Campus accessibility audit begins

Jeffery Hall and Stirling Hall were audited in a pilot project over Reading Week for AODA compliance

Jeffery Hall, built in the 1960s, was assessed over Reading Week as part of a two-year accessibility audit.
Jeffery Hall, built in the 1960s, was assessed over Reading Week as part of a two-year accessibility audit.
Photo: 
Stirling Hall, built in the 1960s, was assessed over Reading Week as part of a two-year accessibility audit.
Stirling Hall, built in the 1960s, was assessed over Reading Week as part of a two-year accessibility audit.
Photo: 
An entrance to Stirling Hall.
An entrance to Stirling Hall.
Photo: 

Queen’s is looking to make its campus more accessible, beginning a two-year accessibility audit launched over Reading Week.

The audit comes at the halfway mark of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), which aims to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Over Reading Week, a team of auditors running the first pilot phase of the accessibility audit assessed Jeffery and Stirling Halls.

The audit, run by Queen’s Built Environment Working Group (BEWG), will assess all aspects of accessibility in Queen’s six million square feet of infrastructure.

Andrew Ashby, coordinator of the Accessibility Hub — an online resource for accessibility at Queen’s — said Queen’s has taken steps in the right direction, but there’s more to do.

“There’s still a long ways to go, and the AODA is part of that of that direction,” he said.

Queen’s, in consultation with accessibility firm AccessAbility Advantage, has hired two auditors from March of Dimes — an organization that provides a range of services to people with physical disabilities — to perform the audits.

“Most places that are newly built are pretty accessible in terms of physical accessibility,” Ashby said, but added that the word “accessibility” encompasses much more than just physical accessibility.

Auditors will be assessing buildings room by room, focusing not only on physical layout but also lighting levels.

Barry Kaplan, accessibility audit project manager for the BEWG, said their goal is to make the campus — programming, buildings and infrastructure — barrier-free.

“Students, faculty, staff and people visiting the campus should not encounter anything that impedes their ability to participate fully,” Kaplan said.

He accompanied the team of auditors in their pilot run-through of Jeffery Hall and Stirling Hall, built in 1969 and 1964, respectively.

The pilot phase, which will also include the auditing of Miller Hall — built in 1931 and substantially enlarged in 1973 — will serve as a test for the auditing process, as well as the software used to enter data.

After the pilot phases, the working group will assess and revise their software to ensure that the interface works well and potentially make a few changes to the process.

The current process has one auditor measuring various aspects of the space, while the other enters the data into the software.

“Once we have all the data — and we’re not near that point yet — the software can produce reports in a variety of ways,” Kaplan said.

Some of the ways auditors will be assessing accessibility will be based on washrooms, door width, parking, pathways, light switch and equipment height and counter levels.

The second pilot audit will begin at the end of the winter term exam period, while the remaining buildings will be broken up in two phases, with the first beginning in May.

Following the audits of the first three million square feet, scheduled to take a year, the BEWG will draft a report and recommendations to improve accessibility.

There could be potentially hundreds of recommendations, Kaplan said.

“There’ll need to be a prioritization of those recommendations, and from that prioritization a plan will be developed to implement the remediation of the most urgent priorities,” he added.

Currently, if a student, faculty or staff faces an accessibility issue, a request can be made through the Accessibility Hub or the Equity Office, which will be passed on to the building manager and Physical Plant Services to assess and resolve the issue.

Tags: 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.