TD Scholarship Levels the Playing Field for Graduate Students With Disabilities Studying Rehabilitation Research

Posted January 3, 2013

Ivan Solano and Meagan Warnica are among the 10 percent of adults living with a disability who have a university degree; in fact, Ivan is working toward his PhD and Meagan is working towards her Masters. Both students are being individually recognized for their contribution to rehabilitation research by The TD Grant in Medical Excellence: A Scholarship in Rehabilitation – Related Research for People with Disabilities.

“Our job at Toronto Rehab is to level the playing field,” says Dr. Geoff Fernie, Director of Research at Toronto Rehab. “We want to encourage people with disabilities to work in rehabilitation research because we value their knowledge, talent and perspective.”

Ivan, a University of Toronto student completing his PhD at Toronto Rehab, is investigating how the elderly use walkers with wheels on ramps, and how upper body strength can impact mobility and balance. Ivan’s dream is to design more usable enabling environments for people with disabilities to improve community mobility in Toronto.

“This scholarship helps me continue working in a competitive atmosphere like rehabilitation research,” says Ivan. “Most people who meet me are unaware I have a disability or that I struggle with it on a daily basis.”

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.

He hopes to set a strong example for those who may be struggling or misunderstood as a result of having a disability.

Meagan, a Biomechanics student from University of Waterloo, is investigating how flooring design can minimize injury. Her dream is to use her research reduce common injuries to the hip, wrist and head in aging adults.

Meagan doesn’t outwardly tell people about the car collision that gave her chronic back pain and a brain injury, but faces challenges with it on a daily basis.

“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 Masters degree.

“TD is committed to investing in the future of our communities,” says Frank McKenna Deputy Chair, TD Bank Group. “And by supporting the scholarship program with Toronto Rehab, together we are helping to remove barriers that people with disabilities often face when pursuing higher education.”

Both Ivan and Meagan’s research is particularly relevant as the aging population grows. They received their scholarships at Toronto Rehab Research Day on November 23, 2012 to help fund them and the continuation of their research.

A scholarship recipient from last year, Stefania Moro also received a scholarship for her PhD as she investigates how people experiencing the loss of an eye in early life may be able to compensate by using both their remaining eye and other senses.
Applications due May 1, 2013

Read more about the scholarship, and download the application and guidelines:

Scholarship poster:—May-1-2013_2.pdf