(dis)Ability Caucus


The co-chairs of the (dis)Ability caucus are  Irene Carter and Judy MacDonald.

CASWE-ACFTS Persons with Disabilities Caucus is a grassroots organization that has been in existence since 1993.  The Caucus emanated from two-day conference on the lack of (dis)Ability curriculum and research in Canadian schools of social work (Carter, Hanes, & MacDonald, 2012). Today in 2018 we continue to address those issues along with access, inclusion and accommodations for (dis)Abled faculty, staff and students.  The Caucus also provides a platform where members can share their experiences of ableism, be understood and accepted and receive strategic support in addressing issues of discrimination or omission.  Membership consists of both (dis)Abled and nondisabled faculty and students from Canadian schools of social work.  We are always looking for new members, people who have an interest or lived experience in (dis)Ability. The Caucus meets in person once a year at CASWE-ACFTS’s annual conference that is in conjunction with SSHRC Congress in late May.  Throughout the year members may be in contact via teleconference or Skype as they collaborate on various projects that ultimately promote the rights of (dis)Abled persons and advocate for access and inclusion within society.

Advocacy and lobbying have been staples for the Caucus.  Many times throughout the life of the Caucus we have strategized with other Caucus’ to bring a grassroots progressive perspective to the floor of the Annual General Meeting of CASWE, whether it was to block the passing of a professional suitability policy that disadvantaged students with (dis)Abilities or to strengthen accreditation standards in the area of diversity and inclusion.  For example, in 2003 the Persons with Disability Caucus lobbied the Student Caucus to block the passing of the Professional Suitability policy being recommended by the Educational Policy Committee.  Through continued lobbying efforts in 2006 a PhD Caucus member was invited to sit on the Educational Policy Committee and the following year an Educational Policy Statement on disability was presented at the AGM, stating “Schools shall respond to the needs of faculty, students, and staff with disabilities . . . “ (2007, Educational Policy 1.8).  The Educational Policy statement on (dis)Ability laid the foundation for an Accreditation Standard (2008) focused on (dis)Ability curriculum, access and accommodation.

Education has also been the focus of the Caucus, raising awareness of (dis)Ability discrimination, along with envisioning inclusive practices. In 2004, the Caucus held a Disability Forum on access and inclusion. Following from the forum the Caucus produced an educational package entitled Promoting Disability Inclusion in Canadian Schools of Social Work (2006) with consisted of a video from a panel presentation at the forum, information on accommodations and a workbook aimed at guiding schools through their own disability inclusion review. This educational package was distributed to all Canadian Schools of Social Work.

Research has been the focus in recent years; beginning in 2003 (Dunn, Hanes, Hardie, & MacDonald, 2006) and repeated in 2010 (Carter, Hanes & MacDonald, 2012) we surveyed Canadian Schools of Social Work asking what polices, practices and teachings they have pertaining to (dis)Ability.  Then the Caucus adapted the survey to be disseminated to social work schools in the United States (Hanes, Carter, MacDonald, & McMurphy, 2014) and the United Kingdom (MacDonald, Carter, Hanes, McMurphy & Skinner, 2014).  Most recently, Australian schools of social work have been surveyed and the data is now being analyzed.  Members have spoken about extending this work into India and China to capture a global perspective on (dis)Ability and how it is taken up within schools of social work.

The Caucus is a place where (dis)Abled faculty, students and their allies share a commitment to a common goal of raising awareness of (dis)Ability discrimination while acknowledging social work’s responsibility to eradicate ableist oppression.  Please join us in Vancouver to share your experiences and to help identify future Caucus directives.


Carter, I., Hanes, R. and MacDonald, J.  (2012). Trials and Tribulations of the Persons with Disability Caucus of the Canadian Association for Social Work Education.  Canadian Disabilities Studies Journal, 1(1), 109 – 142.

Dunn, P. Hanes, R., Hardie, S. & MacDonald, J. (2006). Creating disability inclusion within Canadian schools of social work. Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation, 5(1), 1-19.

MacDonald, J., Carter, I., Hanes, R., Skinner, S., and McMurphy, S.  (2014).  Disability and Social Work Education in the United Kingdom.  Canadian Disability Studies Journal, 3(3), 53 – 82.

Hanes, R., Carter, I., MacDonald, J., McMurphy, S., and Skinner, S. (2014).  Exploring Social Work and Disability in U.S. Schools of Social Work.  Professional Development:  International Journal of Social Work Education, 17(2), 5 – 28.

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