Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism

SSHRC is committed to making its programs accessible to Canada’s research community. As part of this commitment, the agency established the Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism (ACASA) in 2022 to help SSHRC identify barriers in its programs and services, and to recommend actions the agency can take to address these barriers. The committee also provided leadership and independent advice on how SSHRC can promote greater inclusion in the research enterprise of people who identify as living with a disability or as disabled, while applying an intersectional lens in their reflections and recommendations.

The committee comprises 13 members, including a chair and co-chair nominated by committee members. The group includes representation from across a wide range of perspectives, lived experiences, research fields, institution sizes and personal identification, including regional and linguistic diversity.

ACASA met 14 times over 18 months to develop the analysis and recommendations presented in its final report. The committee’s deliberations and an earlier version of this report guided the development of the SSHRC Accessibility Plan. While ACASA’s activities concluded in January 2024, SSHRC will continue to incorporate the guidance received from the committee into its 2024 annual progress report, ongoing implementation activities, and resource decisions.

SSHRC is extremely grateful to ACASA members for dedicating their time and valuable insights during the meetings and in their report. SSHRC wishes to acknowledge chair and lead author Andréa Peters and co-chair Stefan Sunandan Honisch for their innovative work and service toward improving accessibility at SSHRC and within the Canadian research ecosystem.

Report of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism
Andréa Peters
Committee Chair and lead author of both the English and French reports
Graduate student, Master’s in Social Sciences, Université de Moncton

Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Peters completed an Honour’s BA in interdisciplinary studies at Saint Thomas University, combining sociology, linguistics (with a specialization in narrative studies) and creative writing. She also has two diplomas in visual arts with a specialization in textiles from the New Brunswick College of Art and Design. Since September 2021, she has been a graduate student in Social Sciences at Université de Moncton. Her master’s thesis analyzes bilingual inclusive linguistic practices in the Canadian Armed Forces, in which she is a Captain. Her military career, which began in 2010, is primarily focused on forensic linguistics and teaching (in both languages/linguistics and leadership).

For ten years, Peters was the founding volunteer and director of an independent, not-for-profit food security network for vulnerable persons. Since 2020, she has volunteered as an academic and integration mentor for students who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, on the autism spectrum, in a situation of handicap, and/or newly arrived in Canada. Peters also works as an accessibility and inclusion consultant for the Louise-and-Reuben-Cohen Art Gallery. In addition, she is chair of SSHRC’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Systemic Ableism.

Stefan Sunandan Honisch
Committee Co-chair and co-author of the English report
Honorary Research Associate / Sessional Lecturer, Theatre and Film, The University of British Columbia

Stefan Sunandan Honisch is an honorary research associate and sessional lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film at The University of British Columbia, having held a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship in the department from 2019 to 2021. He is co-director of SSHRC’s Race, Gender and Diversity Initiative grant, “Facilitating Anti-Ableist Remote Music Making," and co-applicant for SSHRC’s Partnership Development Grant, “Canadian Accessible Musical Instruments Network.” He has contributed peer-reviewed articles to the Journal of Inclusive Education, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, and Journal of Teaching Disability Studies, as well as chapters to The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, and The Oxford Handbook of Music and the Body, among other publications. In addition to maintaining an active program of research, teaching and service, Honisch remains active as a freelance musician.

Maria Fernanda Arentsen
Professor, Département d’études françaises, de langues et de littératures, Université de Saint-Boniface

Maria Fernanda Arentsen's work focuses on discourses around otherness in literature. She has published numerous works on exclusion and disability and has organized many scientific events in this field. She was the French representative of the Canadian Disability Studies Association for several years. She is currently working on a SSHRC-funded research project entitled “Le corps blessé dans les littératures québécoise et canadienne d'expression française - 1945-2015.”

Cynthia Bruce
Associate Professor, Music Therapy, and Chair, Department of Creative Arts Therapies, Concordia University

Cynthia Bruce is an associate professor and coordinator of music therapy programs at Concordia University. As a blind activist scholar working at the intersection of critical disability studies, music therapy and education, she works to mobilize lived disability knowledge to expose systemic inequity and formulate more just approaches to research and practice. She focuses on accessibility in higher education and on self-advocacy as essential lived knowledge that can generate deep understanding of inequity and elucidate possibilities for progressive change. Bruce is current vice-chair of the Nova Scotia Education Standard Development Committee and a collaborator with the Canadian Accessibility Network. She is a 2022 recipient of the Concordia University Petro Canada Young Innovator Award for her project titled “Locked Down to Teach and Learn: A Critical Disability Studies Analysis of Disabled Student and Faculty Experience in the Age of COVID-19”.

Amandine Catala
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Université du Québec à Montréal

Amandine Catala is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), where she holds the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Epistemic Injustice and Agentivity. Her research focuses on feminist, social and political philosophy and philosophy of race, disability and neurodiversity. She is the project leader of the SSHRC Insight Project “Minoritized Minds and Knowings: Towards an Inclusive Conception of Epistemic Injustice and Agency.” She is actively involved in several equity, diversion and inclusion (EDI) committees at the departmental, faculty and institutional levels. Catala has participated in numerous EDI events at the institutional, provincial, national and international levels. She is an Autistic self-advocate and the co-founder of the Collectif autiste de l’UQAM, an initiative that aims to bring together and support Autistics who study, work or teach at UQAM.

Catherine Fichten
Professor, Psychology, Dawson College

Catherine S. Fichten, PhD (McGill) is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Dawson College in Montreal and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. She co-directs the Adaptech Research Network / Réseau de Recherche Adaptech, a bilingual multidisciplinary research team that conducts research on higher education and disability. Her research interests include factors affecting the success of college and university students with various disabilities, with a focus on technologies. She is also a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Behavioural Psychotherapy and Research Unit of the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal where she focuses on aspects of sleep and insomnia. She publishes extensively in both English and French with colleagues and students and holds grants from both provincial and federal funding agencies.

Fichten is a member of the Executive Committee of the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance and a member of the editorial board of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine journal. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Canadian Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service, the California State University, Northridge’s Assistive Technology Fred Strache Leadership Award, and the Prix Denise-Barbeau of the Association francophone pour le savoir.

Sally Lindsay
Associate Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto

Sally Lindsay is a senior scientist at Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the social inclusion and participation of children and youth with disabilities, especially as they transition to adulthood. She has authored 165 publications, made 300+ conference presentations and, as a principal investigator, has been awarded 20 peer-reviewed grants totaling more than $4.3 million. She was recently elected into the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. She recently held an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation for her work on “Improving the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in the labour force”. Lindsay leads the TRansitions And Inclusive environments Lab (TRAIL) where she has trained more than 100 students.

Phil Lord
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Moncton

Phil Lord is an assistant professor at Université de Moncton’s Faculty of Law.

Lord previously served as an instructor at Carleton University's Department of Law and a law clerk at the Federal Court of Canada. Prior to that, he started two companies, worked in the financial services industry, and practised civil and commercial litigation in Montreal.

Lord graduated from the Faculty of Law at McGill University with degrees in civil and common law, was on the Dean’s Honour List and had the highest standing in property law and constitutional law. He subsequently pursued an LLM as a Bombardier scholar. Lord is called to the bar in New York, Massachusetts and Quebec. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and holds three financial services designations.

Lord has authored more than 25 academic articles, most peer reviewed. His research focuses on public law (principally employment and taxation law), behavioural economics and new religious movements.

Alan Santinele Martino
Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream), Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary

Alan Martino (he/him) is an assistant professor in the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program in Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. His research interests are in critical disability studies, gender and sexualities; feminist and disability studies theories; qualitative and community-based research. His research theorizes and empirically examines the perspectives, challenges and triumphs of disabled people concerning sexuality. More importantly, his research makes space for disabled people to share their own experiences with love and intimacy.

Tricia McGuire-Adams
Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto

Tricia McGuire-Adams (Anishinaabekwe from Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek) conducts community-driven research in Indigenous health and wellbeing. She is an associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto and held a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Ganandawisiwin/Good Health Sovereignties. Her current program of research looks to Anishinaabeg land-based learning, gikendaasowin/knowledge about Indigenous sport, disabilities and Indigenous women’s wellness to further amplify Indigenous peoples’ practices of health and well-being.

Dresda Emma Méndez de la Brena
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Communication Studies, Concordia University

Dresda Méndez de la Brena is a horizon postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. She is part of the Access in the Making Lab, coordinated by Dr. Arseli Dokumaci, which centres the knowledge, skills and virtuosity of disabled people in the making of access. Her research focuses on feminist, social and political philosophy at the intersection of disability, debility and environmental damage. She has participated in several feminist organizations and queer collectives in Mexico and Spain. Her upcoming book Morbid States (in Spanish) describes the escalating state violence that manifests in the increasing number of bodily chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia.

Jason Nolan
Associate Professor, School of Early Childhood Studies, Toronto Metropolitan University

Jason Nolan is the John C. Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and associate professor in Early Childhood Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University. Nolan directs the Responsive Ecologies Lab (RE/Lab) and the Experiential Design and Generative Environments (EDGE) lab. Nolan's background in designing adaptations for disabled children stems from a perspective of design initiated by children and their families with the goal of supporting their sensory exploration of the world around them and the communication of their goals, interests and needs to their carers. Nolan's research approach focuses on reconceptualizing music education and exploration of acoustic sensory information in early learning environments from a social justice lens of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Nolan's present work is on the missing modality of auditory sensory play and exploration with DIY electronic and found objects, and innovations in pedagogical approaches for marginalized communities through three SSHRC funded projects: Canadian Accessible Musical Instrument Network; Facilitating Anti-Ableist Remote Music Making; and Sounding off: Learning, communicating and making sense with sound.

Danielle Peers
Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta

Danielle Peers (they/them) is an associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, at the University of Alberta and was the Canada Research Chair (Tier II, SSHRC) in Disability and Movement Cultures. Peers studies how movement cultures (including art, recreation and sport) can be used to transmit and transform a community’s values, politics and (in)equities. Mobilizing embodied disability justice approaches, Peers prioritizes deep, intersectional collaborations to co-create knowledges and practices that reduce harm and create more accessible, affirming and transformative movement cultures. Their work draws from their experiences as a Paralympic athlete, coach, dancer and filmmaker. Peers has done extensive accessibility and equity consultation in education, sport and recreation, and in non-profit sectors.

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