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Program Description

Faculty Member Esther Ignagni and RA Jijian Voronka pose in their DST hoodies

The Disability Studies program prepares students for leadership roles in management, community development, advocacy, policy and planning. In addition to fulfilling specific career objectives, many people will enrol in the program to enhance their capacities as advocates and change-agents.

Unique in Canada this degree program is designed to build on the direct practice skills that students have acquired from programs such as Developmental Services Worker, Educational Assistant, Mental Health and Addictions program and other disability studies related Ontario College diplomas and through work experience, (or other disability studies related post-secondary education and experience deemed suitable by the admissions committee), and to prepare them for leadership roles in a variety of areas including direct care, management, community development, policy, planning, and advocacy. In addition to paid careers, it is expected that some people, especially those within the disability community, will enrol in the program to enhance their ability to do effective advocacy.

At the end of the equivalent of approximately two years of full-time study, students will receive a Bachelor of Arts, B.A. (Disability Studies).


An underlying premise of this program is that the disadvantage typically experienced by disabled people reflects, primarily, the way society defines and responds to disability. It is the oppressive structures of our society that create and sustain the marginal life circumstances that all too often characterize the lives of people with disabilities. Our curriculum is designed to create an increased awareness of the socio-political context of disability and to enable students to apply this perspective to the development of a wide range of skills in the areas noted above.

Core required courses cover a variety of topics including disability theory, policy, community building, advocacy, empowering practices, access and technology, leadership, research methods, ethics, and media representation. Through electives, students pursue courses in such subjects as politics, human rights, human services management, crisis intervention, homelessness, ethnic diversity, gender and sexuality, and urban geography. Since the focus of the program is the social phenomenon of disablement, courses are not designed to provide in-depth information about the characteristics of specific impairments. Students with a particular interest (such as employment) will have the opportunity to focus on this issue in various course assignments as well as in their applied community project or thesis.

Curriculum Structure

Graduating class of 2004

The Post-Diploma Degree Completion Program in Disability Studies is offered only on a part-time basis and consists of the equivalent of approximately four semesters of full-time course work. In keeping with other degree programs at Ryerson, there are three categories of courses to be taken, namely professional, professionally-related and liberal studies courses. For further information please refer to the Disability Studies program curriculum. For information about taking elective courses at other postsecondary institutions, please refer to the Letter of Permission for more details.

In addition to the above course requirements, students who do not have the requisite work/advocacy experience will also complete a disability studies practicum.

In order to promote access for people from across Ontario (and perhaps elsewhere), all required courses will be available either as intensive on-site courses or through distance education. Some of these courses will also be available in traditional once-a-week class formats at Ryerson. Students registering for this degree program will need to be aware that they may be required to take up to three courses in the intensive on-site format, each course typically extending over a period of two weeks. Students will be able to take elective courses at Ryerson or, with a Letter of Permission, at other universities. The flexible modes of delivery that characterize this program will also facilitate access by people with disabilities.

Because students will be taking some courses through distance delivery, access to computer, Internet and the World Wide Web are essential. Students who are graduates of an Ontario College may be able to access computers at the college from which they graduated. However, students are strongly encouraged to purchase their own computers. Support in accessing computer based course material will be provided.

Course Sequencing

Three DST students/alumni

Students must take DST 501 as their first required course. They may not take DST 99A/B until they have completed all other requirements for the degree. Students should note that certain liberal studies and professionally-related courses may have their own prerequisites.

Disability Studies Summer Institute:

There are three intensive courses offered on Ryerson campus, every year in July for one to two weeks, including the first required course: Rethinking Disability (DST501). DST501 must be taken prior to all other required Disability Studies courses. This is a good opportunity for students admitted in the Spring semester to start with this course. However, students accepted into the program may register for professionally related and liberal studies electives before taking DST501.