By Joel Wass
RJ Daniels has never had a problem getting around campus in his wheelchair.
“Nope, no accessibility issues whatsoever,” says the third-year philosophy student. What? No accessibility issues? None at all? “No, the university is very accessible.” He can’t be talking about Ryerson, where RyeAccess employees refer to their basement office as a death trap for less mobile students (read about it here).
Not Ryerson, a school that hasn’t repaired the lift-essentially an elevator that only travels between the first floor and the basement – that allows students in wheelchairs to independently get down to both RyeAccess and the Access Centre, even though a maintenance request was submitted in June.
Not Ryerson, where there is only one wheelchair-accessible female washroom between the northeast and southwest corners in Kerr Hall. Not Ryerson, where 15 per cent of those who responded to an accessibility survey last year cited attitude as the number one barrier to accessibility at our school.
Not Ryerson, a place that has yet to make its Theatre and Image Arts buildings wheelchair-accessible. Not Ryerson, where seemingly every other automatic door button – including the one leading into the Business building, the place RyeAccess and the Access Centre call home – doesn’t work.
No he can’t be talking about Ryerson. But maybe, just maybe, he is?
Yeah Ryerson, the university that purchased a large-screen monitor for Julia Lewis, manager of the Centre for Environmental Health and Safety, who has a visual impairment.
Yeah Ryerson, the institution that devised the Ryerson Accessibility Plan in response to the provincial government’s 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act (read the executive summary of Ryerson’s 2003-04 Accessibility Plan).
Yeah Ryerson, whose Board of Governors only a year ago set “activities to increase sensitivity and awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities,” among the university’s top priorities.
Yeah Ryerson, the only university in Canada that offers an undergraduate degree in disability studies. Maybe he is talking about Ryerson. Maybe&but no. He’s not. Daniels goes to the University of Victoria.
Upon further contemplation, he can recall several minor accessibility barriers he’s encountered at his school. But he can’t fathom why Ryerson has not reacted faster to the fact that less mobile students can’t enter the facility where RyeAccess-an office designated for students to report campus accessibility problems-is located, without relying on the help of others.
“That’s horrible, they need to fix that,” Daniels said regarding the Business Building’s broken lift and automatic door. “That takes away the independence of a lot of people.”
If higher education is about encouraging independent thought, shouldn’t it also encourage independent living? Sure, fixing every accessibility problem at Ryerson is a long road, but the groundwork was laid out in last year’s accessibility plan.
The first step seemed to be taken two weeks ago, when the Ryersonian-yes, them and not us-reported that after a hard-fought battle, RyeAccess would be given space in the new student centre. But the latest word on the street is that the deal is not final (again, see page five, it’s to the right of this one).
This whole ordeal needs to be finalized soon and RyeAccess needs to be given space. Providing efficient space for groups that address accessibility issues is not exactly a new concept at universities, you know. The UVic Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities has its own building, fully wheelchair-accessible, all on one floor and-best of all – it is nothing like a deathtrap.
In opposition to what was reported last week, Jon Kelly, CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council does not oppose RyeSAC’s Woodbine Raceway event.