Accessibili-tea: The Tea on Your Hosts

This is a decorative image with white cursive font on a purple background that reads: The Tea on Your HostsPodcast created by: Jalesa Martin + Elizabeth Mohler

In this episode of Accessibili-tea, Jalesa and Elizabeth spill some tea on your hosts. In this episode they talk about how they ended up at Western, what they’ve learned from living with a disability, and more!

Elizabeth shares about her extracurriculars at Western including being a Society of Graduate Students Accessibility Commissioner, and role on the Student Accessibility Advisory Committee to help Western become more accessible. She also shares advice for graduate students seeking accommodations, and the importance of asking for help. 

Jalesa shares about her daily life living with a disability, the unpredictability of her chronic illness, and appreciating the time that she gets to spend with her community. She also shares about her work as the Accessibility Mentorship Program Coordinator, and a huge misconception about people living with disabilities – assuming that people aren’t sick because they don’t look sick.

The episode ends with them chatting about the impact of the pandemic on their life as a graduate student, including navigating spaces and online classes – along with a fun fact.

To learn more about these topics in-depth, tune into the episode now! You can listen below or check it out on Anchor, Google Podcasts, Breaker, Radio Public, Spotify, or Pocket Casts. You can also access an accessible transcript of the interview below. 

To learn more about Elizabeth and Jalesa, you can follow them on social media. If you have any questions for your host, you can chat with Jalesa on Twitter and Elizabeth on Twitter or at Stay tuned for the next episode where Jalesa and Elizabeth will be talking to Melanie Stone about barriers to accessibility. 

You can listen to this episode, and past episodes, on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, Pocket Casts, and Radio Public.

Listen now to the episode now!


The Tea on Your Hosts: Accessible Transcript

Elizabeth 00;00;06;02; - 00;00;08;05: "Hello, I'm Elizabeth Mohler."

Jalesa 00;00;08;05 - 00;00;11;04: I'm Jalesa Martin.

Elizabeth 00;00;11;04- 00;00;26;04 "And today we are sitting down with our hosts to spill some tea. So grab your cup, sit back and get ready to sip on some hot tea."

Elizabeth 00;00;26;04 - 00;00;27;17: "So Jalesa, I'm pretty excited."

Elizabeth 00;00;27;17 - 00;00;36;27 “I'm new to the scene and I can't wait to hear a little bit about your academic journey and what motivated you to come to Western.”

Jalesa 00;00;36;27-  00;01;08;17: "Yeah, I'm really excited to be back with this podcast. We've been gone for a while, so I'm glad to have a new host and just get to know a bit more about each other and so our audience can get to know a bit more about us. In terms of my academic work, I'm currently a masters in the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences program. I'm in the health promotion stream and I do qualitative research, and my research focuses on diverse patient engagement within the context of health systems reform."

Jalesa 00;01;09;01- 00;01;26;09: "That's quite complicated. I usually try and sum it up for people, essentially Ontario's health care system is going through some changes, and I am just exploring how they're looking at engaging diverse people from diverse backgrounds in their work with patients."

Jalesa 00;01;26;09 - 00;02;07;03: "And in terms of what motivated me to come to Western, I would say it was kind of a fluke. I did do my undergrad at Western as well, and I actually had never heard of the Health Sci program at Western, but I had a mentor that I met in Grade twelve, and she told me that she went to Western and that the Health Sci program was great. And then I just applied and ended up here. And I love the Health Sci program. I love the profs. I love the flexibility that comes with the program and that is what motivated me. So onto you, Elizabeth, can you tell me a bit about your academic work and what motivated you to come to Western?"

Elizabeth 00;02;07;13 - 00;02;39;21: "Yeah, absolutely. So I'm a second year doctoral student in the health and rehabilitation sciences program - yay HRS, shoutout - in the occupational science field. And, I often get asked what is occupational science and is it occupational therapy? It is not. It is tangentially related. It informs OT practice, but occupational science looks at the study of human doing and human participation and how humans engage with their environment and how environment shapes how humans engage and interact with themselves and with others, both sort of at a micro, meso, macro level."

Elizabeth 00;02;40;25 - 00;03;33;28: "So my work specifically looks at discourse in home care policies and how that discourse shapes who can or cannot access services and supports. In terms of what motivated me to go to Western, I actually did my master's here about a decade ago, and I was recently and by recently, I mean pre-COVID at a conference with a bunch of faculty from Western, and I was fortunate enough to attend an alumni, faculty and current student dinner. And there was some conversation about doctoral studies, and I just sort of piped up and said, ""would HRS be looking for students with my area of interest?"" And my advisor sitting across the table said, Absolutely, we would welcome you open arms. And so it was a really beautiful sort of homecoming, and that's what motivated me to go to Western."

Jalesa 00;03;33;29 - 00;04;01;12: "That's awesome, I think it really points to just the importance of networking and how sometimes random conversations can lead you to very interesting places. Yeah, so now we're going to take more of a personal approach. And my question for you, Elizabeth, is what is something positive that you've learned or gained from living with a disability?"

Elizabeth 00;04;02;14 - 00;05;03;26” "You know, I think that one of the things that has really impacted me having a disability in a really positive way is being resilient and being a problem solver. It's it's funny. I am in my friend group, the one that people come to when we need to solve a problem or we need to think outside the box. And it's true. I think that's been a really wonderful gift that my disability and experiential knowledge of disability has given me. You know, whether it's a problem I can't get on this website because it's not accessible or a bigger problem, like I need to get somewhere and there's not accessible transportation or even sort of a bigger, bigger problem that impacts the disability community. Like, for example, lack of supports during COVID for home care. I think having that lens has really gifted me with an ability to to seek solutions outside the box, but also to really build a community around me and around other people in the disability space."

Elizabeth 00;05;03;26- 00;05;25;29: "So this really beautiful kind of collective community, so whether that's through the Society of Graduate Students or just through organizations that I'm a part of in home in Toronto, I think that building a community coupled with thinking outside the box and problem solving is something that my disability has really gifted me that I don't know if I'd have if I didn't have a disability. What about you?"

Jalesa 00;05;25;29 - 00;05;35;22: “I would say the biggest thing I've gained have just been kind of similar to you. Opportunities and friendships that I wouldn't have gained otherwise.”

Jalesa 00;05;35;22 - 00;06;08;04: "So I was diagnosed with a chronic illness at 14. So coming into university I knew kind of how it would impact me, but I wouldn't have come to Western if I didn't have a disability because I am interested in, you know, the health sciences field. There's a lot of different research opportunities I've had. There's a lot of different friendships I've gained. And even in my current job now, I get the pleasure of creating accessibility related content. So I would definitely say just opportunities that have come up and people that I've met that I would not have met otherwise."

Elizabeth 00;06;09;18 - 00;06;22;16: "Wonderful. Well, you know, there's a rumor going around and by a rumor, I mean, it's here on my script that you're pretty involved on campus. And so I'm wondering if you can tell me a little bit about some of the stuff you do outside your academics."

Jalesa 00;06;23;10 - 00;07;00;12: "Yeah, I'd love to share that. So I'm involved, I would say, in two major things. The first thing is called the Accessibility Mentorship Program. So it's actually an integrated program that we've been working on for a few years now, where we try and prepare first year mentors by providing them with accessibility training just so that they can support first year students as they transition into Western. Because navigating Accessible Education can be very difficult at times, we really want students to feel supported in that area. So in my job with that, I've kind of just been tailoring the program, developing some training."

Jalesa 00;07;00;12 - 00;07;17;00: And right now we're in a really cool stage where we got to integrate our training with other first year programs such as Lamp or off campus mentors. So that's been really exciting. That's been the main thing that I've been working on for the latter half of my undergrad.

Jalesa 00;07;17;13 - 00;07;46;00: "And another thing that I'm working on, which is also part of this podcast, is I just work with a couple of people in student experience just to create accessibility related content, make the topic of accessibility, become more aware on campus. And that includes blogs, podcasts, anything and everything and through that I've gone to meet a lot of cool people, and I just feel like it's such a privilege to be able to share the stories of students on campus."

Jalesa 00;07;46;19 - 00;07;58;17: "Now, I feel like a similar rumors going around with you Elizabeth. So would you like to share how you're involved on campus in your work outside of academics?"

Elizabeth 00;07;58;17 - 00;08;27;04: "Yeah, absolutely. So I'm fortunate enough to be the current accessibility commissioner for the Society of Graduate Students. So for graduate students that have accessibility concerns not necessarily related to academics, although I can certainly point you in the right direction, but more broadly, or just want to build community around accessibility through listening sessions, that's my role and I also engage with stakeholders on campus, and I love my role."

Elizabeth 00;08;27;13 - 00;09;09;29: "I'm also involved in the EDID Working Group through SGPS - sounds like a bit of alphabet soup, but really, that's just the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has struck a really important equity, diversity and inclusion and disability working group to think about how we can not only be inclusive to current students, but to incoming folks on our campus communities as well. And I'm also on SAAC that is the Student Accessibility Advisory Committee, and that's a committee that was struck to help Western move closer towards a goal of becoming more accessible on campus. And when I'm not here hanging out with you Jalesa I'm also a host of the podcast Grad Cast."

Jalesa 00;09;10;14 - 00;09;11;17: “Wow.”

Elizabeth 00;09;11;17      00;09;12;21: “I know.”

Jalesa 00;09;12;21 - 00;09;25;25: "I feel like you have such a variety of things to do and somehow you managed to do it all with a Ph.D., so that is super cool. So my next question for you is what would you say is the biggest misconception about your disability?"

Elizabeth 00;09;26;12 - 00;10;11;24: "I just think that the biggest misconception about my disability is that lack of vision or sight or lack of the physical ability to see is often conflated with with lack of confidence or competence or ability. I've been asked a number of times, you know, how do you do a Ph.D. when you can't see and not in sort of a curious way, but more in a way that's not possible way. I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what what literacy is and how folks with sight loss engage with with printed material and technology. So I think there's a lot of misunderstandings around how we navigate our world and what that looks like for us."

Elizabeth 00;10;12;10 - 00;10;14;05: “What about you?”

Jalesa 00;10;14;05 - 00;10;57;19: "Um. I think my the biggest misconception is the phrase ""you don't look sick."" So I do have an invisible chronic illness which means you obviously cannot see signs of it when looking at me. So a lot of people would think that because I don't have a walking aid or because I don't, maybe I'm not limping. People would think that I'm not sick. So that's the big misconception. And yeah, I just try my best to raise awareness about that and let people know there are tons of chronic illnesses that don't have external symptoms, but something could definitely be going on even if you can't see it on the outside."

Elizabeth 00;10;58;07 - 00;11;07;10: "You know what? I'm wondering what advice would you have for graduate students, be the incoming? Or maybe they've been here a while who are trying to think about maybe seeking out some accommodations?"

Jalesa 00;11;07;10 - 00;11;09;14: "Yeah, I think that's a really great question."

Jalesa 00;11;09;15 - 00;12;08;24: "I definitely think accommodations vary based on your program and faculty. Just because, you know, there's different requirements for different programs, especially if it's like something like occupational therapy versus just a thesis based program. But I would definitely say the first step is talking to your supervisor because they're the ones who will come in contact with the most. They're the ones who will be reading the most of your work and setting deadlines with you. So I think it's really important to be honest with your supervisor ahead of time, even before selecting one and just letting them know, you know, I have a disability, these are my needs. Do you think we could work together so that I can pursue this degree in a way that doesn't drain me or take everything out of me, but I can also be successful with? And then I would also just say meeting up with Accessible Education early on is also super important just to make sure that everything is set in place before you begin. What about you, Elizabeth, with your experience what advice would you give?"

Elizabeth 00;12;08;24 - 00;13;00;27: "I think those are really good tips I would I would also say that it's OK to ask for help, which sounds cliche, but you know, just today I reached out to my supervisor and said, Hey, I'm kind of a little scared. There's a lot of conferences coming up and, you know, looks like if I'm accepted, that's going to be something I'm going to have to do is somebody with sight loss. So can we talk about that? And she was amazing, but I think that there's a lot of fear that asking for help means lessening expectations or asking for an accommodation is going to be lessening expectations. And I think that that leads you. That's that's very much around imposter syndrome, which we all feel. But I think some of us, when we have a disability, we feel it more because we feel that if we ask for an accommodation, that's going to lower the bar."

Elizabeth 00;13;01;09 - 00;13;11;21: "But I would just say, take that niggly little voice that is imposter syndrome and put it aside. And if you need help, don't be don't be hesitant to reach out."

Jalesa 00;13;11;21 - 00;13;54;11: "Yeah, that's definitely a great one. I think in grad school, there is significant emphasis on figuring things out and knowing how to do time management and manage your schedule. And I remember my first year just having a breakdown, to be honest and just being like, I don't know what to do about this. I'm not feeling well, I'm not sure. And my supervisor said something to me, and it was really something simple. But she said, if you knew everything, you wouldn't be where you are, you're a student, you're a trainee, you're learning and it's OK. So I just thought I'd share that little tidbit. I think it could apply to anybody, even if you don't have a disability. But as a grad student, we're still learning and it's OK to not know everything, and it's OK to not get everything right on the first try."

Jalesa 00;13;54;11 - 00;14;02;28: “So my next question is. What does your disability really mean in terms of your day to day living?”

Elizabeth 00;14;03;16 - 00;14;48;27: "Oh, I have to say that when I saw this question, I smiled because I am reading a lot of Martin Heidegger right now. So the meaning of what a disability is is very much something I'm reading about. But that aside, fun fact aside, I think what it means to live with a disability is really based on your own individual experience and your experience with a specific cultural context, your family background, et cetera. For me, what it means is being able to see the world probably a little bit differently than most people because I'm actually not technically seeing the world I'm metaphorically seeing it."

Elizabeth 00;14;48;27 - 00;15;34;05: "So I'm experiencing the world a little bit differently. I think because I experience the world a little bit differently, I'm bringing different types of knowledge to the table. And I think that can be a really beautiful thing, especially in academic settings, but even in your own personal settings. You know I was out with somebody today going for a walk at lunchtime, for example, and the Western Road, Sarnia, Philip Aziz combination which we all know and love so much was really busy, and so the audible signal was quite quiet. And I said, Oh, we got a signal on the east corner there is really quiet and I'm noticing the locator tone is quite low and the person said ih I wouldn't have even noticed that. So I think it's being able to bring different nuanced types of conversations is what it means to me."

Elizabeth 00;15;35;01 - 00;15;59;18: "But I think it also, living with a disability to me also means resilience, and it means sometimes being able to to persevere. And I think that it can also mean a lot, a lot, a lot of the kind of a really different way of experiencing community because we have to sort of rely on community, probably in a little bit more of a different way than other folks."

Elizabeth 00;15;59;18 - 00;16;01;21: What about you?

Jalesa 00;16;01;21 - 00;16;14;11: "Um, I honestly would say the first thing is that every day is a different day. It's very hard to predict, like how I'm going to feel one day, whether I'll be tired, whether I'll have enough energy to do something wether I'll be in pain."

Jalesa 00;16;14;21 - 00;16;43;09: "So it's definitely about being very strategic in how I spend the energy that I do have. So I would say that's like the main thing in terms of day to day. And I would just say kind of soaking in the things that I do get to do, whether that be spending time with friends or hanging out together. I just really appreciate those moments that I get to be with my community because I don't necessarily get to do that as often as I would like to."

Elizabeth 00;16;43;09 - 00;16;53;28: "Yes, very true. I feel like you can't have a podcast about this question, but how is the pandemic impacted you positively or negatively in terms of your studies?"

Jalesa 00;16;54;05 - 00;17;27;07: "Yeah, I would say for me, the pandemic hasn't negatively impacted my studies too much. The biggest difference has been obviously classes online, which I'm actually a fan of because as I mentioned, I do have a chronic illness and mornings aren't the greatest for me. So it's been nice to be able to wake up and take my time getting ready and go to class online. So that's been pretty good for me. And then in terms of my thesis, you know, I obviously had to change data collection to online, but that wasn't too much of a big deal for me."

Jalesa 00;17;27;19 - 00;17;58;16: "And I think just adding a little bit of a personal impact for COVID 19 because I think that's also an important aspect as well. The biggest impact for me has been lockdowns, which I know everyone has had to go through. With my chronic illness I'm immunocompromised, so there's quite a long period of time where my doctor was saying, Yep, you really should not be seeing anybody outside of your house, which is very hard and lonely, especially, you know, during the summertime when there were social bubbles and and people were able to go out."

Jalesa 00;17;59;00 - 00;18;14;06: “But now I've been cleared and I'm able to see small groups of people. So it's been lovely catching up with people after a little over a year. What about you? How has the pandemic positively or negatively impacted your studies or even just your life in general?”

Elizabeth 00;18;14;16 - 00;18;43;00: "Yeah. You know, for me, getting around can definitely be more of a challenge. So this virtual space that's opened up has actually been really cool because I'm finding I can navigate a virtual space a little bit more seamlessly than a physical one. And so last year, like you, I loved online classes. It was great. I live in Toronto, so not having to commute here on the VIA was nice. But I also found I can participate in more things because everything was online."

Elizabeth 00;18;43;00 - 00;18;55;26: "So if I wanted to say co-host a podcast, I could do that. Or if I wanted to join a committee, I could do that. And I was still getting this really rich breadth of experiences at the university here without physically having to be here."

Elizabeth 00;18;55;27 - 00;19;08;06: "And so it's nice because now I can choose if I want to be here a little bit and see people and have that experience. But it's also nice that still there's quite a number of things online, so I can continue that sort of virtual experience as well."

Jalesa 00;19;09;00 - 00;19;20;15: "Yeah, that's super awesome. So I guess just as we end off our podcast, do you have anything else that you want to let the audience know about you or any fun facts?"

Elizabeth 00;19;20;15 - 00;19;39;09: "Fun facts? Well, I would. I guess a fun fact about me is I do triathlons, so that's swimming, biking and running, and there are a lot of fun, so I encourage people to do them. And I just I just yesterday did my first trail run, so that was really fun. So I will end off by saying that what about you Jalesa?"

Jalesa 00;19;39;09 - 00;20;18;15: "That's really cool! I am not an athletic person at all. So I always admire people who can even run, let alone do triathlons. That's really interesting. A fun fact about me. I'm trying to think. It's not a super fun fact, but I'm left handed. There's not a lot of people in the world, so it's always cool when I find another left handed person because there's just these little things in the world that people don't realize. The world is very based on the right handed individual, very little things, I won't get into them, but I always find it cool when I find somebody else who's left handed. So, yeah."

Elizabeth 00;20;25;00 - 00;20;42;09: "Well, that's our episode for today, and thank you for listening. Next time, stay tuned as we sit down to spill the tea with Melanie Stone, who is the city of London's accessibility coordinator. In the meantime, stay well and thank you for listening."

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