Peripheral Vision Speaker Series to spark discussion around accessibility

VISTA image showing an eyeball
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A collaboration between Faculties at York University will ignite important conversations around accessibility with the presentations “Blindness Meets the Devil” by Rod Michalko and “The Feel of Blindness” by Devon Healy on Jan. 30.

This event is part of the Peripheral Visions Speaker Series, co-curated by York Professors Mary Bunch, Laura Levin and Lauren Sergio. It is supported by the Peripheral Vision Lab, the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts & Technology, and VISTA: Vision Science to Applications. It runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at York University’s Sensorium Loft.

About the presentations

Rod Michalko – Blindness Meets the Devil

This presentation explores blindness and how it meets itself. It focuses, at least peripherally, on the meaning of both blindness and the devil and of blindness and putative “madness.” It ends with a reflection of blindness as perception; blindness, too, has peripheral vision and, if focused, it can temporarily blind the power of sight.

Michalko has taught sociology and disability studies in several Canadian universities including, most recently, the University of Toronto where his is an emeritus professor. He is an author of numerous articles and books, including The Mystery of the Eye and the Shadow of Blindness (UTP 1998), The Two in One: Walking with Smokie, Walking with Blindness (Temple UP, 1999) and The Difference that Disability Makes (Temple UP, 2002). He is a co-editor, with Tanya Titchkosky, of Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader (Scholars Press, 2009).

Since retirement, Michalko has turned to writing fiction. His first collection of short stories, Things are Different Here (Insomniac Press), was published in 2017. He is currently completing his first novel, My Thick Persian Rug. All of his work, scholarly and fiction, begins in his experience of blindness. Michalko reveals how blindness may be understood as framing the scenes and activities of everyday life.

Devon Healy – The Feel of Blindness

This talk explores the feel of blindness, thus challenging the current, sighted, contemporary Western understanding and imaginary of blindness as something that is experienced only in the eyes. Blindness does not merely inhabit the eyes but, rather, it is a full sensory experience.

Making use of autoethnography and critical disability studies, Healy’s paper explicates how blindness is felt by the body before it is noticed by the eyes. The oft asked question “When did you notice your blindness?” is one that imagines blindness as something that happens in the eyes alone. In this presentation, she explores how the eyes may not always be the knowing sense of blindness, and the feeling of difference in the body that illuminates blindness.

Healey is a blind PhD candidate, award-winning actor and active member in the Toronto arts community, who has worked with directors such as Guillermo del Toro on The Strain. Her work explores how blindness makes an appearance in culture and is informed by disability studies, phenomenology and Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical model. Her most recent article, “Eyeing the Pedagogy of Trouble: The Cultural Documentation of the Problem Subject,” can be found in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.

This event in the series is a collaboration between the departments of Cinema & Media Arts (School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design) and Kinesiology (Faculty of Health).

The talks in this series are designed to be interdisciplinary and encourage students and researchers from all subjects and Faculties to attend and ask questions. They are open to all.

The Peripheral Visions Series is working towards offering barrier-free events at York University. It welcomes feedback, recommendations and collaboration around access at York University. To join the conversation, contact uspvl@yorku.ca.