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2020-2021 Board Elections


Members of the SDS Board serve a 3-year term and if elected a second time, may serve no more than 2 consecutive terms. Members should be prepared to meet monthly and to chair or co-chair one or more committees.

All SDS Members in good standing should vote. The candidates' statements are below in alphabetical order. Please vote for no more than 2 candidates.

2020-2021 Nominees

  • Cassandra Hartblay  
  • David I. Hernández-Saca
  • Ryan Parrey
  • Toni Saia
  • Javed Ahmad Tak


Ballots were emailed to Members on July 20th. We are happy to welcome Cassandra and David to the Board. We honor Toni, Ryan, and Javed's willingness to serve.

Cassandra Hartblay

I first encountered disability studies as an undergraduate campus disability activist: Cindy Wu and Joan Ostrove introduced me to the academic field, giving me words for the ideas I had been fighting for. As a graduate student at my first SDS in San Jose, I met scholar-activists who continue to be my collaborators to this day. I attend the conference most years, recently, bringing graduate students and introducing them to the SDS community.

I am assistant professor of Health Humanities and Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where we are launching a new Research Centre for Global Disability Studies, tied to a proposed Disability Cultural Centre. I received my PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2015 and have held postdoctoral appointments at UC San Diego and Yale University. I am a contributor to the interinstitutional Critical Design Lab and Contra* podcast. My research on disability in contemporary Russia considers how disability rights, disability justice, and accessible design concepts circulate globally. My published scholarship explores: histories of socialist ableism, contemporary activism about the urban built environment, and online sociality in the former Soviet Union. My forthcoming book (University of Toronto Press 2020) is an ethnographic play script based on interviews with adults with mobility and speech impairments in one Russian city.

I am a proponent of what Max Liboiron calls “administrative activism,” which works from the premise that the institutions that we cultivate shape our world. As a white settler mostly-abled colleague, I approach this work from a position of solidarity. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha writes that sometimes caring for oneself and one’s community means letting nondisabled allies carry some of the load; I understand administrative labor as this kind of care work. I am guided by anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-ableist feminist praxis. My work is not perfect, and I continue to learn.

I have served as a steering committee member of the Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). During my term, we developed the first DRIG accessible presentation guidelines (based on principles already in place at SDS), which were subsequently adopted by the AAA as a whole. I then served on the DRIG conference access committee, which successfully advocated for AAA to hire a permanent staff member with disability advocacy knowledge and accessibility in their job description. I serve on the Diversity & Decolonization Committee in my graduate department and served as diversity co-chair for the graduate student organization at UNC-Chapel Hill.

As a board member for SDS, I will work to develop the reach of the organization and its long term sustainability. I have ideas for expanding the membership through outreach to graduate students and internationally and for new initiatives to honor non-academic activists whose disability justice work impacts scholarship in the field. I would work to continue SDS’s role as an essential resource for students & faculty with disabilities, and as a bridge between activism and academia. I offer skills in website development and design; outreach and publicity strategy; and administrative activism toward a more just future.

David I. Hernández-Saca 

I am a dis/abled Latino Disability Studies in Education (DSE) scholar and teacher educator. During my undergraduate education, I came across DSE, which saved my mental, spiritual, bodily, heart, and spirit, from the hegemonic master narratives of learning disabilities and special education. The first course I took on Disability Studies was at the University of California, Berkeley, with Professor Devva Kasnitz. I am currently working on a co-edited book in which I am chronicling the history of DSE and special education, which has also made me realize that I needed to look into the history of the Society of Disability Studies (SDS). I am more familiar with DSE than SDS, so when the opportunity to apply to the SDS Board of Directors came up, I was excited for the opportunity to learn more about it. While I was immigrating to the U.S. in 1984 with my family, as refugees, I developed a high fever that gave me seizures and convulsions during my early childhood, that introduced me to the world of disability but, unfortunately within the U.S. context, through the epistemological, ontological, axiological and etiology of special education: positivism, behaviorism, whiteness, and ableism. I never asked for this. I would have preferred the paradigm of DSE and SDS, which is more life-giving for me. Today, I am an Assistant Professor of DSE within the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). I am a former multi-subject teacher, and my teaching responsibilities at UNI include undergraduate teacher preparation courses in the areas of special education law, assistive technology, and advocacy and post-school transition programming. My overall research agenda is to problematize the common-sense assumptions of learning disabilities (LD) as it relates to intersectionality and emotionality through historically multiply marginalized student voices. The following are my lines of inquiry:

  1. The role of emotion and affect in teacher learning about social justice issues,
  2. Transition programming for historically marginalized youth and their families, and
  3. Examining violence within the academy against historically multiply marginalized and non-hegemonic scholars for their well-being and healing.

I hope to be a critical friend and colleague if given this opportunity to serve. I bring a spirit of democratic learning and accompaniment to be an asset and advocate for SDS's principles and values. I look forward to learning about the specific committees to assess how, why, and what I might be able to bring. My hopes and aspirations for SDS are for it to remain a critical and independent society of the critical study of dis/ability at the intersections of power and identities for new epistemological, ontological, axiological and etiological paradigms for transformative freedom, hope, liberation and radical love for dis/abled people and students and communities in our globalized society. I envision this critical revolutionary praxis can be activated at the personal, interpersonal, structural, and political levels of society and institutions such as education for systemic change.

Ryan Parrey

I have a PhD in Disability Studies and am director of the Disability Studies program at Eastern Washington University. I have been an SDS member for the past ten years and was the SDS Affiliated Scholar in 2015.

I have served on the SDS board of directors for the past three years. I co-chaired the Nominations and Awards committee during my first year on the board. Here, I handled the distribution of award nominations but also facilitated the careful review of nominees. In addition, I worked to ensure that award nominees reflect the diverse composition of SDS membership both in population and discipline. For the past two years I have served on the Program committee. In this role, I have helped plan and organize every aspect of the annual conference from drafting the call for papers to putting together the daily schedule of events.

With a second term on the SDS board I would work to increase diversity and accountability. While organizing the 2019 Pacific/Western Disability Studies Symposium, for example, I worked hard to connect scholars and activists from a variety of fields and backgrounds. In doing so, I framed the reality that this could create tension as an opportunity for engagement. To me, this demonstrates accountability not only to who is and isn’t (usually) present but also how, and why, that can change.

Toni Saia

My desire to be on the Society of Disability Studies Board of Directors is linked to my vision in life. My vision is of a just world ... where disabled people have equal opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of life ...where communities are barrier-free, and access is universal ... where discrimination is unthinkable. I dedicate my efforts to this vision through teaching, collaborating, ongoing skill development, organizing communities to effect change, and leading by example.

My name is Dr. Toni Saia. I identify as a disabled woman with a deep commitment to social justice. I recently graduated with my Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Arizona. My dissertation is one of the only studies that focused on the role of disability cultural centers within higher education. After securing funding, during my doctoral program, I worked as the Program Coordinator for the new Disability Cultural Center at (one of few DCCs with dedicated staff, space, and funding in the country).  As an adjunct instructor at both University of Arizona and San Diego State University, I teach a range of counseling and disability studies courses. My courses promote a progressive and intersectional view of disability within applied fields such as special education and rehabilitation service degrees. It is my hope that applied fields continue to shift towards a framework rooted in disability studies rather than the medical model of disability rooted in cure.

As a board member it is my goal to increase membership, collaborations with other organizations and visibility. I am eager to grow the social media presence of SDS to promote contributions, opportunities, and disability studies as a whole. Social media is an easy way to encourage more people to get involved in the great work of SDS and attend the SDS conference. I also want to make sure SDS has a seat at the table for opportunities to collaborate and encourage understanding of disability in all cultures and disciplines. There is power in numbers and the more people to further the mission of SDS the better.

As a disability rights activist, I have a great deal of experience advocating for disability rights to be valued as human rights. I worked to establish Arizona’s first ADAPT chapter and led efforts to prevent cuts to Medicaid and secured significant modifications to the local community to ensure accessibility for all. This would not have been possible without my ability to involve the community, create fundraisers, and secure donors. I regularly engage in policy advocacy at the local and national level to evoke widespread change. I unequivocally believe in “Nothing about us without us”- disabled people are the solution and must lead necessary change. I feel confident I have the knowledge, experience, and passion to help the board find solutions, flourish, and most importantly advocate for social change.

Javed Ahmad Tak

Born in Kashmir, India, I grew up where most people work as artisans, laborers, and small merchants. Having a poor Muslim family, I did not get good schooling. I followed the principles of Islam, offered Salat – (prayer offered) as means of attaining peace and protection from sins. In 1996, my fate changed when I was injured in a militancy incident. My cousin was affiliated to the then ruling party in Jammu and Kashmir. Militants, targeting leaders and politicians, entered my uncle’s house, trying to kidnap his son. Although family members retaliated, this didn't stop the indiscriminate fire. I was hit by a bullet fired from a one-meter range. After surgeries, my kidney, spleen, part of the liver and intestine were removed and a spinal fixation was done. It is a miracle I am alive.

I was upset for some time about the dependent life I now had. With the local children, I overcame the trauma to some extent and found courage to work again…I started my new life in bed, providing free education to those who cannot afford it. The idea came when I heard children playing outside. My community accepted me and needed me. Like a snowball, the courage and enthusiasm teaching generated, encouraged me to pursue courses in Human Rights and Computing. Becoming disabled, my vision of the world changed and I realized problems the disabled face. Deeply hurt by constant social stigma, lack of access to education, employment, and health facilities, I wrote complaints to Human Rights Commissions. My complaint about lack of attention to the leper colony in Srinagar prompted the Chairperson of State Human Rights to direct steps for rehabilitation.

At a blood donation camp, I became inspired to study social work. Pursuing an MSW at Kashmir University, I learned to use social work techniques for the welfare of the physically and mentally challenged. I continuously fought, seeking moral support from leaders and those concerned with disability issues. Because nobody had worked in this area, I successfully filed public interest litigations in the High Court praying against the miserable conditions of disabled people. The first outcome was policy on employment of the physically challenged. The process of employing people, even with the Disability Act, had been a myth due to extremely discriminatory recruiting agencies. The new policy meant enforcement was monitored. At Kashmir University, I organized fellow students to put pressure on university authorities to address their rights. This enabled me to create bonds, experiencing life away from family, I built new ties. Our efforts paid off and ramps appeared at important buildings. For the first time, Kashmir University celebrated World Disability Day in 2005 and continuously celebrates.

I consider myself blessed for what happened to me, a blessing from God and his everlasting kindness. I have found a place in society, academically and professionally. I’ve been rewarded for my perseverance and social actions. To the SDS Board, I can contribute by considering challenges students and faculty with disabilities face and by sharing ground-level experiences.