Queen’s aims for accessible campus

Queen’s still working towards more functional campus for all students

The working groups address issues like physical barriers in the classroom.
The working groups address issues like physical barriers in the classroom.

Two years after the approval of Queen’s accessibility framework, the University continues to strive towards a more accessible campus.

At an Accessibility Café held at Stauffer Library on Wednesday, organizers aimed to inform members of the Queen’s community about “accessible program and course delivery.”

The event, hosted by the Equity Office, was attended by a dozen people, including teaching assistants and representatives from campus offices like the Adaptive Technology Centre and Physical and Campus Planning.

“We want to optimize the experience for students at Queen’s,” Queen’s Equity Office’s Equity Advisor Heidi Penning said during the event. “We want to identify what the best is, what it should be, and what will be.”

At the event, attendees discussed improving the five priority areas through which to achieve accessibility at Queen’s: customer service; information and communications; employment; built environment; and education, training and wellness.

In part the brainchild of Penning, it was the departure of three graduate students from Queen’s due to a lack of accessibility that inspired the creation of working groups to address each priority.

The groups were identified in the Queen’s University Strategic Framework for Accessibility, which was developed in response to the Ontario legislation’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) enacted in 2005 to address accessibility issues.

“We wanted the groups to be small and functional and action-oriented,” she added, noting that the groups include about five to eight members.

For each of the five working groups, a leader who was familiar with the tasks involved was chosen.

Penning pointed to the “built environment” working group, which looks at physical barriers to accessibility, as an example.

“Jo-Anne Brady is our lead for that group and she is our [vice]-provost of planning and budgeting, so the built environment [already] has a big part in the function of her job,” Penning said.

The groups have talked about what they have to do in the upcoming years and what department or unit their proposed changes applied to the most.

“On each of the five working groups we have a ‘member at large’ position and that is someone from the Queen’s community—it could be student, staff, or faculty—and that’s a person who has self-disclosed as living with a disability and has an interested with the work of that particular working group,” Penning said.

She added that Queen’s currently does comply with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Regulation and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as outlined in the AODA.

The regulations establish accessibility standards for customer service, and remove boundaries for persons with disabilities.

The AODA enforces standards based on the vision of a “fully accessible Ontario” by 2025. “[The government] want to see that we have a plan,” she said. “Our compliance dates range from 2010-21, the frame work is relatively new.”

“We’re very much still in the brainstorming stage,” she added.

The next Accessibility Café will be held on Feb. 27 to discuss the accessibility of the new residences.

“It’s really great to see the community coming together and seeing it move towards accessibility,” Penning said.

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