“‘Get the disabled out of their closets’: disability activism in the city of Thunder Bay, and Northwestern Ontario, 1972–1990s”

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Patola, Ulysses
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The dissertation “‘Get the Disabled Out of Their Closets’: Disability Activism in the City of Thunder Bay, and Northwestern Ontario, 1972 – 1990s,” argues that the city of Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario (NWO) through the contributions of the Handicapped Action Group Incorporated (HAGI) and its allies became a dynamic disability rights centre, which not only liberated many of the region’s physically disabled from a hegemonically ableist built and social environment, but was well-integrated into the provincial, national, and international disability rights scenes. Brought together, fairly early, in the post-1970s disability rights movement, HAGI, built upon the efforts of pre-1970 disability activists to fight for access in several keys areas: housing, transportation, sport/recreation, and the built environment. To tackle the above, HAGI broke free of its early reliance on local able-bodied social leaders to build a grassroots disability rights and consumer organization, which maintained strong relationships with multiple stakeholders. Aided by the growing Independent Living Movement and public focus on disability issues, HAGI was successful in establishing several accessibility initiatives in Thunder Bay for disabled people, including One Fifty Castlegreen, HAGI-Transit, a lively sports and recreation culture, and changes to building design. Outside of the city, HAGI helped to set up disability consumer organizations in several NWO towns and cities and guided them on their own paths to accessibility. As well, this study examines the impact of race, gender, and power relationships within the disability rights movement in Thunder Bay and the region and how these areas positively or negatively challenged HAGI.
Disability, Accessibility, Thunder Bay, Handicapped Action Group Incorporated, HAGI, Northwestern Ontario