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2022 Symposium and Annual General Meeting (April 27)

Event date

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
1:00 – 5:00 pm EST


  • 1:00 – 1:20 pm: Opening by Anishinaabe Elder Mona Stonefish (Bear Clan)
  • 1:20 – 2:15 pm: Keynote Address by Dr. Jenelle Rouse
  • 2:15 – 2:30 pm: Break
  • 2:30 – 3:30 pm: Panel Presentations
  • 3:30 – 3:40 pm: Break
  • 3:40 – 5:00 pm: CDSA-ACÉH Annual General Meeting

Access & registration

All symposium events, including the Annual General Meeting (AGM), are free and open to the public. We will have ASL interpretation, as well as English and French live captions.

If you have questions about access, please contact Darren Creech at

Kindly contact Rana El Kadi at if you have any other questions about this event.

Dr. Jenelle Rouse’s Keynote

Keynote Title

Three F’s to an Act: UpFront, Figure Out, and Follow the “Why”


During the presentation, Dr. Rouse will share a personal, unique perspective of three F’s and one A as a Black Deaf Canadian. The experience relating to who and what she is, her upbringing and her general life experience following the themes UpFront, Figure-Out, and Follow, will be critically explored. The presentation will end with a “take home” message with a list of “consequences” as per action of a global domino effect.


Dr. Jenelle Rouse is an educator with a doctorate in Applied Linguistics and as a visual body-movement artist. She is also a co-director of the emerging community-based project Black Deaf Canada (BDC) and a board member of two steadfast cultural arts, language and education organizations. On top of these, she has assumed other roles while being actively involved in a variety of local and international academic-, arts- and community-related projects.

Panel details

Introducing Black Disability Studies: Confronting White Supremacist Histories of Workplace Injury, Systemic Racism, and Colonial Violence

Rachel da Silveira Gorman (chair/discussant)
Associate Professor of Critical Disability Studies, York University


Since Chris Bell published his 2006 essay “Introducing White Disability Studies,” Black Studies has experienced a theoretical and methodological renaissance. While White Disability Studies has been resistant to change from within, Black Disability Studies scholars such as Idil Abdillahi, Theri Pickens, and Sami Schalk, are leading the transformation of Disability Studies, and revealing that Black scholars such as Audrey Lorde and Frantz Fanon have been doing disability studies all along. Led by Black women and trans thinkers, questions of embodiment, injury, rationality, trauma, emotion, and sense-making have been at the fore of contemporary Black Studies thought. These innovations have opened exciting new pathways out of conceptual dead-ends in Disability Studies, such as the impairment-disability binary; and have reoriented often-told stories about eugenics, institutions, and structural violence. This panel brings together papers which sketch the spatial, historical, and conceptual sweep of emergent Black Disability Studies.


Rachel da Silveira Gorman is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Critical Disability Studies at York University. Current projects include disability data, AI bias, AI-prototypes, and biochemical mechanisms of the social determinants of health. Da Silveira Gorman’s writings on ideologies of disability and race have appeared in American Quarterly, thirdspace, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. Da Silveira Gorman also works in choreography and curation.


Paper 1: Engaging with Nkrumahism and the Concept of Disablement: An African Disability Framework

Evelyn Kissi
Postdoctoral Fellow, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Assistant Professor, University of Ghana (September 2022)


Disability Studies as a field has come to acknowledge that the majority of disabled individuals live in the global south. Unfortunately, Disability Studies does not yet account for “how Europe underdeveloped Africa” and its people (Rodney, 2012) and how it continues to do so. Anticolonial nationalist and revolutionist Kwame Nkrumah, African Studies scholar George Dei (2012) and others charge new scholars with revisiting the past in order to design the future of Africa for Africans. Heeding this call, I return to the revolutionary, anticolonial thought of Nyerere (1964), Cabral (1966) and Nkrumah (1963, 1964). Although Nkrumah’s death pre-dates the rise of western disability rights movements and Disability Studies, his advocacy for the creation of social infrastructure and programming in Ghana was revolutionary, and his vision for the wellbeing of African people and Africa was world-renowned. This paper applies Gorman’s concept of disablement (2010, 2016) in order to develop a framework for African Disability Studies and draws on Nkrumahism as a framework to engage and critique western approaches to disability. Kissi uses the concept of Sankofa (return to the source) as a method to revisit/resurge Nkrumah’s ideology in order to better understand the disabling structures that continue to create disablement in Africa. She argues for a Nkrumahist resurgence that views disability and disablement from a cultural-social-political-economic perspective, that situates them within the historical trajectory of pre-colonial African tradition and Nkrumah’s postcolonial policy.


Evelyn Kissi is an Indigenous African Black and Transnational Disability Studies scholar and tri-citizen of Ghana, Nigeria and Canada. Her interdisciplinary research is at the intersection of Black Critical Disability Studies, African Spirituality, Black Global Health, and Indigenous Early Childhood Development Studies and Education. Over the last 20 years, she has worked across the globe with not-for-profit organizations and government institutions. Dr. Kissi completed her doctorate and master’s degree in Critical Disability Studies (CDS) at York University.

Paper 2: Racialized Immigrant Workers: Unveiling Records of Un-healing Wounds

Yvonne Simpson
Curriculum Development Consultant, X University
Doctoral candidate, Critical Disability Studies, York University


International governance bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Canada’s scholars in occupational health and safety (OH&S) have recognized that occupational risks, injuries and fatalities are not evenly distributed and there are disparities among groups of workers. When demographic identity such as im/migrant status, race and disability are taken into account, there are stark differences in the burdens of OH&S risks. Despite calls for targeted strategies to identify and address historically disadvantaged, racialized workers, OH&S collection of demographic information remains obscure. This paper unveils Indigenous and racialized workers in the archive, and traces the fictive production of homogeneous disability through ideologies of settler colonial “discovery,” immigration, colonization and nation building. Simpson engages records, images and journals, which serve as discursive sites of inquiry into the structural legacies of racism, and the occlusion of ethno-racial identity from the nation’s present-day occupational health and safety systems. This paper is drawn from a larger study involving interviews with 22 key informants in OH&S and advocacy organizations, the 2016 census, and 10 years of workplace fatality data from the Ministry of Labour. Simpson argues for the exigencies of new historiographies and epistemologies, including Black Disability Studies and Indigenous Studies, for unsettling colonial and white supremacist histories of work, workplace injury and social benefits in Canada.

Bio: Yvonne Simpson is a PhD (ABD) candidate at York University, Faculty of Health Policy Management, Critical Disability Studies Program. She holds a master’s degree in Education from the University of Calgary, with a specialization in Community and Disability Studies. Her research focuses on the historiography of transnational forced migration, including the Atlantic Slave Trade, and systems of discounting the contributory dimensions of workplace injuries and fatalities among racialized immigrant workers.

Paper 3: A Brief History of Three Firings

Marlon Merraro
Executive Director, Peacebuilders Canada


Services for people with disabilities are largely provided through the non-profit sector, which is also a key driver for advocacy and progressive change. Despite the progress created by policies and legislation to support diversity, equity and inclusion, Black leaders in the non-profit sector experience systematic exclusion from full participation and are often vilified as disruptors, incompetent or rebellious in contrast to the white colonial leadership of the sector. This paper will explore how the non-profit community, social services, and health sectors continue to systemically maintain “white normative” working conditions and cultural environments of oppression for racialized leaders and employees. It applies an autoethnographic method to examine the anatomy of three key public sector services: Social Housing, Child Welfare and Public Health, in order to forensically map the ways in which these services fail Black communities, and create disabling environments for Black leaders. This paper is part of a larger project engaging Jamaican storytelling to produce what Dian Million (2013) calls ‘felt theory’ in order to reveal ways in which racialized employees in social services, who very often have lived experience of those whom they are mandated to work with, end up being the casualties of white abled normative culture within the non-profit sector. Merraro argues that Disability Studies must contend with white supremacy within non-profit sector work environments as one of the engines reproducing racial apartheid within and through disability services.


Marlon Merarro is a well-recognized social systems architect with a clear focus on poverty reduction and addressing the social determinants of health within a dynamic framework of equity and inclusion. He brings 25 years of experience in senior leadership positions within the non-profit sector and municipal government, spearheading strategic and tactical methods that address complex social issues, resulting in improved and more equitable health and community services. Currently, Merraro is the Board Chair of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society and the Executive Director of Peacebuilders Canada.

AGM details

The CDSA-ACÉH ad hoc committee is inviting stakeholders in the disability studies community to attend this year’s AGM. This AGM will respond to calls issued at the 2021 AGM for our association to reflect on how we recognize and support Black disability, mad, and Deaf studies; debility studies; decolonial approaches to disability studies; Indigenous approaches to embodied differences; as well as Black, Indigenous, and racialized scholars and activists who are developing these important fields of inquiry.

The ultimate goals of this AGM are to:

  1. Decide upon a one year plan for beginning to effectively facilitate inclusion within our association. Our goal in this discussion is to centre Black, Indigenous, and racialized scholars, commit to concrete actions, and acknowledge that such systemic change may require our association to adopt a new form (e.g., whether or not we will rejoin Congress remains an open question). This plan will be enacted by the newly elected board, given there is a budget to support these activities;
  2. Identify individuals interested in joining or advising the board over the upcoming year. If desired, this board could include or be supported by past CDSA-ACÉH board members who can offer labour and institutional knowledge, and;
  3. Move the discipline forward by centring Black, Indigenous, and racialized members and scholarship after a history of being actively decentred within the academy and the association.

This year’s AGM responds to calls issued at the 2021 AGM by our association to address our historical centrings of what Chris Bell has called “White disability studies” (2006). We will continue these conversations about how CDSA-ACÉH can engage in the slow and necessary process of dismantling the White supremacy endemic within leadership, organizational structure, commitments, activities, and scholarly investments in “White disability studies” (Bell, 2006). We will reflect on how this history has led to the active exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and racialized scholars and activists.

While acknowledging ways in which marginalized identities have not been equitably served within institutions of the academy and by organizational structures (including Congress), a brief background to the conversation on capacity-building for future collective work will be introduced by CDSA-ACÉH Equity Officer Lily Kim.