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With support from the RBC Foundation from 2001 to 2008, the RBC Institute for Disability Studies Research and Education has enriched our School's programming and served as a meeting ground for persons committed to the rights, inclusion and full social participation of disabled people.

Take a look at some of the research and cultural work made possible through this Institute.

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Welcome to the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University!

Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies, established in 1999, is the first in Canada to offer a degree education that is strongly rooted in a disability studies perspective. We offer a distinct undergraduate program that illuminates the extent to which the lives of disabled people are shaped by patterns of injustice, exclusion, discrimination and the rule of social, cultural and aesthetic ‘norms’. Put another way, Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies does not teach about disability, but rather teaches about social and material worlds, beginning from disability.

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What is Disability Studies?

Members of the Disability Studies team pose in 2007 with the Dean of the Faculty of Community Services, Dr. Usha George.  Front row, left to right: Dr. Melanie Panitch; Paris Master-McRae; Dr. Usha George; Esther Ignagni; Jennifer Paterson and Dr. Kathryn Church.  Back row: David Reville; Richard Ingram and Jijian Voronka.In 1993, an official definition of disability studies was adopted by the Society for Disability Studies, a professional organization of scholars from around the world.

The definition states that Disability Studies, among other things:

“... examines the policies and practices of all societies to understand the social, rather than the physical or psychological determinants of the experience of disability. Disability Studies has been developed to disentangle impairments from the myths, ideology and stigma that influence social interaction and social policy. The scholarship challenges the idea that the economic and social statuses and the assigned roles of people with disabilities are the inevitable outcomes of their condition”.

The disability rights movement, emerging in the 1970s and 1980s, laid much of the groundwork for the current development of disability studies. It was people with disabilities themselves who shifted the perspective away from a focus on individual deficiency and pathology, towards a focus on socially constructed barriers (inaccessible architecture, exclusion, prejudice).

As scholars in Disability Studies, we consider it important to remain connected to the disability rights movement. Maintaining the “fusion” between disability studies and people with disabilities and their organizations is an important underpinning of Ryerson’s Disability Studies program.

(Adapted from Disability Studies: A Field of Study Whose Time has Come, by Melanie Panitch, Director, Ryerson School of Disability Studies.)

About Disability Studies at Ryerson

The Disability Studies program is built upon foundations of inclusion and social justice, and offers an approach that is consistent with Ryerson’s reputation for professionally relevant education. Integrating theory and practice, our students and faculty pursue scholarship that serves, shapes and animates disability movements in Canada and globally. Drawing from the work of scholars, artists and activists and building from students’ personal and professional experiences, our program engages learners in a transformative process of reflection, debate and discovery.

Please explore this site to learn more!