Professor Spotlight: Jay Dolmage

English Professor & Founding Editor of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies


Professor Jay Dolmage grew up in Gravenhurst, Ontario and was part of the early disability rights movement in Canada. Dolmage’s brother and uncle are both disabled making disability an important topic for Dolmage and his family. After graduating high school, he moved to Vancouver to study English at the University of British Columbia. During his studies Dolmage noticed a big gap in how universities were handling disability. He did not see an environment that was trying to be accessible. Towards the end of his undergraduate career, Dolmage discovered that disability studies was an academic field. He was able to piece together his background realizing he wanted to learn more. Dolmage completed his master’s in creative writing at the University of Windsor before moving to Ohio to complete his PhD at the Miami University of Ohio.  



A big part of Professor Dolmage’s research involves rhetoric and disability studies. Disability is a common topic in university research, however most of that research is studying the disability itself and looking for ways to cure it. Dolmage believes we should be looking at ways for disabled people to thrive in our culture. His first book Disability Rhetoric discusses the ways we talk about disability through popular culture such as movies and how disability shapes attitude, values, and social structures. In his second book Academic Ableism, he looks at the relation between higher education and disability. Higher education has been constructed as the opposite of disability and has formed itself to be a place where students work hard and not admit weakness. Academic Ableism pushes the reader to rethink higher education as a place that can accommodate anyone who walks into the classroom and where listening to disabled people and seeing their value makes higher education a radically better place for everyone.  


College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, Royal Society of Canada  

Professor Dolmage was the recipient of this award in 2020. This a mid-career leadership award for recognition of research. This award gives researchers a voice on their topics of research. The Royal Society meets twice a year with the other award recipients and essentially create solutions for big problems. This gives the members an opportunity to present their research and collaborative work. Dolmage looks forward to sharing his research on disability studies as well as bringing questions related to arts.  


Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 

The focus of this journal is to publish original peer reviewed articles that progress research in the multidisciplinary field of disability studies. Professor Dolmage explains how disability is an important factor in academic research. The research surrounding disability treats disabled people as research subjects giving us a biased view about what disability is. Many believe disability needs to be cured or irradicated. The journal takes a critical perspective by treating disabled people as creators and researchers and giving them a field that foregrounds their perspectives. In this journal you can find almost every academic discipline mentioned with disability being interdisciplinary by cutting across all fields.  


What piece of advice would you give current/incoming UW students? 

Professor Dolmage encourages students to reach out and communicate with professors. They are more than willing to help and navigate students through these tough times. Dolmage also recommends students to be easy on themselves and get help when needed. Asking for help is an important skill to have in life and there are many resources at Waterloo and in the faculty of arts that can benefit students.