Students can take disability studies courses through Equity Studies. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

In response to U of T’s lack of a dedicated disability studies program, a student has started a petition to establish one that would be on par with those of universities across the country. The petition has received over 200 signatures in less than two weeks.

UTM student Marianna Figueiredo began the petition on November 15 in an effort to get Governing Council’s attention. Governing Council is the highest decision-making body at the university.

Figueiredo explained in the petition that she has cerebral palsy and decided to enrol in courses focused on intersectionality.

“But, I noticed that disability was absent in nearly all of them at UofT, but not for my friends at other universities whose courses considered disability in both the sociological and [criminological] respects,” wrote Figueiredo.

According to U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church, the university offers “a number of opportunities for students interested in studying disability issues.”

“The Faculty of Arts and Science has an Equity Studies program offered in association with New College, where undergrads can take a core group of disability studies courses,” wrote Church in an email to The Varsity.

For Figueiredo, the petition is a way to demonstrate to Governing Council and the provost that there is a need for a designated Disability Studies program through numbers and support.

According to Church, proposals for any changes to programs or new programs emerge from discussions within departments or faculties.

“There is a rigorous development and approval process, which includes consultation with programs and units, students, and others,” wrote Church.

Course offerings at U of T

The Equity Studies major or minor programs offer courses such as NEW240: Introduction to Equity Studies and NEW341: Theorizing Equity.

While there is no separate disability studies program, there is a disability studies stream within the Equity Studies program. The university also offers a few disability related classes, such as JNS450: Sexuality & Disability, NEW349: Disability and Representation, and NEW448: Advanced Special Topics in Disability Studies.

UTM offers courses like PSY442: Practicum in Exceptionality in Human Learning and PSY345: Exceptionality: Disability and Giftedness, which explore various aspects of mental, physical, and learning disabilities. Similar courses also exist at UTSC, such as WSTC40H3: Gender and Disability.

The Social Justice Education program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education also offers disability studies opportunities for graduate students.

Other Canadian universities with disability studies programs

The courses offered at U of T pale in comparison to disability studies programs at other universities in Ontario.

“Ryerson, York, Western, Brock and Carleton offer major and minor programs,” wrote Figueiredo in the petition. “The top school in the country is obviously out of touch. This needs to change.”

On a part-time basis, Ryerson University’s School of Disability Studies offers 17 courses at the undergraduate level.

King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario has a Disability Studies program, with major and minor options, that offers 20 courses. Brock University’s Applied Disability Studies program within its Faculty of Social Sciences offers 35 graduate courses and nine elective undergraduate courses. Carleton University undergraduates can enrol in a Disability Studies minor that offers five different courses with two offered by other departments.

Editor’s Note (November 28, 12:28 am): This article has been updated to clarify that there is a disability studies stream within the Equity Studies program.

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