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SDG project reflections on the barriers to inclusion and equity: Evan Wicklund

I have been involved in post-secondary education in many different capacities throughout the past 12 years. I began my studies at Red River College (RRC) in the Disability and Community Support Program, which sparked my interest in disability advocacy, community living, and ethics. I continued with my undergraduate studies in Disability Studies at the University of Winnipeg (UW), and went on to complete my graduate degree in Cultural Studies at the same institution. I am now a Ph.D. student at Carleton University in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, where I am specializing in cultural disability studies, critical theory. and posthumanist ethics. I am also an Instructor at RRC, where I teach Direct Support Professionals who work with people with disabilities. In addition to my roles as a student and instructor, I have been a peer mentor, teaching assistant, research associate, and student liaison/representative.

While I clearly believe that post-secondary studies encourage scholarly curiosity, critical thinking, and peer collaboration, I have often wondered how students with disabilities experience their time while attending college and university. For example, I have been curious about the access folks have to the accommodations they need to participate in class, whether they get good jobs once they graduate, and how, along with their allies, they can bring issues about inclusivity to the attention of faculty, administration, and their peers. Even though I have spent most of my time in school researching disability and human rights issues, I had not come across many reliable resources about the lived experiences of students with disabilities. Yet, I assumed that given the high poverty rates of people with disabilities (and other discriminatory barriers that many people with disabilities encounter), that it was likely their experiences in school may be loosely generalized to the broader societal framework: That is, while I realize that accessibility and inclusivity are becoming far more prominent in society over the past 20 years, colleges and universities might still be struggling to create spaces for individuals with diverse learning and communication styles.

Along with my colleagues, Eviance's SDG project has allowed me to explore these curiosities and gain a deeper understanding of the barriers to inclusion and equity. Although I have been involved in project management and planning, my main contribution thus far has been leading a literature review with other Eviance staff and researchers from St. Francis Xavier, OCAD University, and Toronto Metropolitan University. This project has allowed us to explore the relevant literature on students’ experiences while attending post-secondary education, as well as their perspectives on obtaining meaningful employment once they graduate. In particular, we focus on the transition between the two areas—which we found to be an under-researched area of study. I believe that student perspectives (and the perspectives of allies) should be prioritized when discussing issues about inclusivity in both post-secondary education and employment. The SDG research project activities are designed to address these societal issues; we are working with our partners, from community organizations to universities, to unpack barriers related to employment and education, and bring stakeholders together to create potential solutions. I am excited to continue this work, and anticipate that it will create meaningful change for people with disabilities and their friends and family members. You can watch our presentation on the literature review here.

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