Tag Archives: featured

Our Voices, Our Stories, Our Spaces: Literary Open House

Our Voices, Our Stories, Our Spaces: Literary Open House

Date: September 26th
Time: 4pm – 7:30pm
Location: 563 Spadina Crescent (North Borden Building – Accessible Entrance & Elevator @ Rear of Building)

Literary Open House

Come to North Borden and explore, draft, read and print your way through three floors of media and literature based activities. With a focus on centering voices often left out of the conversation, OPIRG Toronto, First Nations House – University of Toronto, Indigenous Waves, Centre for Women and Trans People at the University of Toronto, APUS – Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, and the Ciimaan/Kahuwe’ya/Qajaq Indigenous language initiative at Indigenous Studies Students’ Union – University of Toronto present a night celebrating the different opportunities and resources students and community members can access through our spaces and services. Prioritizing the voices, art and media of Indigenous, POC, Disabled, Queer and Trans folks we will be hosting Research Bingo with First Nations House (scour First Nation House’s and OPIRG/CWTP’s libraries and APUS’s Student Movement Paper archives to find clues and win a prize pack!), Zine Stamping and Screen Printing with the Indigenous Language Initiative at ISSU and OPIRG, Button Making and Zine Assembly with CWTP, and lastly a Live Podcasting Radio Session featuring a special guest and the crew of Indigenous Waves!

Along with activities we will also have several social justice oriented and local grassroots publications from the UofT and surrounding community tabling and showcasing their books, zines and other art and publications! Tablers will include UC Gargoyle, Sba Centre, Shift and more! If you’d like to table for your publication as well please reach out to opirg.toronto[at]gmail.com no later than September 1st

Dinner and TTC tokens provided. North Borden is an accessible building. We have an elevator to all floors and wheel chair ramp with powered door in the rear of the building

Surviving Together; A Self-Advocacy Workshop for Disabled Students

Surviving Together; A Self-Advocacy Workshop for Disabled Students


Join Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA) for an informational workshop for disabled students and student advocates. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, full-time or part-time, new or returning, an international or transfer student, this session is for you! Come meet other disabled students and SBA members, have a snack, and learn more about self-advocacy and resources for disabled students on campus.


Topics covered at the workshop:

– Brief introduction to disability justice

– Know Your Rights as a disabled student

– Navigating academic accommodations

– Self-advocacy tips generated by our student community

– Introduction to campus resources and services for disabled students

– Introduction to Students for Barrier-Free Access’ resources and services


Date: Wednesday September 19, 2017

Time: 3pm-5pm

Location: TBD


Free! Everyone welcome!

Wheelchair accessible.

Accessible and all-gender washroom located on the same floor as the event room.

Please note that this will be a scent-free space.

If you require ASL interpretation for this workshop please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com by September 4, 2018.

This workshop is part of a series of events for DisOrientation 2018 Our Voices, Our Time held from Wednesday September 12 – Saturday September 30.

For more information about DisOrientation and the full schedule of events, please visit https://www.facebook.com/events/286783058779124/

Zine Making Workshop

Join RyeACCESS and Students for Barrier-free Access for a Zine-Making Workshop!

Participants in the workshop will have an opportunity to learn about zine making, as well as create their own. All materials will be provided. No previous experience necessary.

This workshop is open to members of the RyeACCESS community, the SBA community, and the wider Mad/Disabled community. QT BIPOC Mad/Disabled folks are centered.

This workshop is free to attend.
Food and drinks, including vegan and gluten free options, will be provided.
The workshop will be held in an accessible room.
Accessible multi-stall and single stall all gender washrooms are located on the same floor as the event space.
Please arrive to the event fragrance free.

55 Gould St, Toronto ON. M5B 1E9. Margaret Laurence Room, 2nd Floor.



Take a break from exams with SBA!

Join us on Friday, April 20th for an afternoon of group painting. No artistic experience is required.
Come by to unwind, make new friends and contemplate the life that awaits you post-exams!
If painting isn’t for you, feel free to stop by anyway for snacks and conversation!

This is a drop-in event, late-comers are welcome!

Friday, April 20th, 2018

SBA Centre
215 Huron Street, Room 924 (9th floor)

The SBA Centre is an accessible venue. A single-user all-gender accessible washroom is located on the same floor as the SBA Centre.

The SBA Centre is a scent-free space. Please arrive to the event fragrance-free.

Please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or access needs.

FB Event page

Communities of Care; DIY Care Kits

Communities of Care; DIY Care Kits

Join Students for Barrier-free Access for a low-key afternoon of snacks, conversation, and community care. We will be providing supplies, including tea, stickers, and treats, for folks to make and decorate care kitsCome by and make a care kit for yourself and/or for someone you love.

Free! Everyone is welcome!
Snacks, including vegan and gluten-free options, will be provided.

Date: Thursday, April 5th 2018
Time: 3pm-5pm
Location: SBA Centre, 215 Huron Street, Suite 924 on the 9th floor

Access Info:
The SBA Centre is an accessible venue. A single-user all-gender accessible washroom is located on the same floor as the SBA Centre.

The SBA Centre is a scent-free space. Please arrive to the event fragrance-free.

Please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or access needs.

QT2SBIPOC Discussion Night

Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA) and the Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP) at U of T invites you to join us for the first night of a new series of events that works to create space for community building, critical conversation, and support for Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (QT2SBIPOC).

As organizers of this space, we recognize that this event will be taking place on the territories of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca and the Mississaugas of New Credit. We are here because this land is occupied. As organizations located within the University of Toronto, it is our responsibility to acknowledge that we are all treaty people that live, work and organize on occupied land.

We also recognize that this University is a space that many of our community members experience violence, including the violence of settler-colonialism, anti-black racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, ableism, sanism, classism, Islamophobia and the violence of rape culture. Recent events on campus have highlighted the ongoing presence of these forms of violence. As a collective, we work to challenge these forms of violence in our communities and in our everyday practice.

We have a strong commitment to creating anti-colonial community space that rejects ableist and sanist ways of relating. We are committed to building meaningful and reciprocal relationships between Indigenous, Black, and POC communities and to acknowledge that this requires difficult conversations to be had. Through the QT2SBIPOC Discussion Night Series, we strive to hold a space for these conversations.

This discussion topic for this meeting will be a continuation of our previous discussion on ‘how to take on critical conversations with community (and/or with family)’. You are not required to have attended the last discussion group to join this one. New members are always welcome!

Date: Monday March 6, 2017

Time: 6:00pm-8:00pm

Location: SBA Centre, 215 Huron Street, Suite 924, on the 9th floor.
Please note that the front doors to 215 Huron Street lock at 5:30pm. Event organizers will wait at the entrance to let people in from 5:50-6:00pm. If you arrive later, please call 416-967-7322 and one of us will let you in.

Wheelchair accessible. Accessible and all-gender washroom located on the same floor as the event room.

Please note that the SBA Centre is a scent-free space.
Snacks, including vegan and gluten-free options will be served.
If you require ASL to participate in the event, or if you have any other access needs please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com

***This is a QT2SBIPOC only space. As always, we appreciate the support we receive from our white allies by respecting this space and by sharing this event information with their networks.***


#NotUpForDebate; SBA responds to the University of Toronto forum on Bill C-16

#NotUpForDebate; SBA responds to the University of Toronto forum on Bill C-16

Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA) is an organization led by mad and disabled students at the University of Toronto (U of T), an institution located on the territories of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca and the Mississaugas of New Credit.  SBA advocates for the removal of barriers to accessing education. As mad and disabled students located at the intersections of multiple identities, we are committed to creating safer spaces with marginalized students on campus. We believe in the right to gender self-determination and the right to access post-secondary education free of transphobia, anti-black racism, racialized and gender-based violence. As an organization committed to actively resisting transphobia, anti-black racism and settler colonial violence on campus and within the larger community we condemn Jordan Peterson’s anti-black statements and his hate speech directed at trans, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and two-spirit students, staff and faculty.  Attempts to reduce these statements simply to a speech act is a violent erasure of the material impacts of Peterson’s and his supporters’ oppressive practices.

Over the past few weeks, Peterson has continued to assert that the refusal to use people’s pronouns will result in the criminalization of individuals under Bill C-16 and the Canadian Human Rights Act. This privileged position taken by Peterson, a middle class cis-white man, clearly indicates his lack of understanding of the criminal code and the prison industrial complex. As illustrated through the work of Black Lives Matter, the criminal code is enforced in a way that specifically criminalizes genderqueer, gender non-conforming, trans and two-spirit people. Black, indigenous and people of colour are disproportionately targeted through these processes of criminalization.

Gender self-determination which includes the right to use and demand that others refer to us by our pronoun is an act of survival in the face of societal violence that forces all people to conform to a binary notion of gender. In fact, this violence has always been at the core of the colonization of Turtle Island, where settlers enforced conformity to a gender binary and Western gender roles and tried to erase indigenous beliefs and systems of gender.  Transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit people who do not fit into colonial cis-heteropatriarchal notions of gender often face violent repercussions, including death.

As illustrated clearly in many of Peterson’s comments, transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming and two-spirit people are often pathologized, where gender non-conformity is seen as a symptom of an illness that is in need of diagnosis and cure. Through this framing, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming, and especially black, indigenous and racialized transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit people are represented either as objects of pity to be saved or as dangers to our society that need to be punished. In either case the proposed solutions are incarceration either in the prison system or in psychiatric institutions. Peterson’s hate speech and refusal to recognize non-binary pronouns works to further pathologize, medicalize and criminalize communities who are disproportionately labeled as ‘mentally ill’, putting them at further risk of criminalization, incarceration and death.

Peterson has grossly misrepresented his comments as “free speech” creating an environment that is unsafe and violent for Black, Indigenous, and racialized trans, gender non-conforming, genderqueer and two-spirit students, staff and faculty on campus. He has defended his resistance to what he refers to as nonsensical calls for ‘political correctness’ by claiming that the duress of a so-called politically correct (PC) culture (for example, of having to respect gender self-determination) can lead to ‘insanity’ in immigrants and Muslims in particular. We reject this claim as a racist, Islamophobic, transphobic and sanist representation of our communities which simultaneously erases our members that are located at these intersections and our radical history of collectively reimagining community and organizing spaces and movements that honour and uphold the complexity of peoples’ existence and lived experience.

As a direct result of the anti-black, racist, and transphobic public comments made by Peterson and his supporters, and the violence at the protests held in support of  so-called ‘free speech’, students at U of T are concerned for their safety when attending classes. The University of Toronto administration, despite requiring that Peterson  respect pronouns, have actively contributed to this unsafe environment by hosting a public forum which will allow for hate speech to continue under the guise of a debate on “free speech” and Bill C-16.  As stated in the Open Letter released  by the Queer Caucus of CUPE 3902, “We object to the basic premise of this event. Human rights are not up for debate.

The demand for the use of our pronouns is not an issue of free speech, nor does it infringe upon any rights associated with free speech. The refusal to use the pronouns of  trans, gender non-conforming, genderqueer and two-spirit people is a direct attack on those bodies and on the right to gender self-determination. To claim otherwise is not a defence of free speech. To claim otherwise is a practice of racialized, gendered, and colonial violence.

In Solidarity,

Students for Barrier-Free Access

Below are various resources including crisis services for students who require emotional support during this unsafe campus climate. We are also linking some resources to encourage the U of T community to learn more about gender, and the barriers affecting non-binary and binary transgender communities. In addition, we are sharing resources on anti-black racism. We strongly encourage the U of T community to learn more about anti-black racism and the barriers affecting black communities. We will continue updating these resources over the next few days.

Crisis Teams Across the GTA:

  • The Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200
  • Youthline 1800-268-9688
  • Scarborough Mobile Crisis Program: 416-495-2891
  • Trans Lifeline: (877)-330-6366 (CANADA)
  • Distress Centre Peel: 905-278-7208
  • Barrie Crisis Team: 705-728-5044
  • Crisis Services of Waterloo Region: 519-744-1813
  • COAST (Hamilton area): 905-972-8338
  • Durham Mental Health Services: 1-800-742-1890/905-666-0483
  • 4 County Crisis Community Mental Health Crisis Response Program: 705-745-6484/866-995-9933; serves Peterborough, City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton and Northumberland. Short-term crisis counselling and crisis bed available.
  • Peel Crisis Services: 905-278-9036
  • Mental Health Chat Rooms


Peer Support and Referral Services:

  • Students for Barrier-free Access

215 Huron St, Toronto, ON M5T 1R2

Phone: (416) 967-7322

Binary and nonbinary Trans Resources:

  • Trans Girls/Guys Against Violent Assault


  • Emotional First Aid


  • Find local resources


  • Sherbourne Health Centre – LGBT Health


Statements by U of T community members challenging Peterson’s arguments

Beyond the Binary; Resources on gender and gender self-determination

Resources on anti-black Racism





  • 300 Hours; What I learned about Black Queer and Trans liberation at BLMTO Tent City http://marvellousgrounds.com/blog/300-hours/
  • Black Lives Matter Toronto https://blacklivesmatter.ca/

UofT’s New Learning Portal Drop-in Testing Session

UofT’s New Learning Portal Drop-in Testing Session – Feedback Needed

U of T’s current Learning Portal hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Feedback from the University community is that the web interface for the Portal is clunky and out of date, and it doesn’t flow the way people would like. It’s also hard for instructors to incorporate new tools into their teaching.

The University is calling on the student community to help test three new systems that could serve as the engine for it’s new Learning Portal. In order to ensure that this system works with adaptive technologies that are used by students, the Academic Toolbox Renewal Group and Students for Barrier-free Access are co-hosting a drop-in testing session at the SBA Accessible Computer Lab. Please join us and share your feedback online, or in person with the SBA Centre Coordinators.

Date: Wednesday November 16th, 2016

Time: 11:30am-2:30pm

(this is an open drop-in so please come by anytime during this period that works for you)

Location: SBA Centre, 215 Huron Street, Suite 924 on the 9th floor

Wheelchair accessible. Accessible, single-user, gender-neutral washroom located on the same floor.

Please note that the SBA Centre is a scent-free space.

Students are encouraged to register (for testing site access) ahead of time at: http://teaching.utoronto.ca/ctsi-events/lme-online-testing/, or we anticipate doing this at the event.

If you are unable to attend the session, there are other ways to provide feedback. For more information about the University of Toronto’s Academic Toolbox Initiative please visit: http://toolboxrenewal.utoronto.ca/

For more information about the drop-in session please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com
After this testing session, students are encouraged to attend a Student Panel discussion about the three systems – Wednesday, November 16, 15:00 to 17:00, Rotman LL1025. This event is part of Portal Week, November 14 – 18. See http://toolboxrenewal.utoronto.ca/lmeweek/.


SBA Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Toronto

SBA Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Toronto

Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA) is a group of mad and disabled students at the University of Toronto (U of T) that advocates for the removal of barriers to accessing education. Anti-black racism directly shapes student experiences and the barriers they face in accessing education. As mad and disabled students, we are committed to resisting anti-black racism on campus and within the larger community. We are actively learning from Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) and queer Black movements before them, as well as from First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. This includes locating our advocacy work in a decolonial framework.

We acknowledge that we live, work, and organize on occupied land. The university that houses us is built on the territories of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of New Credit. It benefits both economically and politically from actively colonizing the land and ways of knowing. As an institution, U of T is an integral part of the settler colonial project. The University acts as a gate-keeper of knowledge by appropriating Black and Indigenous knowledge, limiting the ways in which knowledge can be shared and produced, and institutionalizing what is considered appropriate forms of learning. SBA, as an organization that works with this University, is complicit in these ongoing settler colonial relations.

In our role as advocates we view it as our responsibility to educate our community, as well as university administration, staff, faculty, clubs, and other organizations about settler colonialism and anti-black racism and its impact on access to education. We use an intersectional approach in our advocacy practice, which originates from the Combahee River Collective, a collective of Black lesbian feminists. We believe their intersectional analysis has been an essential and foundational piece to the disability justice movement. The disability justice framework was introduced by queer and trans disabled and mad Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC), who have been historically marginalized by white supremacist disability rights and mad movements. Students for Barrier-free Access locates itself within the disability justice movement.

We witness the ways in which racialized students in general and Black students in particular, are seen as suspect and met with hostility when they disclose their disabilities or self-identify as disabled. Disabled Black students are often portrayed as asking for an unfair advantage when requesting the accommodations that they are entitled to. They are regularly told to provide additional proof of disability, even when they have already submitted the standard required documentations. This attitude and heightened surveillance, which is an example of the intersection of anti-black racism and ableism, directly contributes to student distress and disproportionately affects access to education, including an increase in drop-out rates. These dynamics mirror and overlap with Black, queer, and trans people’s encounters with police and law enforcement in the community at large.

*Content warning: descriptions of police violence*
Colonialism, anti-black racism, ableism and the history of slavery often combine to create a false perception that Black people are terrifying, dangerous and disposable. This works to justify the violence against, and murder of, Black people, as well as the culture of impunity that follows. This representation of Black disabled people in particular as dangerous and disposable is evident in Ontario. This past year, Abdirahman Abdi and Abdurrahman Ibrahim Hassan, both Somali immigrants, were beaten or restrained to death in response to their known mental health histories. The link between anti-black racism and ableism clearly illustrates that challenging anti-black racism must continue to be central to disability justice movements.

We end this letter by voicing our solidarity and gratitude to Black Lives Matter Toronto for their labour of love during Pride 2016, and their continuous work for Black liberation on all fronts. This gratitude comes from a place of recognition that Black liberation is crucial in dismantling the power structures that ensure the supremacy of an inherently colonial and racist educational system. As an organization, we affirm our solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto and Black students. We reaffirm our commitment to eradicating anti-black racism at U of T and the broader community.

In Solidarity,

Students for Barrier-Free Access

Read Our Op-Ed in the Varisty: Op-ed: Accessibility is a worthy investment

Op-ed: Accessibility is a worthy investment; The Accessibility Services volunteer note-taking system is not hitting home for many students

By Chandrashri Pal and Nadia Kanani

Published on thevarsity.ca


Note-taking is a recognized accessibility need for students with progressive hearing loss, deafness, poor vision, ADHD, and various other learning, sensory, and physical disabilities, disorders, and impairments. This service is an essential accommodation for departments that have historical and existing systemic barriers to entry for disabled students, such as sciences, technology, engineering, math and architecture (STEMA).

For example, note-taking services for students with low vision allows for better contextualization and interpretation of math, equations, graphs, diagrams, and code languages, a necessity for disabled students for whom STEMA classes may otherwise be inaccessible. Lack of access to notes, especially in the STEMA fields, often means that disabled students have to switch out of those subjects.

It is therefore imperative that lecture notes, textbooks, exams, quizzes and all class materials are made available in alternative formats in order for disabled students to have equitable access to education.

At the St. George campus, the note-taking program is administered through Accessibility Services. The program relies almost entirely on volunteers; students in the same class as those in need of notes are asked to sign up as note-takers with Accessibility Services. In return, volunteers receive a certificate from Accessibility Services. If the volunteer takes on note-taking positions for multiple classes, they may be eligible for co-curricular record accreditation through U of T.

The current volunteer note-taking program has over 1500 volunteers and serves over 1200 disabled students. Fortunately, U of T provides volunteer note-taking as one way to level the playing field for registered students with disabilities.

However, the volunteer system has many limitations that create additional barriers for students with disabilities. One of the first challenges of this system is that it is dependent on professors making an announcement in class in order to recruit volunteers. Many professors do not make this announcement, make it only once, or fail to adequately emphasize the pressing need for volunteers.

In addition, reliance on a volunteer-based system — as opposed to hiring paid note-takers — frequently leads to a lack of consistent note-taking in class. Rather than submitting and uploading lecture notes after every class, note-takers often submit and upload their notes every few weeks. Thus, lectures notes are not uploaded in a timely manner and students often do not have access to the lecture materials prior to midterms, course assignments, or labs.

Lecture notes are often shared in formats that end up being inaccessible; for example, handwritten notes that are not readable by screen readers are virtually useless to students who need to access them.

In addition, it is rare that tutorial notes are provided to students, as it is not required for volunteers to share notes from non-lecture based class sections. In fact, there is no formal mechanism in place for students to be able to request note-taking for tutorials, labs, or field courses if they require them.

Not having access to notes promptly after lectures take place makes it difficult for students with disabilities to absorb lecture material and work through it in the sequential manner necessary for complete understanding, or to learn through the framework in which the material is intended to be taught.

In sum, due to the inconsistent submission of lecture notes, lack of guidance for note-takers, and failure to provide note-takers in non-lecture based learning spaces, disabled students are placed at a significant disadvantage. As a result, rather than levelling the playing field, the note-taking system at U of T systematically leaves disabled students behind and struggling to catch up in their courses.

The university’s reliance on an almost entirely volunteer-based system for note taking is puzzling, as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) claims to provide $250 per class per semester for note-takers through the Bursary for Students with Disabilities and Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment (BSWD/CSG-PDSE). Funding through this grant is decided on a case-by-case basis using a standardized application.

While all students with disabilities requiring note-takers should, in theory, be able to get funding for this service, there seems to be an uneven distribution of this government-allocated money. At U of T, many students who have received funding for note-takers repeatedly advocated for this service prior to being approved.

Across the province, we find that some universities and colleges consistently pay for note-takers while others, including U of T, do not. Inconsistencies also exist within U of T, which raises questions about how Ministry funding is being allocated to students. If it has been determined that a student requires note-takers, why is funding for note-takers not being provided? What are the reasons for relying on a volunteer-based note-taking program?

While U of T is is considered a publicly-assisted institution, education here is still framed through notions of meritocracy, competition, and performance. From this perspective, competition is regarded a necessary precursor to research innovation. Within the context of accessibility needs, this competition-driven system has significant consequences for disabled students. In the case of note-taking, disabled students are represented as having an ‘unfair advantage’ or a ‘competitive edge’ over their peers when they receive lecture notes from a classmate.

These unfounded perceptions lead to both professors and non-disabled students de-valuing the importance of note-taking services and, at the same time, create an even more hostile classroom environment for disabled students. Programs that are inaccessible remain inaccessible, while the lack of support often pushes disabled students out.

Without a broader discourse on equity and a reconceptualization of classroom accommodations as accessibility needs, the conversation remains focused on individual needs. Such an approach cannot lead to meaningful structural changes. In order to have a note-taker system that works for disabled students, it is urgent for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and U of T to begin to engage with disabled students and to center our needs.

Chandrashri Pal is a Board Member and the current Vice-Chair of Students for Barrier-free Access. Nadia Kanani is the Advocacy and Volunteer Coordinator at Students for Barrier-free Access.