at work and in turn wrote, Accessibility: Mapping a Shrinking World; an ethnographic paper addressing and outlining accessibility or lack thereof within grocery stores, shopping malls, museums, and other local amenities in the city of St. Catharines and how the pandemic has affected individuals’ access to daily programming. 

The purpose of my paper was to collect data showing what accessibility and programming were available prior to COVID 19 and the decline in accessibility during the pandemic. 

I wanted to focus my paper on a range of barriers present for individuals, not just physical barriers. How does signage, opening hours, attitudinal barriers, and lack of resources make accessibility difficult? I chose six locations within St. Catharines: Walmart, No Frills, Avondale, The Pen Centre, Landmark Cinema, and Lock Three Museum. Collecting data from a range of amenities was an important factor in analyzing whether accessibility was limited in specific industries or across the board. 

For data collection from websites, I took these locations and examined how accessibility is advertised on each of their websites before and during the pandemic. I analyzed how any original forms of access may have been lost because of the pandemic and whether new rules/restrictions were impacting accessibility.

For the second part of my data collection, I used government announcements and daily schedules from the Boys and Girls Club and in-home supports to see the changes during the pandemic. 

Image Description: A chart showing the weekly activities (Monday to Friday) at the Boys and Girls during the week of March 2nd to 6th 2020

Website Accessibility Prior to Covid-19

Based on the website data I collected, it is very evident that even prior to covid restrictions, amenities in St. Catharines were not completely accessible. 

Information on accessibility was not easy to find and links were often broken or not accessible to all. One aspect each website did very well was ensuring physical accessibility information was present on the website(s). Only the museum offered accessibility information regarding braille, text to audio options and sensory-friendly hours.

Tracing a Disappearance: Government Announcements and Regulations

I also traced the disappearance of accessibility through government announcements. 

One of my main takeaways from these announcements was how individuals with disabilities and their needs were disregarded by the government.The announcements outlined how businesses/organizations could open during the pandemic but not how stores, malls and other amenities could accommodate individuals with disabilities while open. 

St. Catharines Response to the Government Announcements

St. Catharine’s response to the announcements was disappointing and accessibility was not a priority during all of the changes. 

I followed through with my website data collection and went back to each website to see what changes had been made to accommodate the pandemic and closures. Aside from large notices of closures on each website, not much had changed. It was almost like accessibility was not impacted. 

Walmart started offering exclusive shopping hours from 7:00am – 8:00am for individuals with disabilities and the elderly to shop in a less chaotic atmosphere, but shopping malls, who were now only open for curbside pickup, did not outline how they were making their curbside accessible.  The reality of this was that Walmart offered these hours for a short period of time, then continued to advertise these exclusive hours on their website but were not honoring what was being advertised. 

So, after the numerous government announcements, what’s left?

With all the closures, it was hard to keep up with what was left. As a result of the recreational programs closing, the program that I previously worked for was forced to close and parents were left with no support for their children. 

It was at this point I started working with the young women I am now. This was a huge change. I went from a program that offered weekly swimming, a cooking program, day trips and other educational and social programs to working with an individual in their home with limited resources and being surrounded by a closed city. 

at the beginning of August 2020 closures were not as heavy, the weather was warmer and there was still the option to socialize with other households. This made working one on one new and exciting. We spent a lot of time outside in the pool, going for walks, meeting friends, with little time spent indoors. As the colder weather hit, restrictions heightened, and our schedule slowly started to decrease. 

Image Description: A chart showing a weekly schedule (Monday to Friday) of activities done between September 2020 and January 2021 in a 1 to 1 home setting.

We spent more time inside, doing puzzles, crafts and watching movies repeatedly, which became tedious. We are left with little resources to be able to make the day fun and exciting and the government has no idea what effect the pandemic is having on individuals with disabilities and their access to programming. 

Now as I finished collecting all my data and the realization of how accessibility has been affected because of the pandemic, I thought I would be surprised, but I am just disappointed. It is disheartening to see individuals with disabilities being left behind, without adequate resources.

Doug Ford stood before the public several times, addressing the struggles families were experiencing regarding childcare, but he failed to acknowledge the loss of support and resources for individuals with disabilities in most of his announcements. When individuals with disabilities were considered during government announcements and by amenities in the public, the supports and resources were lacking.

A final point I want to make is the concept of time. If we think about our everyday lives it revolves around time. We all must be at work for a certain time, attend lectures for set times, our daily schedules revolve around time. 

Time was once used to maintain order and to help provide structure. Now, time and what that means has changed significantly. With less to plan and more hours in the day consumed by less activity, we may still need to be at work by a certain time, have lunch at a certain time, but what we are doing in between these times is being filled with empty space, everyday routines have disappeared along with the accessibility I mapped throughout this project.  

Marginalized/marginalizing Community Groups in the COVID 19 Crisis

Did/How Did A Local Government Respond?

By: Lyn Callaghan

Written by recent graduate of the Disability Studies Program at X University. This post is based on her DST 99 Thesis and has been edited for length and clarity.

For this research, I decided to challenge myself to look beyond my personal world. I wanted to know more about the disability issues of Ontario’s local government. The way my city governed during the pandemic would give me insight into what matters, who matters and what my city is doing about it.

Recorded general council meetings were my main focal point. I began to watch the videos and to listen to the tones and attitudes, as well as what was and wasn’t said. 

Due to the pandemic, the meetings went virtual. Therefore, there was no opportunity for the citizens to express their concerns or needs, a fundamental component of the meeting. 

Image Description: A dark skinned wheelchair user with long hair and a beanie sits at a small table, using their laptop to participate in a video meeting. The laptop screen is shown to their right, with the call being live captioned. The main speaker is a dark skinned person wearing a hijab and glasses, and 3 other participants are at the bottom of the screen, in smaller windows. In the bottom right corner, a yellow service dog bounds towards the wheelchair user.

Only two meetings into my research, and with no real data,  I began asking if there was a disability voice or is disability completely excluded from conversations within the walls of the town hall and the minds of those that sat inside it. At this point in the pandemic, I honestly thought there would be more discussion about the pandemic’s effects on the citizens.

I expected a true concern for citizen’s well-being. This was not the case. On May 25, 2020, Kitchener requested support for a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. The letter urged the provincial government to pursue a partnership with the federal government to establish a universal basic income- resulting in positive effects, including: 

  • Reducing strain on health care and social assistance systems, 
  • Reducing poverty
  • Supporting the economy
  • Reducing crime, 
  • Reducing administrative complexity
  • Creating efficiencies for those in need. 

YES! Finally, some real discussion!! Not just about money and business but about the people and their needs. You can imagine my surprise when McCaw spoke with utter disgust. She felt that this would create a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Her biggest concern was, this universal basic income would insight many workers from work. People collecting CERB are refusing to come back to work now. She found it too politically driven and there was no way she was supporting it. It was now clear to me that the attitudes and discourses of my very own council were those of discrimination, oppression, and exclusion. McCaw being a white privileged businesswoman clearly has no understanding of the world outside her narrow-minded one. I knew going into this research that there would be signs of elitism, capitalism and colonialism. McCaw with her body language, tone and words made it clear that she was only on the council to serve like-minded citizens. 

My next encounter was found in a budget meeting. The police chief was speaking to his budget, justifying why he went over. He blamed his overspending on having to deal with individuals with mental health issues. He blamed a lack of funding, the closure of institutions and the increase of police manpower required to deal with domestic and other mental health crises within the city.

He even suggested that institutions needed to be brought back in some capacity to deal with the rising number of cases.

During discussion, Councillor Kelly expressed the concern for community safety because safety is good for business and good for tourism. Sandison suggested there is a community disengagement, wanting to see an increase in community involvement. This was the first time in five months that I witnessed a discourse centred around the citizens and what the community needed. I will point out though that he did not indicate which citizens he felt should be involved. 

At this point, I feel my council is still living in caves. They have a very medical model approach to disability and are all about intervention, rehabilitation and reinstatement. There is never any discussion of what society has done to create these vulnerabilities or what society will do to alleviate them. People with disabilities or anyone marginalized appear to be void from both governance and mindfulness of the council.  Councillor Malette expressed a need for a community forum to address what I had stumbled upon in the budget meeting. Yes, that is correct the police chief’s concerns regarding the meal health crises.

The next meeting discussed the community forum, deciding that only the concerned citizens and the professionals would be invited to take part. No mention of people in the mental health crises; no first-hand accounts. I was surprised that not a single individual on the council thought that this aspect was important.

My research project has helped answer the question of who is and isn’t visible and who is accepted to be out and about within our society right now. The mayor stated they attended to matters of the utmost importance, yet no marginalized issues made the cut. 

Image Description: Six disabled people of color smile and pose in front of a concrete wall. Five people stand in the back, with the Black woman in the center holding up a chalkboard sign reading “disabled and here.” A South Asian person in a wheelchair sits in front. Image from the Disabled and Here Project:

I conclude that municipal government is a business, an abstract concept with no lived reality. Any issues arisen are pushed off to social services, or excused due to a lack of services and/or funding. It is like a ping pong game with no tangible outcome unless the rest of its citizens are in danger. As the police report or the motion for a community forum indicates, it is clear that there is a division of abled/disabled or, more importantly, worthy/unworthy and who the council members represent.

So how does my local government respond to marginalized community groups? They treat them as outsiders, pet projects to rehabilitate and then send back out into the workforce to generate revenue. The council members use the ‘not our problem lines’ and ‘for the good of our citizens’ as rhetoric to justify and legitimize their discrimination, exclusion, and oppression. The perspective of the council members is that of ignorance. They genuinely feel that they are doing good for their citizens; however, they neglect to see that not all citizens are represented. As a result, they perpetuate the social norms rather than take the opportunity to be leaders. 

Lonely Crane’s Mourning Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never medicated. 

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

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

Breathe. Walk. Hydrate. Sleep.

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

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

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

Inspiration Porn by Brintha Manoharan

A painting rests on a black easel. The painting has a deep teal background. There is an outstretched hand with light skin and a white shirt cuff holding a phone. We see the phone from the point of view of the person holding it. They are on a site called “Inspiration porn”, which has a similar logo design as a popular porn site. There is a text bubble from the person saying, "I'm in dire need of inspiration right now!" A yellow box in the bottom right has text that reads, "A non-disabled person is searching for some inspiration porn in hopes to gain motivation, and an optimistic outlook on life."
Close up of the painting with the text bubble that says, "I'm in dire need of inspiration right now!" and of the yellow box in the bottom right that has text that reads, "A non-disabled person is searching for some inspiration porn in hopes to gain motivation, and an optimistic outlook on life."
Close up of the phone screen. We can see trending searches of, "Disabled person completes a marathon. Disabled person becomes a professor. Disabled person goes to prom. Disabled person graduates w/ honors. Disabled person gets an award. Disabled person gets married. Disabled person becomes top scientist. Disabled person becomes an actor."

Artist Statement

Have you ever seen a movie where a disabled character (most likely played by a non-disabled actor) is seen as a source of inspiration and put on a pedestal for bravery and perseverance for achieving ordinary tasks? Or have you ever had an encounter with a disabled person and thought somewhere along the line of “wow, this person is so inspiring, I shouldn’t have any excuses for not pursuing my goals”?

That’s inspiration porn. I decided to create a satirical art piece as a way to bring attention to the topic of ableism and challenge people to think critically when it comes to the way disabled bodies/minds are perceived in society. 

Inspiration porn is when disabled people are portrayed as inspirational/brave because of their disability and it’s used for the benefit of non-disabled people rather than disabled people themselves. In this case, their disability is the only thing that’s seen and since we are taught to see disability as a limitation, they are put on a pedestal for performing and achieving ordinary tasks. 

In this piece, a non-disabled person is looking for some inspiration porn in hopes to gain a more positive outlook on life. They are on a site called “Inspiration porn”, which has a similar logo design as a popular porn site. This signifies that just like the traditional porn we think of, it objectifies a person by reducing them to a single fact of identity. On the phone, this person is looking at the trending searches for the site and here, there is a list of examples of inspiration porn which have been depicted in mainstream media that we are exposed to everyday. This piece is meant to show the absurdity of inspiration porn and how it’s a product of ableism that continues to devalue the disability community.

-Brintha Manoharan

Welcome the new student engagement facilitator, Amanda Lin!


A close up of a round-faced asian woman with a short black bob, large red-framed glasses, wearing a blue jacket while smiling at the camera with a mirror in the background
Photograph of Amanda Lin.

Hi folks!

My name is Amanda Lin and I’m super excited to be onboarding as the new Student Engagement Facilitator for the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson. I’m an alumnus of the DST program and graduated in June of 2019. Ryerson was actually my third post-secondary institution, as I have a previous degree from Laurentian University in Forensic Science with a specialization in Psychology. That adventure was followed by some distance education at Centennial College, until I found my way to Ryerson’s Disability Studies program. Here, I learned about my inner activist and the various hats I wear as an intersectional being. Being a big believer of slow learning, I gained (and continue to gain) an authentic understanding of my life’s journey through my lived experience, studies and extracurricular activities. During my time at Ryerson,  I was very involved on campus through volunteering, work-study positions and student politics. I became a student advocate and continually tried to increase access and the broader inclusion of disabled people within the realm of post-secondary education and general workings of society. In general, I advocate for accessibility over accommodations, am a dog-lover even though I don’t have one just yet, I love chips and chocolate, but never together, and am genuinely looking forward to getting to know all of you!

So, don’t hesitate to say hi or reach out if you have any questions. You can email me at or reach me via social media.

Sometimes “Wow-Factor” Hurts those we are trying to help

This post was written by current student Tiffany-Anne Stones.

As I move through my daily life, I find myself interacting with public education systems in many different ways. 

I am the mother of a child in full-day kindergarten, who’s class size increased this year. I am the mother of a child who benefits from the fact that her school’s resource teacher has time to work with her on language acquisition as she navigates the complicated task of learning a second language. 

I have many friends who are education workers in Ontario schools. 

I work in Post-Secondary Education with disabled students who have been supported by the Ontario education system and are now moving into supports at the college level.

I am an ally and champion for teachers, EAs, TAs, and all students. 

I honk my horn in support on every strike day. 

In recent weeks, Labour disputes between the Ontario Government and unions representing various groups of Education Workers have escalated, resulting in many local and province-wide walkouts.  Social Media platforms and local news outlets have become oversaturated with competing views and messages surrounding the issues facing Minister Lecce and Ontario Educators. It is in the careful notice of the language and images used, that a troubling representation of disabled students emerges.

word cloud reads

Image Created by Tiffany-Anne Stones using

The posts are filled with language that grabs your attention. It makes you question the safety of the classrooms. It makes you worry about what the “other” students are exposed to. It makes you question the current model of education. I don’t want to minimize the safety concerns and the need for support, but I want to take some time to consider the messages we send when we use certain language in an attempt to create wow factor and grab attention. 

Imagine that a child logs into social media or looks over their parent’s shoulder while they scroll through their news feed. They see a picture of their empty classroom with overturned desks and ripped books. The person who posted it did so to raise awareness. They don’t have their students on social media and they haven’t mentioned a school name, but it has gone viral and kids recognize the space they spend all week in. This child sees the image paired with words like violence, destruction, unsafe, etc. This child then thinks of the day this event happened. They think of the child that was having a hard time conforming to the classroom expectations at that time. They create an association between that child and the words violence, destruction and unsafe. 
Now imagine this child is the one who is being discussed in the post. Imagine how it must feel for a child to see that their struggles are all over social media, with comments that talk about how “those children” shouldn’t be in “regular classrooms”. 

I recognize that teachers are fighting for our children so that they get the education that they deserve, but we must also recognize the impact that these open debates have on how we view students, and how they view themselves. We must resist arguments for increased support that frame student behavior as ‘dangerous’ and ‘unruly.’ In the current political discourse, the supports of students are being publicly debated, sending the message that those supports are entirely optional. By characterizing some students as difficult and unsafe, we also send the message that certain students are less worthy of the meaningful supports that teachers are fighting for. Unfortunately, these children are often sidelined by these debates because of the more nuanced way that their supports must be implemented to create a meaningful educational experience for the child.