Too often students with disabilities experience barriers to completing post-secondary studies. Challenges related to housing, transportation, assistive devices and services can hinder, if not eliminate, access to opportunities.
Approximately only one in 10 working-age adults living with disability has a university degree, compared to one in five without disabilities. Even fewer adults with disabilities go on to complete a graduate degree.
Thanks to the outstanding generosity of TD Bank Group, Toronto Rehab administers a scholarship to break down barriers and engage people with disabilities in a meaningful way in rehabilitation research.
The TD Grants in Medical Excellence: A Scholarship in Rehabilitation-Related Research for People with Disabilities bestows awards of $20,000 to exemplary Master’s Degree and PhD students.
“Our job at Toronto Rehab is to level the playing field,” says Dr. Geoff Fernie, Senior Scientist at Toronto Rehab. “We want to encourage people with disabilities to work in rehabilitation research because we value their knowledge, talent and perspective.”
In 2014, recipients of the scholarships are: Ivan Solano, Meagan Warnica, Stefania Moro, Jirapat Likitlersuang and Andrea Kusec. Robert Shaw received a special $2,000 award.
University of Toronto PhD student, Ivan Solano (in photo), is investigating how the elderly use walkers with wheels on ramps, and how upper body strength impacts mobility and balance. Ivan’s dream is to design more usable, enabling environments for people with disabilities to improve community mobility in Toronto.
Ivan has a learning disability, which affects his ability to process and recall information. His biggest challenge is working through all the required readings for his courses, because he has to reread material multiple times before absorbing it.
“Despite the challenges people with learning disabilities face, technology and the right support from parents, teachers and organizations can assist in the individual’s success,” says Ivan. “This scholarship helps me continue to work in a competitive atmosphere like rehabilitation research.”
He hopes to set a strong example for those who may be struggling or misunderstood as a result of having a disability.
Meagan Warnica, a Biomechanics student from University of Waterloo, is investigating how flooring design can minimize injury. Her dream is to use her research to reduce common injuries to the hip, wrist and head in aging adults.
In 2005, Meagan was a passenger in a motor vehicle collision, which resulted in chronic low back pain and a traumatic brain injury. The experience gave her a greater understanding of how injuries and disability can affect quality of life. This understanding has contributed to her research interests in injury prevention.
“One of my biggest challenges is short term memory,” says Meagan. “I use an iPad to send myself constant reminders involving school assignments, appointments and deadlines.” The support from her parents, professors and Toronto Rehab has helped her see beyond her initial goals and complete a Master’s degree.
Meagan graduated on the Dean’s Honours List with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, completing her thesis on the “Influence of Ankle Stiffness on Balance Control Mechanisms during Quiet Stance”. Meagan was awarded the Dean’s Entrance Scholarship upon admission to the University of Waterloo.