PhD | SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow
I hold a PhD in Public Health Sciences from the University of Toronto. My dissertation research focuses on mapping disabled and mad students' experiences of disclosure in higher education. I have published scholarly articles on disability-related issues in higher education, on Canadian disability history, disabled youth's experiences in elementary, at home and at camps, and on barriers related to e-voting and online voting for disabled people. Currently, a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at City, University of London, I am researching the tech-based solutions that have emerged in response to international students’ mental health in the UK, and globally.
Draft - A methodology of access in adult and transformative community-based learning spaces
In this paper, we describe a methodology of access that was developed and applied during a three-year project in Niagara region focused on creating the next generation of disability leaders. We describe the theoretical approach to the project and highlight the significance of doing this work in Niagara. A literature review of adult, transformative, and community-based learning scholarship revealed that little research or writing has focused on describing a thorough approach to access in transformative projects in community-based settings. Writing with two participants from the study, we elaborate on the five dimensions of our methodology of access: 1) funding; 2) local and focused; 3) intimate, relational, and interdependent; 4) curating access; and, 5) moving beyond access. We conclude by highlighting some tensions in taking on this work, but ultimately invite scholars working in the community and community groups and organizations conducting projects, on any subject or with any population, to consider our approach in the development of their next project.
Draft - Medical Equipment: The Manifestation of Anti-Fat Bias in Medicine
This paper seeks to contribute to the pedagogy of current and future health care providers by describing the anti-fat bias embedded in medical equipment, and the importance of practitioners to develop fat-specific healthcare knowledge for their patients. I discuss my personal experiences accessing healthcare as a fat person, and chronicle my attempt in finding an accessible MRI machine in the province of Ontario. In the process, I become an accidental-expert on MRI machines and trace their shape and function, along with so many other inaccessible medical equipment to the invention of the average man. I consider the influence of eugenics on design and argue that we have to reimagine the users of medical spaces.
Neoliberal methods of disqualification: A critical examination of disability-related educational funding in Canada
Funding for post-secondary students with disabilities in Canada is an under-studied yet pressing policy issue that affects up to 15% of students currently enrolled in post-secondary institutions across the country reflecting, at the same time, trends in educational accommodations occurring on a global scale. This article presents new data and combines these findings with a qualitative policy review to expose how funding levels in Canada have remained static over a 20-year period as a result of changes to key funding programs. We show how access to these insufficient funding programs is based on application processes that are shaped by the careful management of knowledge and information, underpinned by a desire to keep spending low. We then analyze the implications of these funding practices for disabled students and situate their effects within the neoliberal cultural project that eschews transparency while increasing individualization and self-responsibilization – encouraging disabled students to embody market rationalities as a way of maintaining their presence in academia.
Playing with normalcy: A disability material culture analysis
We recast a toy figure as a cultural agent of various interlocking and hegemonic discourses, and in particular, explore how normative discourses are reflected in material objects. We suggest that the toy gymnast represents and reinforces these discourses and therefore influences how children learn that normative bodies are desirable.
Unlearning through Mad Studies: Disruptive pedagogical praxis
Medical discourse currently dominates as the defining framework for madness in educational praxis. Consequently, ideas rooted in a mental health/illness binary abound in higher learning both as curriculum content and through institutional procedures that reinforce structures of normalcy. While madness then, is included in university spaces, this inclusion proceeds in ways that continue to pathologize madness and disenfranchise mad people. This paper offers Mad Studies as an alternative entry point for engaging with madness in higher education, arguing that centring madness in pedagogical praxis has the potential to interrupt hegemonic ways of knowing, being, and learning. We illustrate how this disruption is facilitated by examining particular aspects of pedagogical praxis mobilized in Mad Studies, including building curriculum alongside the community, centring madness in course design and student assessment, and the deployment of mad positivity. Ultimately, this approach provides a meta curriculum of unlearning, challenging students to consider how their engagement with madness in the classroom, and beyond, has the potential to disrupt sanist systems of oppression and the normalcy they reconstitute.
The violent consequences of disclosure...and how disabled and mad students are pushing back
Published in the international book, Disability and the University: A Disabled Students’ Manifesto.
Breaking the rules: Summer camping experiences and the lives of Ontario children growing up with polio in the 1940s and 1950s
Published in the book, Routledge History of Disability, this chapter draws upon 11 participants who attended one of five Ontario Society for Crippled Children's (OSCC) summer camps in Ontario between 1937 and 1955. We blend feminist and critical race studies, disability studies, oral history, and feminist oral history theories and methodologies, to investigate the OSCC summer camps objectives via two archival documents found in the Ontario Archives. We deconstruct and interrogate the philosophy of the OSCC summer camp objectives and discuss four themes from this analysis: disability as limitation and experience; independence; socializing at camp and at home; and, embodied subjectivities. Each of the themes illustrates an aspect of the ableist dominant view of disability in relation to understandings of disabled children’s lives at that time. In the context of each theme, we also introduce the counter-narratives (everyday lived experiences) of the participants who attended these camps. We describe how participants “broke the rules” of dominant ableist discourses, both within the camps and in everyday life. In effect, by breaking the rules, these participants transformed the camping experience from a site of regulation and control to a site of chosen and expanded opportunities as active agents in their lives.
Who counts and who’s counted? Conversations around voting, access, and divisions in the disability community
Online voting platforms have been introduced in some locations as the solution to the many barriers to political participation that disabled people continue to face. Reading the experiences of disabled student voters on university campuses alongside broader trends in electoral reform taking place in jurisdictions across Canada allows us to attend to the dangerous ways in which conversations around access have been limited through virtual solutions that encourage the physical absence of disabled voters. This article situates these absences alongside other categories of exclusion – including groups who are formally disenfranchised – and recalls many unstated values that are active in shaping citizenship cultures. Probing online voting through a critical disability angle, we present a critique of techno-fixes that builds upon broader notions of accessibility and inclusion.
A culture of silence: Modes of objectification and silencing of disabled bodies
Throughout history different practices have attempted to silence the experiences of disabled people. In this paper we explore some of these practices including the medical, familial, and self-subjugating practices English-speaking Canadian polio survivors experienced throughout their lives. We analyze participant’s experiences of silence and silencing through a Foucauldian lens, drawing on the three modes of objectification to explain the institutional and cultural discourses around polio subjects that acted upon and through the polio body to silence it. Participants’ oral history accounts demonstrate how sociocultural and medical practices effectively silenced survivors from speaking about their polio experiences. However, the trope of silence is also uprooted within oral history traditions. We will demonstrate how participants broke their silence and shifted their perspectives on polio and disability, and how this process contributed to their resistance of hegemonic conceptualizations of disability as defective.
An education and negotiation of difference: The schooling experiences of English-speaking Canadian children growing up with polio in the 1940s and 1950s
In this paper we present oral narratives focusing on schooling experiences of Canadians who lived with polio as children between 1940 and 1959. We argue that disabled students with polio received an education about the differences ascribed to them by individuals in authority (teachers, principals), by other young people, and through the dominant negative discourses of polio and normalizing, ableist practices of schooling. Using narrative accounts from participants’ interviews, we analyze their school experiences of difference: inaccessible physical and temporal spaces, bullying at school, exclusion from classes, and negotiating youth culture related to shoes, clothes and friendships. However, participants were not passive and they discussed how, along with families, they negotiated and occasionally defied normalizing processes. This research gives voice to a generation of disabled English-speaking Canadians, whose stories about school have not been heard before.
Reports and Resources
Overview of Courses
A History of Madness
Fall 2018; Winter 2019 (Team Taught with Jenna Reid and Danielle Landry)
This course asks students to reflect on the following questions: Where do diverse concepts of madness come from? How have these ideas changed over time? How have mad people interpreted their own experiences? This course is taught in the tradition of social history from below. It surveys the social, medical, political, economic, cultural, and religious factors that have influenced interpretations of what it means to be mad from ancient time to the present.
Mad Studies: Theories and Politics
Fall 2016, 2017, 2018
This course introduces students to the theory and politics of Mad Studies. Key ideas covered over the term include the history of mad politics in Canada; critiques of psychiatric theory and practice; intersectional analyses of mental health and illness; cultural and artistic modes of representation and resistance and Mad Pride.
Disability Issues – In the classroom and online
Winter 2015 and 2016; Summer 2015 and 2016
This course examines disability issues within a socio-political context. Such a perspective contends that it is not the specific type of disability condition which is the major source of disadvantage to the individual but the response that this condition evokes from the larger society. This course will challenge some of the traditional (and damaging) assumptions made about the needs of people labelled as being disabled and will present a framework for policy and practice designed to promote empowerment and inclusion.
For more in-depth course descriptions, feel free to reach out.