Team of UM researchers honoured with inaugural Robbins‐Ollivier Award for Excellence in Equity
New UM project to address inequities experienced by those with disabilities
A new UM project addressing inequities experienced by those with disabilities because of systemic ableism has received federal support through the inaugural Robbins‐Ollivier Award for Excellence in Equity.
The research team is anchored by Dr. Nancy Hansen and Dr. Diane Driedger of the interdisciplinary master’s program in disability studies, along with Dr. Reg Urbanowski, dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. The research team and efforts by UM to implement its findings will be co-ordinated by Dr. Tina Chen, UM executive lead for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
The new award is named in honour of researchers Michèle Ollivier and Wendy Robbins, who worked to increase the level of equity in federal research funding in Canada along with a group including UM faculty member Dr. Susan Prentice. With the Robbins-Ollivier Award, the Canada Research Chairs Program seeks to support game-changing new ideas to address persistent systemic barriers through funding of $100,000 for one year.
The successful project, titled “Dismantling Ableism and Promoting Equity for People with Disabilities,” is rooted in university-wide collaboration and critical disability studies. The project aims to increase understanding of the impacts of ableism on disabled persons and, ultimately, to embed anti-ableism across university policies and practices.
Ableism is a set of beliefs that able-bodied norms should be the standard by which everyone is measured. It is deeply engrained in our systems, the researchers say. It needs to be unpacked, they say, so that the institutional structures, cultural norms and individual beliefs and behaviours that function to maintain the status quo and exclude people with disabilities are changed.
The project further addresses the marginalization of disability and anti-ableism in EDI research and initiatives. The project will also promote frameworks that situate Indigenous engagement and achievement, gender diversity and anti-racism in relation to anti-ableism.
The multi-faceted approach by the principal investigators will have faculty leads, research associates, student research assistants and UM staff collaborating on an audit of UM programs for people with disabilities. This will include mapping the complex ways in which ableism operates in relation to diverse disabilities and developing a “holistic equity impact assessment” tool to be used in policy review.
“Being awarded the inaugural Robbins-Ollivier Award is a tremendous honour for UM and is a wonderful affirmation of the capacity of our community to be leaders in addressing systemic inequities,” says Chen.
“To effectively support people with disabilities in our community, we must recognize that ableism is a system of oppression, like racism, colonization, sexism and homo‐ and trans‐phobia. The “Dismantling Ableism” project will be critical to the success of ongoing equity, diversity and inclusion efforts at UM.”
The project is also supported by Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, associate vice-president (research), and Dr. Tracey Peter, vice-provost (academic affairs), both of whom have expertise in gender equity, EDI and social justice. Research support will also be provided by sociologist Dr. Jennifer Dengate, UM director of EDI research. The project will result in a University Anti-Ableism and Accessibility Framework to guide future action for equity for people with disabilities.
“Once complete, these resolutions will ensure that the lessons learned are translated into institutional action,” says UM Vice-President (Research and International) Dr. Mario Pinto. “This project has the potential to spark necessary change and will ensure the support of leadership to achieve accountability across campuses.”