When it comes to accessibility, the bare minimum isn’t enough.
Over the next two years, campus buildings will be examined for their accessibility as part of an audit launched by Queen’s last month. After the audit is complete, the University will receive a list of recommendations for how its infrastructure can comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
The AODA was passed in 2005 and aims to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
While newer buildings are compliant with the AODA, physical barriers persist in older buildings on campus, such as stairs, low desks and high light switches.
With only 10 years left before accessibility is legally required, it’s bizarre that the University waited a decade before beginning the audit, which will likely generate a high volume of recommendations.
While the audit will focus on buildings, accessibility doesn’t stop at physical mobility. Some of Queen’s online resources, such as the Campus Accessibility Guide, haven’t been updated since 2006, despite significant changes to the University over the last decade.
The administration puts a great deal of effort in hyping large projects, such as the Isabel Bader Centre and the redevelopment of Richardson Stadium. While these initiatives are far more glamorous, accessibility issues in existing buildings deserve more attention and student support.
This lack of attention treats accessibility as a marginal issue. The average student doesn’t necessarily struggle with accessibility, but all members of the Queen’s community have a part to play in alleviating barriers.
After the audit is completed, students should be made aware of what changes are recommended — not only to ensure accountability, but to fully understand what barriers are present on this campus.
With that awareness, students can help to ensure campus features and social spaces that aren’t being audited are made more accessible.
A beautiful campus is important, but it’s meaningless if some people can’t access it.
Accessibility, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Acts, AODA, barrier
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