Meet Lindsay Eales

Spurred by a passion for researching social justice and dance with disabled and non-disabled dancer, Lindsay Eales was drawn to the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation’s world-leading adaptive physical activity area, specifically in social and disability-centered approaches to inclusive and adaptive sport, recreation, and leisure.

After completing both a Master of Arts degree and PhD, Lindsay returns to the University of Alberta and KSR as an assistant professor in adapted physical activity studies. Learn more about Lindsay’s academic journey, and what she will bring to KSR in the capacity of teacher and researcher.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve been doing over the past year?

I’ve been working on publishing from my dissertation, and am now teaching the undergraduate courses in both Therapeutic Recreation and Research Methods in Kinesiology this fall. I have also been spending time on knowledge mobilization, which is one of my favorite aspects of my work. I am working to support community organizations and nonprofits in recreation and the arts across Canada to enact anti-oppressive trauma-informed practices within their programs and organizations

I have also been working as a research consultant on the New Frontiers in Research Grant project – “Reimagining inclusion from the margins” –in which researchers work with invested practitioners to create more accessible, equitable, and affirming sport experience for people who face multiple barriers to full participation. This project is led by Dr. Trisha McGuire Adams (Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa) and Dr. Danielle Peers (Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, & Recreation, University of Alberta). I have learned so much from this collective of incredible scholars, and I am excited to continue working with them in my new position.

I’ve also been working as a co-applicant on two large grants with Dr. Vivian Mushahwar and Dr. Jacqueline Hebert (Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Medicine Division) along with KSR’s Dr. Craig Chapman, as part of our University’s SMART Network. My role is focused on supporting equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in training and development around Sensory-Motor Adaptive Rehabilitation Technologies. These interdisciplinary projects, like KSR as a faculty, are exciting opportunities for me to learn about new perspectives while engaging with diverse disciplines to address complex issues.

What originally brought you to the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation for your PhD?

I came to the faculty for my Masters of Arts, right out of my occupational therapy degree, because of my passion for researching social justice and dance with disabled and non-disabled dancers. I stayed for my PhD, where I used social and activist-based perspectives on “mental illness,” and put forth practical suggestions for crafting more accessible, anti-oppressive, affirming, trauma-informed movement communities in physical activity, recreation and the arts.

What impact did your PhD supervisor have on your career?

Dr. Donna Goodwin continues to foster my commitment to reflexivity, creativity, and ethical responsibility in research. She gifted me with what has become a mantra of sorts - notice what you notice - which has led me to honour embodied knowledge, as well as critical reflection on what and who is missing in my work and my worlds.
Why have you chosen to pursue a career in academia?

This academic position is super exciting to me, because it will enable me to keep researching how to engage with trauma-informed research in a way that fits with accessible, anti-oppressive, and equity-related approaches. Even more exciting, is how this position allows me to put these learnings directly into action through my teaching and my service. For me, my research has always been deeply entwined with my practice as an Occupational therapist, an artist, and a community recreation programmer and instructor. Through this position I get to continue to weave my research, teaching and service together in ways that help to create grounded, community-based and actionable practices to address some of our most systemic exclusions.

Can you tell us a bit about your focus of research?

My work uses Mad theories, which are drawn from the writings of people who have experience with mental illness diagnosis, psychiatric systems, and non-normative bodyminds. Mad theories argue that psychiatric knowledge and programs are not always the most helpful tools, and in fact can sometimes be very harmful. This “Mad” approach focuses on increasing access, equity, and justice for people who have experiences with psychiatrization, and honour the unique arts and culture that comes from these experiences and perspectives.

What I found in my PhD research on creating more accessible, inclusive and affirming spaces for people who have these experiences, is that many of the suggestions for trauma-informed practice were really, really meaningful and helpful. However, the focus in much of this literature on psychiatric diagnoses and solutions, did not take into account what we have learned from critical disability and Mad studies about how medical and psychiatric systems are not always the best (or at least only) ways forward, and how we need to centre the knowledges and experiences of those most impacted.

By applying Mad theory to trauma-informed practices, I am learning how we can craft spaces and communities that acknowledge trauma and mental distress without pathologizing people, and requiring them to become more ‘normal’ before they can be fully welcomed into our activities and communities. In doing so, as a dear collaborator Dales Laing states, we can invite people to “bring more of themselves more of the time” to our sport, art, leisure, and physical activity spaces.

This has never been more true than in the midst of COVID 19, where many of our students, athletes, artists, and community members more generally are experiencing significant, and also inequitable, amounts of trauma. In the classroom, in the lab, in the studio, and on the playing field, we will need new practices for engaging meaningfully with the role of trauma in our lives and in our communities.

What has been your most proud and/or significant moment as a researcher to date?

I’ve been lucky to have some really exciting experiences as a researcher thus far, particularly moments that have enabled me to blend research, artistic performance, and disability activism. From work in my Masters, I was able to co-author a paper in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly with Dr. Nancy Spencer and Dr. Danielle Peers, which resulted in an invitation to re-write the disability language use policy for a major journal in our field. In my PhD I was fortunate enough to solo or co-present keynote lectures at the University of Calgary, York University, Carlton University, and New York University. I was honoured to present the Rod Murray Memorial Address at KSR’s RECON in 2016. My PhD dissertation defense was particularly special, as I had the opportunity to invite students, faculty, and community members into a version of the collaborative research-creation performance installation called Mad Home. A number of students who attended have since shared that the experience shifted their imagination of what research is, but also made them feel more at home than they had felt in academia so far.

What classes will you be teaching in 2021/2022 and what can students expect from you as an instructor?

I will be teaching in the areas of dance and therapeutic recreation. This is really exciting to me, because both are topics that have been centered in my graduate research, and are also areas where I have over a decade of experience as a practitioner. I am hoping this will allow me to make the content feel deeply relevant, and alive, to students, regardless of whether they imagine going on to graduate school or focusing on a more practitioner-oriented path.

Are you supervising any students at the moment?

I am hoping to welcome my first PhD student in the coming year, who will be focusing on creating affirming dance environments through arts-based research and Mad studies (social and activist-created theories about “mental illness”).


We are happy to welcome you officially into an academic role within the Faculty and are excited to learn more about your research

I found a faculty that actively encouraged my early experiments with arts-based research. I couldn’t imagine a better place to continue to foster my work weaving artistic and academic ways of generating and sharing knowledge about movement communities.