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By Laura Fraser 

Recent problems with the lift in the Recreation and Athletics Centre have prompted the facility to formally request an accessibility audit.

Although the lift is currently in service, it could break down in the future, according to RAC program director Dave Dubois.

“When you put too heavy a load in, it trips an electrical mechanism and will not work properly,” said Dubois. “For a time it was tripping quite often, which was a problem, and it’s still not as good as I’d like to see it.”

Dubois had put in an informal request for an audit last spring. After an incident this past July, he will be “stepping up” the procedure with Tanya Lewis, Access Centre co-ordinator.

“We did have one person get hurt in one of the gyms when the elevator wasn’t working. He hurt his ankle and didn’t want an ambulance to be called.”

Two members of Ryerson Security carried the individual up the stairs.

Dubois’s first priority is to improve the lift, but other issues may arise during the audit. “I’ll be honest with you, the facility is not as accessible as I would like it to be,” he said.

When the RAC was built in 1987 an area was designed for an elevator. Due to insufficient funding, a lift was built instead. With over 20,000 full-time students currently attending Ryerson — compared to only 6,000 when the RAC was built — Dubois believes it is time for some changes.

When the lift is out of service, students with mobility disabilities only have access to the top floor of the RAC. That eliminates the running track, which is only accessible by stairs, the weight room, change rooms, the pool, gyms and squash courts.

According to Lewis, 60 students with mobility or sensory disabilities are registered with the Access Centre.

“You have to keep in mind that number is low,” said Lewis, “as I know of a number of students who are in wheelchairs that are not registered with the Access Centre.”

Saburah Murdoch is the orientation co-ordinator for the student-run group RyeAccess. She uses a scooter and when she toured the RAC recently, she found it hard to get around. This was Murdoch’s second visit to the RAC; on her first, the lift was not working.

“There is absolutely no way anyone with mobility issues could access (the RAC) through the front entrance, and there is no signage to indicate that there is an alternative entrance.”

The alternate entrance, suggested by Dubois, involves entering Kerr Hall West and taking the Kerr Hall South elevator down to the bottom floor and entering the RAC from a door just past the pool gallery.

Another issue identified by both Murdoch and Dubois is the lack of automatic doors inside the RAC. Both doors at the alternative entrance are manual and need to be pulled open.

“There is no way I could get into the RAC if someone was not there with me,” said Murdoch. The lift, which was in service on Murdoch’s Sept. 7 visit, also lacks automatic doors. Murdoch had to manoeuvre the cramped, tomb-like space with another person, who had to open the door for her.

After touring the facility, Murdoch offered numerous suggestions, including an elevator with automatic doors, a lift into the pool, and making machines such as arm cycles available.

Dubois hopes the audit will be done by the end of the year and will provide the facility with further ideas for improvement.

“I think it’s really important to identify those barriers and resolve them one at a time.”

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