Vision, Passion, Action

A Work in Progress

The Research area of our website is still under active development.  Please be sure to return as we flesh out many of the topic areas identified here, and as we seek to provide a more fulsome offering of resources for fellow researchers.


Professor and Research Associate Kathryn Church and DST student Michelle Bettencourt assemble a poster for display at a Faculty of Community Services event.

Since September 2002, the Institute has launched eleven qualitative studies that are grounded in (and contribute to) the emerging knowledge base of Critical Disability Studies. Most are designed to reveal the complex invisible “work” performed by disabled people in every day/night life. Prominent examples include the work of disabled bank employees in becoming/staying corporately viable, the work of disabled people in managing their engagement with personal support workers, and the work of disabled women as they use clothing practices to mediate societal expectations around ‘normal’ female bodies.

Institute research is not hypothesis-driven but committed to open-ended discovery that builds from stage to stage. As researchers, our role is facilitative, analytic, catalytic and curatorial. Along with observation and participation, we rely heavily on talking to people. We favour methods that create dialogue about experience: through informal conversation and/or formal individual and group interviews.

We are also deliberately exploring (creating) connections between Disability Arts and Culture and social science research. Performance events provoke questions and suggest problematics for funded research while arts-based methods contribute practices that enable us to investigate and legitimate Disability Culture beyond community celebration. In other words, we consciously attend to the dialogic relation between artistic forms and research methods.

Doing Disability at the Bank: Discovering the Work of Informal Learning done by Disabled Bank Employees

The purpose of this case study is to discover and to map the range of learning strategies that disabled employees initiate in order to get and keep jobs within bank environments during a time of global restructuring.

Disability Arts and Culture: Review of the Literature

Entitled Lights...Camera... Attitude! the primary product of this project uses text and images to address the definition and scope of cultural activity by disabled artists, scholars and activists through a range of media (print, video/film, performance and other) in North America and internationally.

In Profile: Personal Support Workers in Canada

In preparation for a larger ethnographic study, this project constructed a profile of people who work for disabled people in non-institutionalized settings across Canada.

New Partnerships for New Times: Creating Learning Resources for Personal Support Workers in the Global Economy

An ethnographic study, the end result of this project will be a textbook intended for personal support worker training that recognizes the complexity of their location in a globalizing economy, on the one hand, and their relation to a growing disability rights movement on the other.

Into and Out of the Closet: Discovering the Lifeworlds of Disabled Women through their Clothing.

Beginning from ‘wardrobe moments’ clothing and clothing practices, this study is engaging disabled women in conversation about the ways that they constitute their identities, and understand the place(s) of disabled women in contemporary society.

Recovery: Troubling the Talk; Informing the Walk

This initiative is intended to discover and analyze the emergence of “recovery” policies in the field of community mental health by initiating an international collaboration with key researchers in Toronto, Edinburgh, and Auckland.

A-Way Couriers: An Oral History of a Psychiatric Survivor-run Business

This preliminary project resulted in a proposal for a two-year oral history project on the subject of A-Way Couriers, a successful Toronto business wholly operated by psychiatric survivors.

The Disability-Related Policy and Research Cluster

Our participation in this “cluster” of leading Canadian and international researchers will enable us to observe, reflect upon and support the culturally transformative work of disability activism across a range of academic disciplines (social and political science, arts and humanities, ethics and cultural studies).

Art/Works: A Pilot Study of Disability, Art and Identity

The purpose of this study is to lay groundwork for understanding – in-depth rather than in passing – the complex intersections of the lives of disabled artists, writers and performers, their artistic process/products, and their creative and political struggles.

Betwixt and Between: An exploration of movement through disability and dance

The aim of this project is to explore moments of transition in dance and to begin a creative dialogue about particular aesthetic transactions in dance performance from the perspective of Ali Nedjati, a photographer "immobilized" by a significant physical disability.


With other partners, this project is enabling us to explore the common challenges and strategies for inclusion among marginalized groups by creating an on-line collection of collaborative artistic works.


This project brings together an applied research network to show how online environments can be designed to benefit both individuals with disabilities and Aboriginal artists whose history is deep in an oral tradition of communication.