Surplus funds fix accessibility flaws

Accessibility Queen’s funds went towards capital projects and grants, co-chair says

Katie Charboneau says Accessibility Queen’s has been very active this year.
Katie Charboneau says Accessibility Queen’s has been very active this year.
Journal File Photo

Despite delays in the Grey House lift project, accessibility funds have been spent wisely this year, Accessibility Queen’s (AQ) co-chair Katie Charboneau said.

Mismanagement in past years led AQ to have an unexpected surplus of more than $250,000 to spend on projects this year.

Charboneau said the funds mostly went towards capital projects and grants.

“We provided funding for new technology for the adapting technology lab in Stauffer Library and that was to purchase new equipment, new software that students with disabilities use,” she said, adding that funding was also used to update existing equipment and programs.

“We did a grant for students in need who are registered with Health Counseling and Disability Services and one of the big things we’ve done this year is sign language classes which Accessibility hosts on Queen’s campus.”

Charboneau said she thinks the classes are valuable because they offer students an affordable and accessible opportunity to learn sign language.

“We’ve done two beginner classes and we’ve also done a couple free workshops and we’re hoping to continue that through the spring-summer course as well,” she said, adding that the courses will continue in the 2010-11 academic year.

One of the proposed uses of the surplus was a lift to be built in the Grey House, which houses seven student organizations including the Women’s Centre, Education on Queer Issues Project, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, Canadian Unified Students Environmental Network, Amnesty International, Students for Literacy and Helping Hands Association.

This year AQ approved a sponsorship to take free courses in American Sign Language for interested undergraduate and graduate students, computer for the Adaptive Technology Centre, software upgrades for the Adaptive Technology Centre, enhancements to the AMS Travel Bursary Fund and continued support of the Steve Cutway Accessibility Award.

The committee also plans to contribute towards the accessible media collection in Stauffer Library, the creation of an accessible washroom in the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and the purchase and installation of a lift in the Grey House.

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Samantha Boyce said the AMS has agreed to fund half the costs of the lift.

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Adam Zabrodski told the Journal in September that Physical Plant Services estimates the lift will cost about $110,000.

“We were in works with [AQ] to fund the other half by looking at different bodies within the University to provide funding, as well as seeing whether or not we would be eligible for grants,” Boyce said. “Thus far we’ve unfortunately been unsuccessful.”

She said the AMS has been working on attaining funding for the project.

“We’re committed to looking into it but until we can find the other half of the funding it’s a little bit unsure,” she said. “We do really want to put all of our efforts into asking the University if they’d be willing to pay for the other half and as well applying for grants where applicable.”

Boyce said an elevator was initially suggested as an option for the Grey House, but this option proved to be impractical. “There were two proposals: one for an elevator, which was a structural problem for the Grey House because it’s a historic building, and the second for a lift,” she said, adding that based on Physical Plant Services’ analysis, they went with the second option.

Boyce said it’s important to consider that large capital projects usually take years to complete, but most students are only involved with the AQ committee for a year.

“We really want to make sure it’s accounted for as well,” she said.

Boyce said the AMS has been working with AQ to ensure the committee reaches its full potential.

“We’re working with our permanent staff to find ways of making the handling of the funds more efficient and effective, which as we’ve seen is something that has been tricky in the past,” she said.

— With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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