Jeff Preston

academic, motivational speaker, advocate


The social web has been all aflutter for the past week, stirred up by a viral National Post article focused on the concept transability — people who believe they should be disabled and, in extreme cases, disable themselves to live out their preferred identity. Transability, more appropriately (in my opinion) known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), is not new — some studies on the topic go back well into the 1980s. BIID is also not new to the media either, as there’s a fascinating documentary about the subject from over a decade ago titled Whole (2003) which loosely inspired the odd Nick Stahl film, Quid Pro Quo (2008). The rise of BIID to mainstream frame, however, seems tethered to the transgendered movement, with many conservatives deploying this article as some sort of slippery slope warning that if you start letting people reassign their gender than logically the next step is people will begin demanding disabilities. The horror! Of course, things are not quite as simple as they might seem and this blog post hopes to explore some random thoughts I’ve been trying to gather in my head for the past few years.

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to stop by Listowel District Secondary School and speak with the students about (dis)ability and labelling. I had an absolute blast with these awesome students, answering questions about life with a disability, inclusion and how not to propose to someone (it’s a long story). After school, I was invited to speak to the LDSS staff about my experience as a student with a disability, which lead to an interesting discussion about inclusion and empowering students with disabilities and their families.

A huge thank you goes out to Rachel Suffern and everyone on the CIC team for putting this presentation together and the teachers of LDSS for putting up with me. Thanks for everything and hope to see you all soon!

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The Benefits of Bullying

The Benefits of Bullying


Posted By on Mar 23, 2015

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I have been delivering (questionably) motivational speeches for schools and community groups since the dawn of time, talking to kids about disability and encouraging them to challenge ableism in all its manifestations. After my talks, I usually do a Q&A with the students because I feel like it’s a more authentic way to talk about things and hope that if they can get answers to all their burning questions about disability it will help naturalize difference. Inevitably, a student will ask about bullying and if I have any suggestions on how to stop it. I honestly dread this question because I’ve never been quite sure how to respond. I usually sidestepped the question with a spiel about self-confidence, talking to friends/adults, and it getting easier with age. I knew it wasn’t a great answer, but bullying seemed (and still seems) like something so much bigger than myself. But after thinking about it for years, I’ve decided to finally take a moment and answer this question once and for all.

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Theory of Everything (2014)

Theory of Everything (2014)


Posted By on Feb 22, 2015

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With Oscar season upon us, I felt it was my duty as a disability studies & media scholar to sit through the latest Stephen Hawking bio-pic, Theory of Everything. What follows is my review of a wholly mediocre movie that likely only got nominated because it featured a nondisabled guy pretending to be a disabled guy. As with most reviews, the following may (read: likely does) contain spoilers – consider yourself adequately warned.

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Last week, AM980 conservative radio host Andrew Lawton had an epically bad week. Inflammatory comments made both online and on the air by Lawton have dominated the attention of Londoners, with some demanding AM980 fire him immediately while others promise said action will only make Lawton a martyr for free speech. Obviously, AM980 is in a tough position, where no matter what they do someone will be upset. But in this post, I would like to suggest that we’ve missed the forest for the trees here and aren’t actually talking about what really matters.

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Earlier this afternoon I was contacted by Microsoft on Twitter who are rolling out an “#empowering” campaign, tied in with the tonight’s Superb Owl competition (annual gathering of ornithologists?), aimed at showing the ways Microsoft is changing the world through technology. One such commercial focuses on a young boy named Braylon O’Neill who, with the help of advanced prosthetics, is going to take over enslave the world. Here are some of my initial reactions to the campaign.

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If you’ve been on social media this morning, you no doubt have discovered that it’s #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada. An initiative started several years ago, #BellLetsTalk aims to open up conversations about mental health with the promise that every tweet or post using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media will garner a donation of $0.05 from Bell Canada. But is this campaign really about mental health or just a crowd-sourced advertising campaign for Bell Canada?

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On January 6th, I was invited to speak on AM980’s Andrew Lawton Show about a recent Facebook post on the radio station’s fan page stating Trig, Sarah Palin’s son, was “Down Syndrome-afflicted.” Mr. Lawton and I had an engaging conversation around whether or not the term “afflicted” is offensive or if people are simply nitpicking for political correctness. For those who were not able to tune in to the broadcast, I’ve decided to write a short meandering blog post outlining why we need to stop referring to disabled people as being “afflicted.”

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