Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
The following is the award citation for Elizabeth Cherniak who received a 2011 graduate student Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock medal at Spring Convocation in June 2011.
Elizabeth Cherniak has lived with progressive hearing loss for more than 20 years.
In her first term as a Master’s student in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts, it became clear to Elizabeth that her hearing had worsened and she was not able to hear enough conversation and discussion during seminars and lectures. It was a stressful period and at one point she contemplated leaving the program.
Brock students have many reasons to be thankful that Elizabeth decided to stay.
Since then she has raised awareness at Brock and in the larger community about the challenges for people living with invisible disabilities such as deafness or hearing loss. More specifically Elizabeth has been a driving force in bringing people together at Brock to discuss and address key issues for graduate students with disabilities.
As an accessibility volunteer at Brock, Elizabeth has participated in workshops on inclusion. She has also advocated, on behalf of graduate students with disabilities, for policy development in the area of academic accommodation.
Her advocacy in diversity extends to conference presentations and activities beyond Brock such as the University of Guelph Accessibility conference and the National Education Association for Disabled Students’ conference. This past April she organized and chaired panel presentations on diversity and disability at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference held in New Jersey.
Elizabeth's graduate research examines autobiographical and biographical texts by authors with acquired disability to determine how the disability affected the perception of their masculinity and sexuality. This work holds much promise in adding to current scholarship and serving to broaden our notions of difference, diversity and how our identities are constructed.
Dr. Cristina Santos, Elizabeth’s supervisor, writes in a letter of recommendation:
“Elizabeth has used her personal sense of loss to ask for accessibility and to advocate and speak up for herself and for others,” says Dr. Santos. “She has been an inspiration to younger students and to instructors such as myself to strive to be better advocates.”
Please join me in congratulating Elizabeth for being recognized with this very special honour.