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Institute explores the significance of disability studies for scholarship and life


July 18, 2011

by Jennifer Sipos-Smith


2011 Disability Studies Institute director Tanya Titchkosky of SESEThe emerging status of disability studies at the University of Toronto and in Ontario will be examined this week as OISE plays host to the Disability Studies Summer Institute - Why Disability Studies? July 18-23. About 50 academics from U of T, Ontario, the UK and US, new PhD graduates, undergraduate and graduate students representing a variety of disciplines are working together to explore ways to enhance the significance of disability studies.

The aim is to collectively approach the routine ways disability is addressed by educational policy and practice around the world, and engage participants in imagining new prospects for disability studies and disabled people.

Abysmal rates of unemployment, under-employment and education have changed little for 500 million people with disabilities worldwide over the past several decades. The crisis remains global despite (often able-ist) endeavors to manage the participation of people with disabilities in productive ways.  The current economic crisis continues to negatively affect the lives of disabled people and points to a need to re-think current practices that contribute to troubling forms of disability inclusion as well as exclusion. Over six days, scholars will engage in an interactive and interdisciplinary research based examination of the cultural production of disability in a variety of educational contexts. Approaching disability as a social phenomenon that has been engaged by cultural practices, policies and educational procedures, they will seek to cultivate theoretical connections among critical race, feminist, queer, and cultural studies theory and disability studies.

The overall objective is to provide both established and emerging disability studies scholars with the opportunity to engage in an examination of the cultural production of disability. Focusing on both the crisis of exclusions faced by disabled people around the world and the cultural processes of inclusion, the Institute will uncover the ways disability remains a social phenomenon in need of further examination. 

Through research presentations, case study workshops, informal discussions, and intensive writing projects, the goals of the Institute are to: provide opportunitis for all participants, including the next generation of disability studies scholars to enhance interdisciplinary research within a milieu of collective learning; develop local and international research capacity; pursue a special issue of an international journal as a step along the way to establishing a sustained research and publishing network; and increase research capacity locally and internationally.

Institute director Tanya Titchkosky, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at OISE, shared her feelings about the opportunities the Institute will afford individuals and society, "I am very grateful to be able to gather together people who wish to think both about disability and disability studies in new and enlivening ways so that we can develop better ways to learn well with and through disability in the future."