The Ethel Louise Armstrong Virtual Student Poster Competition

About the Poster Competition

The Multiple Perspectives Conference encourages students to network with professionals, the community, and scholars who share their interests in disability at its annual student poster reception. A generous gift from the Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation will fund awards (Graduate Research - $500; Undergraduate Research $200, Art & Performance $200, and Class Projects $200) at this year’s competition.

This year, the poster competition was adapted to an online format, where students could present their research as a digital poster, recording or website. Find the submissions below.

Dismantling Ableism: An Inclusive Art Museum Professional Development Program 

Recorded presentation submitted by Shannon Thacker


Research suggests that museums are not reaching their full potential for including visitors with disabilities (Sandell, 2019). Recently, scholars have critiqued museums for their low attendance of visitors with disabilities (National Endowment for the Arts, 2015), lack of accessibility, and exhibitions that misrepresent disability history (Sandell, 2019).  

The history of outsider art demonstrates how artists with disabilities are discriminated against in the art world (Prinz, 2017). Creative art centers, programs which provide artistic mentorship for adults with disabilities, are often positioned within outsider art discourse (Wojcik, 2016). Due to discrimination against outsider artists, art museums can increase inclusion through engaging with artists at creative art centers.  

Therefore, I bridged the divide between academia and activism by implementing an integrated art museum professional development workshop for artists with disabilities at Open Door Art Studio, a creative art center, and artists without disabilities. This research was informed by a disability studies perspective through the centering of the voices of artists with disabilities in the planning of the workshop. The primary objective of the study was to explore how museum practitioners can collaborate with creative art centers to develop inclusive programming for artists with and without disabilities.  

Based on interviews with Open Door Art Studio artists and staff members, I structured the workshop around time in the museum gallery for discussion and a collaborative art making exercise in the museum’s studio space. For the time in the studio, I paired artists from Open Door Art Studio with the artists without disabilities to create collaborative art pieces.  

From the post-workshop interviews, I found that the workshop, especially the collaborative portion, supported social connection between artists from Open Door Art Studio and the community artists. This social connection was demonstrated in the way that artists described finding things in common with each other, spoke about how they enjoyed meeting each other, and described the strengths of the workshop in terms of social connection. Additionally, the two of the three artists from Open Door Art Studio described feeling like equal collaborators during the workshop. Lastly, each of the artists without disabilities discussed how the workshop prompted them to think about disability identity in a more nuanced way. However, although the workshop prompted artists without disabilities to re-think preconceptions about disability, lingering negative associations about disability were still evident in the interviews. These results suggest that collaboration can be a powerful tool for connecting artists with and without disabilities. Additionally, collaboration can be utilized as a method of placing artists with disabilities on “equal footing” with artists without disabilities. Lastly, the integration of artists with and without disabilities in art museum programming can create a productive space for artists without disabilities to consider disability etiquette and identity. 

Anti-ableist and prison abolitionist perspectives on teaching incarcerated students

Recorded presentation submitted by Lillian Ellis and Christopher Heath

Many incarcerated people, especially people in women’s prisons, have intellectual disabilities (Hassiotis et al., 2011; Hellenbach, Karatzias, & Brown, 2017), and incarcerated people have a 10-fold higher likelihood of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than the general population (Young, Moss, Sedgwick, Fridman, & Hodgkins, 2015). This presents special challenges and opportunities in the already unique teaching setting of a correctional facility. In this poster presentation, authors reflect and compile a list of recommendations based on data gathered through teaching a college course at a Midwestern women’s correctional facility, as well as relevant literature. The authors use an anti-ableist, prison-abolitionist lens in issuing these teaching recommendations (Ben-Moshe, 2013; Ware, Ruzsa, & Dias, 2014), aiming for a liberatory teaching philosophy. Through the development and implementation of the course, authors gathered data from recording regular teacher meetings, from student evaluations each class, from student work including reflections on disabilities, and from letters to the parole board written collaboratively by course instructors and incarcerated students. The results of this poster culminate as “lessons learned” through the experience of teaching at the prison.

Cripping Student Programs: ASUW Student Disability Commission

Website presentation submitted by Ashley D'Ambrosio

Of the public universities in the State of Washington, only one has an office in student government specifically dedicated to serving students with disabilities, the University of Washington. This office: the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) Student Disability Commission (SDC) has two paid student staff, and a budget of ($24,465) in 2019; a unique opportunity for disabled students and allies to engage in shared governance, and work directly on improving their own access challenges, and that of their peers. The SDC has had a major role in impacting services provided to students with disabilities at the University. Leadership of the commission was responsible for the creation of a Disability and Deaf Cultural Center which opened 2013, known as the D Center (Dickson, 2012) and in 2019 established a task force for the creation of the ASUW Office of Inclusive Design, an office which would provide consultation and funding for accessibility services for student-funded events and programs (such as ASL interpretation and CART captioning) (Taylor, 2019). Most notably, the SDC was able to bring about changes which were left unaddressed or incomplete by non-student stakeholders.The SDC has demonstrated the potential capability of student-funded, student-led offices whose primary purpose is to address educational inequities for disabled students. The existence of the SDC, and its subsequent creations and projects, offer insight into some of the ways in which disabled students and allies have been effective student government leaders; using their unique position within the University to further advance access to post-secondary education.

Health Disclosure in Informed Consent: Implications for Disabled Doctors

Recorded presentation submitted by Jordan Taylor and Jacob Howard

The effects of sleep deprivation on the ability of doctors to perform has long been a topic of contention and debate within the medical community. In 2010, a group of sleep specialists published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, proposing a thought experiment in which a surgeon stays awake for an entire night after receiving a call for surgery at 11:00 p.m. and not being able to sleep before having to perform an elective surgery at 9:00 a.m. After presenting arguments about the effects of sleep deprivation, the authors argued that the physician must disclose their sleep deprivation as a potential risk to surgery to the patient, and a new informed consent must be acquired. Two years later, a paper was published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, where an author of the original paper debated the pros and cons of obtaining a new informed consent with another doctor. The negation argued that there is a lack of consistent research regarding sleep deprivation and surgery outcome and that requesting a new informed consent before surgery was inhumane to the patient. The con side furthered asking where does the line get drawn at disclosure? Should physicians be required to disclose when they’ve slept poorly and why? The hypotheticals proposed in the paper touch briefly on the ramifications of asking physicians to disclose health related issues in informed consent. However, the paper fails to recognize that forcing physicians to disclose health related variables has the potential to negatively affect a marginalized group in medicine: doctors with disabilities. The presentation serves to address how requiring physicians to disclose health related variables 1) reinforces the stereotype of the “super-abled” doctor and 2) disproportionately affects disabled doctors. The presentation urges that the responsibility to create a healthy environment for doctors rests on institutional intervention, instead of penalizing doctors by asking them to disclose to patients. 

Mapping Access on Campus: A Collective Access Approach

Presentation submitted by Nayanka Etienne


Over a two-week period, students from Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies at the State University of New York (SUNY) College Environmental Science and Forestry, from the College of Law at Syracuse University, and from the College of Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University collaborated with members of the Syracuse community who identify as aging and/or disabled and are community activists and self-advocates to better understand disability access barriers and to map the structures and designs that include and exclude people on their campus.  

All twenty-nine students worked together in the classroom to learn about access barriers and design solutions through an introduction to universal design, collective access (Mingus 2010, Hamraie 2013), academic ableism (Dolmage 2017), the social model of disability, disability justice (Berne et al. 2018), ADA requirements, and the Radical Access Mapping Project accessibility audit template. Working in accordance with a foundational tenet of disability justice, students participated in Expedition Teams led by the person or people most affected by barriers. There were nine Teams with three or four students in each. The Expedition Leaders had a range of knowledge and embodied experience related to disability: they include a research associate who identifies as being on the autism spectrum, a teaching assistant who identifies as a self-advocate and activist, a powerchair athlete who works on adaptive design, a law student who identifies as blind, and two community members who identify as aging disabled. 

Expeditions and Findings:  

Guided by the Expedition Leaders, the Teams identified and documented a range of access successes and fails through encounters with different aspects of the campus related to the use of classroom and public event space. The findings include a number of barriers: a lack of signage and clear wayfinding, heavy doors without automatic door openers, a lack of visibly located and up-to-code ramps, a lack of wheelchair seating in essential classrooms and public event spaces, a lack of accessible parking, and inaccessible signage, fire alarms, whiteboards, coat racks, water refill stations, and sinks and dispensers. The Teams also identified the location of access points and features: automatic door openers, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, effective signage, and flexible classroom layouts and furniture that allow for adaptation. 

The poster illustrates the findings with a horizontal line representing both time and space, more or less the narrative of a single Mapping Expedition. Images and text above the “timeline” describe accessible features and practices, while those below it identify the access barriers and fails. 


The Mapping Access Project was designed to be an educational and community-engaged experience rather than a systematic analysis of disability access on Upstate Medical University’s campus. It created an opportunity for students from five different programs at three universities to cross the boundaries of discipline, profession, and campus to work collaboratively on access issues. The students learned from each other but, above all, learned to look to the Expedition Leaders’ experience and expertise. 

Mapping Access on Campus Poster