Disability Affinity Group Ready to Launch

Aligned with October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, community members at UBC are launching UBC’s first Disability Affinity Group.

What is the Disability Affinity Group?

The Disability Affinity Group will provide an opportunity for faculty and staff living with disabilities to regularly meet and build a community of support, learning, and solidarity. In addition to building a supportive and inclusive community, the group will enable participants to share knowledge, strategies, and resources that can be applied to their own experiences as disabled staff and faculty. Many disabled faculty and staff experience isolation, erasure, and fears of stigmatization that create barriers to accommodations, and impediments to respecting human rights.

From an intersectional perspective, the group aims to start the work of creating community and building safer spaces for disabled faculty and staff to share their experiences and support one another in overcoming barriers to their full and vibrant inclusion in campus life. The group will hold space for participants to share their experiences, support one another, learn about resources and supports at UBC, and engage in creative activities to promote resilience and empowerment.

Who is this group for?

This affinity group is for people who have lived experience with disability and/or identify as disabled. This group is organized and supported by staff and faculty who identify as disabled. While we respect and appreciate the engagement of our allies, we request that this space remain exclusively for those who have lived experience with disability and/or identify as disabled. We hope to welcome our allies at a future event.

Our understanding of disability is very broad. We understand disability inclusively to encompass neurodiversity, physical, mobility, sensory, learning, and cognitive disabilities, as well as chronic illnesses or pain, visible or invisible, and mental or emotional differences, through which a person’s body or mind may be perceived or experienced to be different from the “norm.” While we recognize that many Deaf people don’t identify as having a disability, we encourage Deaf and hard of hearing people to take part.

Who’s behind the group’s formation?

This group was conceptualized and created by Dr. Jennifer M. Gagnon with support from the Equity & Inclusion Office through an Equity Enhancement Fund application.

Dr. Jennifer M. Gagnon (she/her/hers) (PhD, Political Science, University of Minnesota, BA, University of British Columbia) is a sessional lecturer in the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media, Department of Political Science, and Vantage College at UBC. Her research is interdisciplinary and embraces a broad range of topics in political theory, classics, disability studies, international relations theory, qualitative methods, Universal Design for Learning (UDL),  feminism, and gender. Her main area of research is in the intersections between ancient political thought and disability studies, especially as concerns gender, inclusion and exclusion, violence, and visible and invisible disabilities. As an activist, she is involved in efforts to promote a culture of consent, LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusion, and improve accessibility both on and off-campus. Dr. Gagnon identifies as a bisexual and disabled woman and strives to bring her whole self to both her teaching and research.

Emily Yee Clare (she/they) is an Equity Facilitator at the Equity & Inclusion Office and is excited to support this important initiative in this mandate. They are a disabled mixed-race (Hong Konger/Irish) illustrator and facilitator dedicated to creating compassionate & dynamic trainings based on anti-oppression and popular education practices.

Land acknowledgment

Let us acknowledge the land that we are meeting on. We, at UBC, are meeting on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral territories of the Musqueam peoples and the Syilx Okanagan peoples.

As folks doing anti-violence work, it’s important to acknowledge the on-going connections between colonialism, ableism, education, and violence against Indigenous peoples. Canada is built on a history of occupying lands without consent, disrespecting territorial boundaries, erasing traditional ways of knowing, and infringing upon Indigenous peoples’ bodies through coercion and violence. This speaks to the living realities and histories that are experienced intimately on the land and on the body.

Please take a moment to think about whose land you are currently on. If you don’t know whose territory you are on right now, check using this website: Native-Land.ca.