Construction roadblock to campus accessibility

Uneven surfaces pose challenges for students with disabilities

Margaret Bedore is a student suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. She says construction makes it harder for her to navigate campus.
Margaret Bedore is a student suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. She says construction makes it harder for her to navigate campus.

For PhD student Margaret Bedore, the inconvenience of campus construction brings with it additional hardships.

Bedore, 61, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that stiffens her joints and makes movement more laborious for her.

Because of her arthritis, she walks with a slight limp that makes it very easy for her to trip on uneven streets and sidewalks that are common on a campus under construction.

“Anyone who has any mobility problems [calls it] ‘uneven ground,’” she said.

She has to pay very close attention to every step she takes, looking at the ground.

Before coming to Queen’s Bedore had four joint replacement surgeries.

Getting around is even more difficult in the dark, especially on the construction site, where she said there aren’t enough lights.

“Every handicapped student is different in their needs,” Bedore said. “I know it’s a small number of students who have handicaps and I know it’s an inconvenience, but they’re there.”

Bedore said she realizes the construction is temporary and doesn’t know what Queen’s can do to solve the problem.

“Every student would be a different student in the sense that you’d have to look at their timetable and see if they can actually get where they need to go,” she said.

Ivan Mackeen, Physical Plant Services (PPS) business manager, said PPS is trying to improve accessibility by keeping walkways clear and ensuring ramps aren’t blocked.

Mackeen said the Equity Office and Disability Services have received requests for assistance from people who are having difficulties getting around.

“We’re working very close to help identify where there are issues and where we can help, but unless people come forward and identify what their problems are, we don’t know what to change,” he said.

Health, Counselling and Disability Services Director Dr. Mike Condra said he’s concerned about students who will find physical accessibility more of a challenge with construction.

The student club Accessibility Queen’s is assisting HCDS with accessibility-related issues, he said.

“They’re providing us with volunteers to help students find their way around who have physical access issues.”

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Jeff Brown said he hasn’t heard any direct complaints regarding construction accessibility, but he has observed potential barriers around the JDUC, such as a wheelchair ramp that was fenced off.

“I brought those issues to the people who run the JDUC and they’ve been good at rectifying these issues,” Brown said.

He said one challenge is the constantly changing routes.

“There are updates on the [Queen’s] website, but changes do happen unexpectedly,” he said. “Those who are differently abled may not be able to navigate.”

Brown said he has noticed improvements in signage around campus, but the University should do more to ensure all students can get around.

“More students are back, and the administration needs to take an active role in making sure that the people who have the power to make decisions are aware of them.”

—With files from Erin Flegg and Jane Switzer

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