Tag Archives: Ryerson University

A headshot of Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani who is smiling, wearing black-framed glasses and a white, beaded necklace. Her image appears over a blue square and yellow rectangle.

Ruling Relations and Invisibilized Solidarities: How EAs stand with disabled students and their families

The School of Disability Studies invites you to an open lecture with Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani, Ruling Relations and Invisibilized Solidarities: How EAs stand with disabled students and their families on April 13th from 6:30 to 7:30pm. This session will invite the audience to notice their participation in power relations within educational work and deepen the possibilities of solidarity between EAs with their disabled students and their families. See the full abstract and Dr. Karnad-Jani’s bio below.

Access: This talk will have ASL interpreters and live captioning. This talk will be recorded.This talk is free and open to the public.

Zoom link: https://ryerson.zoom.us/j/98632480911 (no password or RSVP required)

Full abstract:

In this public lecture, Dr. Rashmee Karnad-Jani will highlight key aspects of her PhD research in which she examined how Ontario’s Parent Engagement Policy (2010) coordinates mothering work or invisibilized gendered work done in homes to support schooling and the ways this work intersects with the labour of teachers. She will also highlight key aspects of Institutional Ethnography, an alternative sociology that keeps institutional relations of ruling in view and how this method of inquiry enables researchers and practitioners to notice and examine what actually happens in the everyday-every night lives of people who are usually narrated as subjects in the discourse. She will discuss briefly how by inviting the standpoint of people who experience the disjuncture between policy and practice in their everyday lives, it is possible to remove barriers to equity and inclusion as an embedded practice and not an afterthought.

This session will invite the audience to notice their participation in power relations within educational work and deepen the possibilities of solidarity between EAs with their disabled students and their families.

Dr Rashmee Karnad-Jani is a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Special Education Consultant in a  publicly funded school board in the Greater Toronto Area of Toronto, Canada. Her doctoral  dissertation “Invisible Work and Hidden Labour in Ontario’s Public Education: A Decolonizing  Institutional Ethnography of Mothering and Teachers’ work” at the University of Toronto’s  Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. For her doctoral work, Rashmee specialized in  educational leadership and policy research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of  T. Rashmee is interested in how educational policy gets taken up in local work sites such as  schools and classrooms She examines policy implementation gaps by mapping the gendered work  of women (Mothering Work) following the scholarship of Alison Griffith and Dorothy Smith  (2005) to examine the ways in which Ontario’s Parent Engagement Policy organizes it.

This event is sponsored by the School of Disability Studies and the Faculty of Community Services at X (Ryerson) University.

An abstract image of a sun with green, brown, yellow, purple and orange rays on a light-blue and yellow background

Seeking to improve in-hospital support for Persons with Disabilities – what can you do?

Based on her experiences in hospital settings, Rosina Isabella – a person with a disability in the Disability Studies program – found that many hospitals and outpatient clinics were not experienced in providing people with disabilities and invisible disabilities with the required assistance to have as seamless a visit as possible. 

“We have different requirements depending on our level of disability however we deserve and want the same level of care when a patient in a hospital setting.” 

The initial medical issue that brought Rosina to the hospital was handled quickly and efficiently. However, many other aspects of her overall care were not adequately addressed – items such as re-positioning in bed regularly, ensuring that she was always comfortable, and had access to food (not just a tray placed somewhere out of reach). Hospital staff were not trained or aware of these things so crucial to her. This lack of understanding of her needs significantly affected Rosina’s ability to get well quickly and return to the community. 

So, a mission was born! To build awareness and share the experiences of persons with disabilities, Rosina created an innovative research project – using a simple survey – to collect as much information as possible about the experiences of persons with disabilities in healthcare settings and how well their overall care needs are understood and addressed by health care personnel.

Raising awareness

Ideally, when shared with healthcare providers, her initiative will improve their understanding of the great diversity of care needs of their patients and result in increased awareness, and a commitment to address all of those needs. 

For example, if a patient has difficulties communicating, does the healthcare facility have trained staff (including sign language specialists) who can make sure that the patient can communicate clearly with doctors, nurses, and other staff – both to explain their needs and to understand what the healthcare facility will provide them in terms of care?

The importance of creating and following a plan

Key questions for any healthcare facility are: Do they create a unique plan to address both the medical issues presented and this patient’s other needs during their stay. How well do they follow up with the patient to ensure that all their needs are being fully met daily?

Taking personal action

So how can you get involved? If you are a person with a disability – visible, invisible, or both – and have received treatment in healthcare facilities – during in-hospital stays, visits to emergency rooms, treatment at community clinics, etc. – would you be willing to complete a short survey to capture information about your experiences while receiving treatment?

Through Rosina’s research project, we seek to capture the experiences of as many persons with disabilities in healthcare settings as possible and provide feedback aimed at helping healthcare providers to understand the needs of patients with disabilities and serve them to the best of their abilities.

The information you provide will be analysed and may be shared with the healthcare facilities (aggregated and anonymous). This will hopefully lead to better support systems and an improved experience when persons with disabilities seek medical help.

For more information, see the research project flyer. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have more questions or would like to discuss your experiences with this

Thank you for your attention to this request. We hope you participate in the project survey and reach out to us directly if you have more questions. Sincerely, Rosina Isabella risabella@ryerson.ca and Paul Benson paul.benson@ryerson.ca

Introducing Lauren Munro

Image description: Lauren, a fat white woman with long wavy brown hair is smiling with her eyes closed and head tilted slightly upward. She is wearing a leopard print sleeveless jumpsuit and a crescent moon necklace. She has on neon blue eyeliner and a ray of sun is hitting the top of her head. Various leafy green fronds crisscross the fence in the background.

Lauren Munro has been selected as the newest Limited Term Faculty (LTF) in the School of Disability Studies at X University. She recently sat down with Tiffany-Anne Stones to chat about her trajectory to Disability Studies and what she is looking forward to this year. 

While Lauren Munro may be unfamiliar to the core students within the School of Disability Studies, she has been an instructor in the department for the past two years, team teaching DST 500: A History of Madness. Lauren describes herself as “a mad scholar, an artist, an aunt, a daughter, a partner, and a friend,” prioritizing her relationships in the way she moves through the world. 

When asked about how she came to the field of disability studies, Lauren shares a bell hooks quote from Teaching to Transgress:

“I came to theory, when I was hurting, when the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend what was happening around and within me… I saw in theory then a location for healing.”

(p. 59)

Explaining how the quote “profoundly resonates with me in a kind of retrospective way,” Lauren confides that her discovery of mad studies in the early stages of her academic career – through the Mad Students Society – was a balm for the isolation and alienation she experienced related to her madness and her interactions with the psychiatric system. At the time, she was working on her undergraduate thesis in the psychology department at Laurier and decided to focus on mad students’ experiences with stigma and discrimination. She quickly realized that she “…wasn’t going to be theorizing or thinking this [topic] through in the way that psychology typically would.” This began her formal engagement with writing and theorizing in disability studies and mad studies – a passion that would continue to grow and inform her work moving forward. For graduate studies, she made her academic home in community psychology, which is an interdisciplinary field that takes a social justice-based approach to issues of community health and well-being. In addition to its social justice orientation, she was drawn to the field due to its emphasis on community-based research, compatible with the “nothing about us without us” ethos of disability activism.

Lauren has since been involved in a wide variety of projects focused on the health and well-being of 2SLGBTQ+ communities, body diversity and weight stigma, disability justice in arts-based research, transformative approaches to mental health, sexual health service access for women with psychiatric disabilities, centering service user epistemology in medical education, and issues related to sexual health and HIV vulnerability. Talking about the threads that connect her scholarship, she says her work “…interrogates the idea of there being an ideal body or mind.”

On the teaching side of things, Lauren has extensive experience in a variety of classrooms. Beyond teaching DST 500 at X University, she has taught courses on research methods and community partnerships, and how critical theories can be used to inform the development of social interventions at Laurier. She has also designed, developed, and taught a mad studies course to psychiatry residents at the University of Toronto for the past five years, alongside Lucy Costa of the Empowerment Council. She does this educational work with the goal of contributing to transformative change that tangibly benefits mad community.

I am passionate about teaching and learning and am really excited to get to know the students in the program, and to learn and work alongside them.

Reflecting on her life outside of academia, Lauren shares that part of what keeps her grounded is maintaining some sort of arts practice, whether its zine-making, mixed-media collage, gifts for her nibblings, or simply adorning her planner. Just as important has been staying connected to community, activism, and peer support outside of the confines of traditional medical and social service models. During the pandemic, her primary company has been her partner and a badly behaved cat named Stan. 

In her new position, Lauren is keen to connect with the exceptional scholars within the program. Looking ahead to the 2021/2022 academic year, Lauren will be teaching DST88 and DST99, in addition to DST500. When asked about her approach to teaching, she highlights the importance of “…making space for people who have been harmed by academia, who have been traditionally left out, or who have been taught that it is not a place where they can think, learn, and theorize.” She is looking forward to getting to know students in the program and finding ways to support them to do the kind of work they’re passionate about. While she doesn’t have a physical office at the moment, Lauren encourages students to drop by online, reach out to say hello or to share their curiosities. Acknowledging that academia can reinforce hierarchies that make it hard to send that first email, she shares her hopes around making connections, saying, “…whether it’s sending a late-night email, or really just pressing send on one you composed hours ago,” she can’t wait to hear from you!

Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We condemn the Israeli state’s brutal settler colonial violence and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. We live in Canada and are painfully aware of our complicity with the settler colonial violence against Indigenous people and the continuing dispossession of their land on Turtle Island. We insist on our ethical and political responsibility to raise our voices against settler colonialism and the Canadian government’s support of Israeli apartheid. 

We condemn the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, the raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque, the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, and the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which by international law is illegally occupied territory. Israeli settlers, with the support of Israeli police and military forces, are taking over streets, invading homes, and brutalizing Palestinians. We do not subscribe to a “both sides” rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine. This is not a “conflict” that is too “controversial and complex” to assess. Israel is using violent force, punitive bureaucracy, and the legal system to expel Palestinians from their rightful homes and to remove Palestinian people from their land. Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Illegal Israeli settlements choke and police Palestinian communities, and Palestinians are cut off from each other by a network of checkpoints, laws, settler-only highways, and a separation wall that swallows illegally occupied Palestinian land. Both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid. Yet, the Canadian administration remains silent in the face of this violence, refusing to recognize Israel’s persistent violations of international laws and human rights obligations.

As scholars and solidarity workers who seek justice everywhere, we respond to the call of Palestinian feminists and Palestinian activists for transnational solidarity and assert that Palestine is a feminist, queer, and disability justice issue. Settler colonialism is the primary cause of disablement around the world. Thousands of Palestinians have become disabled from military and police violence. Furthermore, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been denied the basic requirements of life, including access to food, shelter, water, and health care. Recently, Israeli air strikes have killed Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, head of internal medicine at Shifa hospital and part of the coronavirus team, impacting Gaza’s medical capacities. We also recognize that while Israel has been celebrated globally as a leader in COVID-19 vaccinations, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been denied the vaccine. 

Lastly, we object to the curtailment of academic freedom when it comes to critiquing the apartheid State of Israel. The conflation of objections to the Israeli state’s settler colonial violence with anti-semitism is itself a violent oppressive form of censorship and an insult to our academic and moral integrity. We state unequivocally that Zionism and the state of Israel are not and should not be conflated with Judaism or Jewish identity, and foreground the critical allyship of Jewish groups including If Not Now and Independent Jewish Voices Canada. We uphold and support the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) censure of U of T following the withdrawal of a job offer to a qualified applicant who had published articles on Israeli illegal settlements, and condemn the silencing of academic voices on Palestine. 

We join a vibrant, vast, and growing international solidarity community, composed of those raising their voices in support of Palestinians right to freedom, return, safety, flourishing, and self-determination. We call on Ryerson University and our colleagues at institutions across Canada to support the boycotts, general strikes, and other calls to action organized by the Palestinian people, and to amplify the voices of Palestinians.









Members of the School of Disability Studies

Ryerson University

Paid Internship: Digital Accessibility Creation Course

Image Description: A green poster with a picture of two students looking at a computer. Both are young, east asian people with glasses. One person has long hair in a ponytail, wearing a white shirt. The other person has a blue shirt with pink headphones around their neck, and they are typing at the computer as the other person sits next to them and looks at the screen. Text to this left of this reads, "Summer course spotlight. Digital Accessibility Creation - Special Topics Disability Studies 2291B. Paid, for credit work. Internship course. Sponsor: CEWIL Canadian Government. Ryerson Contact: Tali Cherniawsky avital.cherniawsky@ryerson.ca"

Dear Ryerson students,

The School of Disability Studies (DST), in partnership with King’s University College, is offering paid internships to participate in a new online course at King’s, Disability Studies 2291B – Digital Accessibility Creation

Course credit and payment:

The course will also count towards a Professional or Open Elective credit in DST, provided you have not taken your maximum DST prefix electives. For DST students, it can count towards the challenge credit exemption. The payment for taking this course will cover your tuition and offer a small stipend, so it is a free course!

Who can take this course:

We are looking for 5 Ryerson students in third and fourth year, from any faculty or department, with a minimum GPA of 3.5. We welcome all students. This project prioritizes applications from students who are disabled and other equity seeking groups, or who are parents or caregivers.  As such there are funds available for childcare and access.

About the course:

Students apply course concepts to a real-world project in collaboration with professionals working in disability, arts, and social media (at ReVision@RyersonU). Students learn key accessibility and media production tools and use them to help co-create innovative, AODA-compliant Disability Studies course materials that involve an array of digital design and research activities such as digital story-telling and community-driven podcasts. Evaluation is through Learning Journals, engagement in work and a summative report.

The course is flexible, online, and highlights work-integrated learning with a practical focus. This course might be helpful for students who are thinking about teaching or going into accessibility practices.

To apply:
Please contact Tali Cherniawsky at avital.cherniawsky@ryerson.ca with your expression of interest and a statement indicating if you meet any of the priority criteria (no need to disclose which group). 

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

Mental Health ‘Talk’ on Campus

By Jeanette Korosi

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

Mental Health and Wellness at Ryerson, the data

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

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


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

Risk in Vulnerability

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

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


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

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

These are individual solutions to community problems.

Individual Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

Moving Forward with Radical Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abdi Osman’s website and twitter.

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

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

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

Farxiyo Jama’s twitter and instagram.

A student perspective

This was written by graduating student, Kelly Smith.

Photograph of Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith delivering her student perceptive at the annual student award ceremony.

Good afternoon,

First I would like to congratulate all of the award winners that are here today.  It is a true representation of the hard work and commitment that each of you.r have put into your studies and your work.  I would also like to thank the donors for their generous contributions without which we would not be able to recognize the work that students are doing.  Thank you!

I would also like to say thank you to the award committee for presenting me with the Nancy C. Sprott Disability Studies Award.  When Kathryn contacted me to let me know that I had won the award for excellence in my thesis I was truly surprised and deeply honoured.  I almost felt like it wasn’t really fair since I had such a great time working on my thesis.  Not that it wasn’t a lot of work, which it was, and it was certainly stressful at times but I really enjoyed the process as a whole.

I was also very honoured to have been asked to give the Student Response speech today.  It has meant a lot to me. Thank you again.

A little about me:

I was first accepted into the Disability Studies program here at Ryerson in 2002.  I had been scheduled to start in the fall but lost my job during the summer months and had to withdraw from the program at that time.  While my living circumstances changed, I always knew that I wanted to complete the Disability Studies program.  So, fast forward to July 2013 and I finally, after many years, got the chance to start the program!  

When I started DST 501 with Kirsty Liddiard, I came into the class feeling as if I had a pretty good foundation to start from.  My experience in the field of Disability had started at age 12 when I began working with a running coach at Variety Village.  At a young age I was exposed to an environment where I could ask questions and experienced so much diversity that it just became a natural part of life for me. I started working at summer camps with Variety Village when I was 16yrs old and at that time I was also training with a coach who was a paraplegic and the other athletes that he coached were all wheelchair racers.  I continued working recreation programs for kid with disabilities through Toronto Parks and Rec (as it was called back then) in evening and summer programs for many years.  I graduated from the DSW program at Centennial College in 1995 and up until the time that I stepped back into the classroom for DST 501, I worked many different jobs within the Disability field…from working in group homes and supportive living environments, teaching life skills at Bloorview MacMillan Centre (again dating myself), providing behaviour management training to people with acquired brain injuries, managing an Employment program for people with disabilities, as  well working as a Sign Language Facilitator with the Toronto District School Board.  With my background and experience I wondered just what new things this program would or could teach me.

Well, it taught me a lot and there’s still so much for me to learn.  I remember having my world shattered to some extent in that first class, having things that I had learned and believed in thrown on its ear.  One example is the use of “people first” language.  For as long as I can remember it was something that I had always done and taught others to do as well, so to learn in that first class that it was not always supported….well, it really shook things up and made me second guess all that I thought that I knew.

I was one of those people who took a long time to really assimilate what I was learning in my classes.  Logically I knew the answers to the questions and how to respond to my instructors but it took me a long time to be able to really understand, internalize and to formulate my own thoughts and understandings that were in line with the program, so if you’re a new student or even have been in the program for sometime and haven’t reached that point yet, don’t worry, keep working and critically questioning the information that you learn and it will come.

As a recent graduate I have some advice to offer to new students.

The first is that it is really important to keep yourself organized and disciplined with the classes…and I say this as someone who was at times taking 3 courses and working full time.  I don’t really recommend that though!   Treat your online courses like a job.  Schedule the days that you will complete your readings, go online and post your responses and complete assignments into your week.  It’s much easier to develop a schedule that can be flexible, rather than leaving everything to the last minute or not having a plan at all.  I actually used to take the TTC to work instead of driving to give myself 45min in the morning and 45mins in the evening each day to complete my reading….and I might have fallen asleep at times but….I did try!

Secondly, I highly recommend taking some courses from other departments when possible for your electives.  There are a few reasons that I say this.  One reason is that people are made up of many different parts, and for those of you who have gotten this far, it’s what we refer to as intersectionality.  People are never just read by one part of themselves, such as their age, culture, sex, economic status or disability but instead are read at different times by their different intersections together.  Taking courses from other departments help us to learn about different aspects of people.  For example, I took Sociology of Food and Eating and in it I learned how a person’s socioeconomic status can affect their access to foods not only through cost but also through the area that they live in which might be a food desert and food swamp. This is something that I had never thought of before and would certainly impact many of the people that I work with.  I found that there was some unexpected cross-over in what would seem like unlikely places as well.  For example, in Geography of Recreation and Leisure I saw how the “rupture” had taken place and influenced research in Geography just after I had learned about how it had affected the field of Disability studies in DST 88.

Some classes can also offer insight into how society works.  For example, in Pop Culture I learned about the power that the media plays in social construct and used ideas from this class as well as Eliza’s class as a jumping off point for my thesis.  

Another reason is that in taking these courses we become, as Paulo Freire suggests, co-creators in our education.  We have the chance to share the information that we learn in our core courses with other student’ and instructors from different departments.  As we learn from them, they are learning from us at the same time but it also gives us the opportunity to learn how to share our learnings with others who don’t have a Disability Studies background.  I found that after taking a few classes, and many of you may have experienced the same things, that I would want to come home and share this new way of thinking that I was learning with my friends, family or co-workers, only to be surprised that they didn’t agree, didn’t understand or at times even become defensive about what I was saying. I had some good conversations about this with my mum while working on my thesis and I found that it this because in our program we use specific word and phrasing and are taught to critically think about things in different ways than we did when we first came into the program.  So while we can hold conversations with those who have taken or who teach the classes, we sometimes struggle with how to put our new perspectives into different words.  I think that taking a range of classes from various departments can help us to learn how to have these conversations and say the same the things that we need to but to do it in ways that invite conversation and understanding.  This is an important skill to have when going back to our communities and workplaces with new ideas and philosophies that we learn over the course of our program.   

Finally, I would just like to say that the instructors and other staff in our program are truly amazing.  They come from diverse backgrounds and are great resources and a wealth of information and are willing to help whenever they can.  We are truly lucky to have them in our department!  On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to thank them for the help, support and commitment to us throughout our time in the program.  Without you, we would not be able to reach the heights that we have.

To end, I would like to say to all students: throughout the rest of your time in the program I urge you to ask questions, critically examine with passion, create your vision and take action!


Courses you should take

This post was written by current students, Amanda Lin and Carolyn Lee-Jones

a photograph of a blackboard with two sticks of chaulk and the word "courses"

CMHR 405– Organizational Behaviour (In class, 7 week intensive)

This course does not have very much to do with Disability Studies, so it was a bit of a stretch for me to do well in it. It was composed of a midterm, an essay, a group assignment, and a final exam. There was a lot of textbook reading as two chapters were completed in a week, during the intensive version. You really rely a lot on the textbook for this course as there were not a lot of slides and it was mainly a lecture to listen to rather than take too many notes. This course is very much about the application of the textbook material. And the final assignment is a group project that takes quite a bit of time. If you read the material well and pay attention in class for how to apply the knowledge it can be a great course.

CINT 908 –  Homelessness in Canadian Society (In class, Fall 2014)

This course is eye opening and was an amazing experience to be a part of. There were 3 personal journal reflections, one annotated bibliography and a 40% final essay in this course. But on the upside, no notes needed to be taken, the class was more about listening and taking in the experiences of the guest speakers. Every class was engaging and full of discussion. There is even a class where you go on a street walk with a guest speaker to learn about the neighborhood and how it is part of homelessness in Canadian society. I highly suggest this class to others and hope it is as great experience as it was for me.

CINP 901 Developing Effective Non Profit Organization

Since many DST students work in the non profit sector in various capacities this is a great course to fulfil the E requirement. This elective gives a solid background on how non profits actually operate and the issues that organizations often face. It covers things like organizational structure, governance, recruiting, and sustaining non profit organizations. Essentially this course explains what goes on behind the scenes and provided me with a better understanding of my role as front line staff within the greater organizational structure. Evaluation consists of 2 large assignments (25% each), an exam and participation based on a variety of interactive activities and course material primarily uses case studies to make the topics as realistic as possible. Overall a great and manageable ‘E’ course elective.

Alright Let’s Talk

This post was written by current student, Nicole Meehan, for the course Writing for Disability Activism.

photograph of a subway ad which reads " Thinking of suicide. There is help. Let's Talk". Underneath the image of a telephone number pad there are graphics for the sponsors, Bell and the Let's talk campagin

Take One – October 7, 2014 12:34 pm

Let’s start by walking down the hallway together. Nothing too complex, there are posters lining the walls for things like “Hungry for Change?” and “Shop online for all your textbooks.” We are at the school in the midst of the hustle and bustle of classes, papers, and mid terms. I can feel my stomach churning as I open the door.  Let’s walk past all the offices of people with smiling faces, who wave as we go by. I grimace in attempt to smile back, and finally, enter the reception for the centre for student development and counseling.

I would like to book an appointment please

What for?


Have you been here before?


We have availability two and a half weeks from now for you to meet with our triage person. Does that time work?

I guess so.

Take Two – October 24, 2014 10:00 am

Let’s enter reception once again and see what happens.

Fill out these forms and bring them back to me when you are done.

Answer the following questions and how often you experience them from one to five, one being not very often and five being all the time.

Do you have any feelings of hopelessness, or worthlessness? Do you hear voices? Are there any changes in your sleeping or eating patterns? Do you want to cut yourself? Have you had any panic attacks or times of intense fear?  How much alcohol do you drink? Do you take drugs?

My whole body is shaking while reading these questions. I can’t control the muscle spasms from making a mess of my name as I try to write it down on the page.

Ok, Nicole, come on in. I am the triage counselor, and today we are just going to go through a few things to see what services would be the best fit for you.

Take Three – October 24, 2014 12:30 pm

Let’s visit my accommodation facilitator in the academic accommodation support center, formerly known as the access centre. The lights are dim, the walls are a soft yellow and there is a picture of a beach hanging opposite to me.

I have to fill out a form to get a bursary to cover the expenses of an external counselor. But, guess what? My file is missing, probably in archives, so they can’t actually process the request. Oh and also, I need to call and get a quote from 3 different psychologists and a doctor’s note before we can proceed.

Take Four – November 3, 2014 10:15 am

Let’s walk across campus to the medical center. We need the doctor to fill out this piece of paper, I think. I can’t think straight. I’m exhausted, I don’t know what’s going on, and my head hurts. Enter, the fourth year medical student.

So you are here for a mental health consult?

Yes I think so.

Tell me your story … Ok, thank you for sharing. I think medication would be your best option. Are you ready to have the doctor to come in to discuss this?

Enter, supervising medical doctor.

I don’t want to take meds, my body goes wonky when I take them and I feel worse. I just came to get some counseling services, please.

I respect your decision for denying medication and I feel psychotherapy is a good direction for you to go in. I am going to refer you to the in house psychiatrist to see if there is anything she can do for you.


Take Five – November 3, 2014 3:00 pm

Let’s go see the psychiatrist maybe she knows what to do. My head feels like it is going to explode and I need to keep my eyes closed to contain it. I’m tired of telling my story over and over again.

So why are you here? I see you saw the medical doctor this morning, so what can I do for you?

Oh, no! Not again. I am just trying to get counseling, and I have been to so many different places, I’m done.

How about you go back to the counseling centre and ask if there is anything that I am supposed to do for you, then come back and let me know.

Take Six – November 3, 2014 4:07 pm

Let’s shuffle back to the counseling centre. As it turns out, all I needed was for the doctor to check “yes” on a simple sheet of stark white printer paper, with the words “recommendation for psychotherapy” in jet black ink.

Take Seven – December 4, 2014 2:00 pm

Let’s talk. Are you ready now?