The MacPherson Institute has launched a new zine exploring barriers of access on campus
C/O LQ from This Insane Life: MadStudents Zine, 2014
Current and former McMaster students with lived experiences of disability, disablement, inaccessibility and ableism are invited to contribute to the zine to share and voice their experiences. This could include any barriers to access they might have experienced at McMaster or other post-secondary institutions.
The zine project is being led by disabled students and alumni.
“[The zine] seeks to uncover and document the labour and legacy of these disabled student initiatives and others (individual and collective; formal and informal) we haven’t heard from yet,” as stated on the website.
“The zine takes an arts-based approach to educational pedagogy and seeks to inform educators and faculty about the struggles of students who are or identify as a disabled, neurodivergent or are service users of mental health,” explains Evonne Syed, a third-year undergraduate MacPherson student partner and educational research assistant on the zine team.
The project will hope to acknowledge the need for greater accessibility and disability inclusion in the classroom, within curricula and on-campus. The project also builds on the work of a similar 2014 McMaster zine on Mad student experiences. It will also contribute to commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the MacPherson Institute.
Both individual and group submissions are being accepted in multiple formats, including but not limited to: creative arts such as collage, comics, graphic design, drawing, painting, photography; literary arts like dialogues/interviews, essays, poetry, lyrics, reflections, satire, short fiction, theatre scripts; or other ideas such as lists, recipes, games, etc.
The submission deadline is March 31 and can be submitted through a Google Form. Contributors will be notified about the status of their piece on May 1, with the publication date set for summer 2021.
“Art is [one of the] the most successful modes for expression… there aren’t really many guidelines and you have a lot of freedom with what you do and how you express yourself. In that way we can appeal to a wider audience when it comes to talking about disability and accessibility,” emphasized Tanisha Warrier, a second-year biology student on the zine team.
Up to 30 current students and alumni from 2011-2020 are eligible to receive a $125 honorarium for any pieces chosen for publication in the zine. Other contributors whose pieces are chosen for publication will be eligible to request an honorarium.
The amount will depend on the project budget and the overall number of accepted submissions. These honoraria are funded by grants from the Arts Research Board at McMaster University as well as the Student Success Centre’s Career Access Professional Services Program.
“Something that I really love about this project is that we are asking the people who are [directly] impacted by these [accessibility] barriers what their experiences are and compensating them for their contributions,“ said Emunah Woolf, a social work placement student on the zine team.
“A lot of times, we either don’t ask the people who are impacted and, therefore, don’t solve it in a way that actually fixes the issues. We’re asking folks from equity-seeking groups how they want equity and then not actually compensating them for that knowledge or that labour,” said Woolf.
The zine will be an open-access publication that will be distributed to students, staff, faculty and campus partners. After the publication, the zine team plans on conducting research to evaluate the engagement and impact of the zine, such as through focus groups and surveys of contributors and readers.
The zine team emphasized the importance of this project in creating a more inclusive space for those with disabilities.
“We need to start having more conversations. Not only within our own friend circles and things like that, but also conversations with higher-ups in academics and larger, more influential people in our faculties to ensure that voices are being heard, and are being taken to a place where change can actually take place,” said Vikita Mehta, a second-year arts and science student on the zine team.
The team also highlighted tangible action that must follow through with the contributions of the zine, especially to make the learning environment more accessible for disabled folks.
“With the release of [the zine to] really set the scene, it might also be helpful to educators and [professors] in incorporating a more inclusive educational framework and improve their teaching methods in terms of how they structure their classes, so that it’s more accessible for different students [of] different abilities,” said Syed.
“We need to ensure that the playing field level when it comes to school, work and academics [is made so] that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed,” added Warrier.