NEADS Conference 2004 - Right On!
Elizabeth Winkelaar is a graduate student in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. Elizabeth’s research is largely concerned with a Disability Studies perspective on the historical, social, political and cultural framework of Canadian Studies, especially the lives of women with disabilities in Canada. Elizabeth has been consistently active in the community, politically and personally to advocate for the human rights of people with disabilities.
Disability Studies – An Inclusive Discipline?
Historically, disability was thought to be a punishment for sin or a personal tragedy. If people with disabilities had little personal or family security, benevolent citizens and religious institutions provided charitable help. As our society shifted towards the medical model, the charity model was replaced by medical professionals who did their best to “fix” the disability while attributing the continuing economic, social and cultural marginalization of people with disabilities to the physiological pathologies located in their bodies. Disability Studies replaces those oppressive models with a socio-cultural or political analysis of disability. This presentation will focus on the results of an independent study and the landscape of Disability Studies in Canada as well as internationally.
Elizabeth Winkelaar is a graduate student in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. Her research is largely concerned with a Disability Studies perspective on the historical, social, political, and cultural framework of Canadian Studies, especially the lives of women with disabilities in Canada.
Winkelaar said that the Women’s Studies component of the School of Canadian Studies taught her about feminism and about personal experience being political. The same holds true for race and gender issues. She began to understand issues of oppression and how theory can affect social policy. Media, culture and disability, and citizenship issues were things that interested Winkelaar. She was heartened to see that disability programs were emerging in universities in Canada. She realized that academy, research, and activism were all needed to make change.
Winkelaar also observed that professors are beginning to include issues of disability when they talk about race, gender, and citizenship. The history of the disability rights movement is very important, because it is about history, culture, and theory. Mobilizing disabled people for political action is about building healthy communities.
Winkelaar noted that access to buildings or washrooms is a huge issue of social integration and isolation. Certain socially constructed barriers go beyond a simple medical analysis.
For its National Strategy for the Integration of Disabilities, Canada has received kudos from the rest of the world, including an International Disability Award. However, the discontinuity between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments needs to be addressed, as do financial supports. In 2004, at the Disabled Peoples’ Summit, Reg Alcock, president of the Treasury Board of Canada, said, “Winnipeg is the ‘heartbeat’ of the disability movement in Canada.” Desmond Tutu said, “The fundamental law of a human being is interdependence.” And Bono said, “The world needs more Canada.”
Winkelaar closed with the words “Paix” and “Solidarity.”