Rethinking Barriers

In this final blog installment for the fall semester, we hear from James McNutt, a graduate student at Queen’s University. In this piece, we learn how education has and continues to be a positive resource and platform for James.

My name is James McNutt and I am a Master of Education student. I have a condition called spastic cerebral palsy quadriplegia, which means I have had to use a wheelchair since the age of two. Throughout my life, I have defined myself by the category of “student,” rather than a disabled individual. I guess I have self-defined myself this way because education at all levels has provided me with the most access over other domains in my life. I may not be able to go into a particular restaurant, but I can always learn Shakespeare!

Education has empowered me to challenge the barriers I face. I study History and there are various examples of historical figures who have challenged the normative through their participation in movements for the rights of diverse groups. From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Joan Baez, and even Rick Hansen, I have learned that we must go over barriers, or under them, to accomplish our goals. This philosophy has allowed me to envision possibilities instead of flights of stairs. I do not feel defeated in cases where there are accessibility challenges, as this is a good learning opportunity for event coordinators and business owners to fulfill the needs of the community. By educating in this way, we take one step closer to creating a more free and equitable society.

This past year, I have been involved with campus accessibility at Queen’s University, in association with the Department of Campus Planning and Development. In June 2015, I decided to demonstrate the challenges that I face while navigating Queen’s University campus. In this video audit, I visited six buildings and toured common areas, accessible gender-neutral washrooms, and some classrooms. It is my belief that, in order to facilitate an accessible campus, we benefit from the perspective of those who face accessibility challenges.

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3 thoughts on “Rethinking Barriers

  1. Dinah Jansen

    Dear James,

    Thank you so much for your blog piece on Rethinking Barriers, I certainly look forward to hearing more from you. You mentioned a video that you produced this past summer, I wonder where I might find that? Hope to see you soon, and thanks again for keeping the Queen’s community informed about accessibility!

    All the best,
    Dinah Jansen

    1. Heidi Penning

      Hello Dinah,
      The video with be on our Accessibility Hub ( in the new year.
      Best Regards,
      Heidi Penning

  2. Dianne Corcoran

    It is not only beneficial to consider the perspective of those who face accessibility challenges, it is absolutely essential. I am very happy to hear that James has been involved with campus accessibility at Queen’s. This is a good step forward towards inclusion in the planning process. I hope to one day see that all accessibility challenges – both physical challenges and so-called “invisible” ones – will receive consideration and attention.

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