Canadian Disability Studies Association Homepage


The Canadian Disability Studies Association-Association canadienne d’études sur le handicap (CDSA-ACÉH) is a bilingual interdisciplinary organization that seeks to facilitate a forum for the exchange of ideas and critical scholarship regarding disability. We support Disability Studies educators and practitioners - along with others interested in related work and guided by shared principles - across Canada. Our members are engaged in academic research, teaching, community initiatives, activism, and artistic production related to Disability Studies that is produced by or in ongoing dialogue with those who identify as, or have been labelled as, disabled, autistic, d/Deaf, mad, consumers, ex-consumers, and/or psychiatric survivors.

CDSA-ACÉH held our first annual meeting at the University of Manitoba in May of 2004, and adopted bylaws the following year in June of 2005. We now represent over 100 official members and nearly 600 persons on social media. We maintain regular contact with our members and others via our open e-mail list, as well as manage an active public Facebook group and Twitter page - though the latter is used primarily leading up to, and during, our annual conference at Congress. Though not officially registered, CDSA-ACÉH functions as a non-profit organization, such that all proceeds from fundraising and sponsors is either invested into our annual national conference or saved for future organizational needs.

Outside of our conference, CDSA-ACÉH also recognizes outstanding disability activists and educators through the conferring of our annual Tanis Doe Award, as well as organizes an annual independent Student Paper Competition open to students enrolled at any Canadian college or university.

Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field characterized by its embrace of an ideological “movement [away] from a seamless, unified concept of disability to disjunctive and multiple conceptions of disability” (Titchkosky, 2009). Disability Studies is typically distinguished from medical, occupational, and rehabilitative studies, sciences, and practices because it utilizes impairment as an entry point to exploring and understanding different facets of society, cultures, history, policy, aesthetics, pedagogy, and phenomenology – or, in a word, the world – in multiple ways that honour the uniqueness of our embodied experiences. As explained by Dan Goodley (2011), “Critical disability studies start with disability but never end with it: disability is the space from which to think through a host of political, theoretical and practical issues that are relevant to all” (p.157). Disability Studies, often referred to as “Critical Disability Studies,” is also an umbrella term that encompasses other, more focused, related disciplines, such as Mad Studies, Deaf Studies, and Critical Autism Studies. Each of these fields is guided by principles of social justice.


As a member association of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, CDSA-ACÉH organizes an annual Disability Studies conference in conjunction with the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (better known as “Congress”). This conference is open to all who are interested in attending and is hosted by a different Canadian university each year. Our conference typically attracts 100-150 attendees with a variety of backgrounds outside of Disability Studies proper in disciplines like women’s and gender studies, sociology, social work, nursing, community health, education, and law, among others. It features sessions in both English and French and local and international keynote presentations.

Illustration of two students writing an exam.


CDSA-ACÉH strongly supports college, undergraduate, and graduate students of all backgrounds interested in learning more about, or getting further involved in, Disability Studies! Students can:

  • Participate in our annual Student Paper Competition.
  • Attend our annual conference at Congress.
  • Learn more about Congress and how to write an abstract to apply to present at our conference by referencing our Introductory Guide to Congress.
  • Read about what to expect at Congress, how to prepare a presentation, and how to navigate Congress events by referencing our Congress Survival Guide.
  • Apply for a small Conference Bursary.
  • Attend a student-centred event at our conference (e.g. arts and crafts night).