The simplest things can make a world of a difference.
Campus accessibility is an important topic we don’t consider as much as we should. It is necessary to strive towards making our campus more accessible to the diverse needs of students.
In order to take positive steps at the administrative level, IGNITE hosted focus groups at Lakeshore, North, and the University of Guelph-Humber inviting students to talk campus accessibility. Students from all walks of life came together to share their thoughts on how to improve accessibility for students who experience a variety of challenges.
Here are the top five suggestions made at our accessibility focus groups:
1. Ad campaigns around accessibility
One of the first ways to start and change people’s thinking about disability and accessibility issues is starting an ad campaign. Much like we do with LGBTQIA+ issues, Humber would start to create posters to raise awareness and change peoples perspectives on issues facing the diverse types of people on campus and their specific needs. Making people aware of the barriers is the first step in changing minds and taking action.
2. Making services easier to navigate
Another major issue discussed was the difficulty experienced by those with accessibility needs navigating through campus services. Elevators was a key point— specifically those crowding elevators and preventing those with accessibility needs from entering them. Perhaps a policy can be put in place to ensure that students who require the use of the elevators have primary use of them.
The setup of the checkout lines in the cafeterias is also an accessibility issue. Many students who operate wheelchairs do not have enough space to safely and comfortably move around in these spaces. A recommendation was made to widen these areas so that students with accessibility needs would feel more confident navigating these areas.
3. Increased training and awareness for teachers and staff
Barriers experienced by those with accessibility needs aren’t simply physical, but can also be attitudinal. One of the ways participants suggested to overcome these issues would be including more training for professors and staff in regards to specific types of accommodation requirements. Professors would be encouraged to share what they have learned in their training seminars with their students to raise awareness in their classes of different student accessibility needs.
4. Increased equipment options
Issues relating to the equipment available on campus was also a student concern. Many students have issues relating to the standard equipment on campus. Not all students feel comfortable with the chairs that are supplied in the classrooms. Having a wide variety of options for individual needs would be one great way to increase accessibility for those students who need it.
5. Safer Spaces
Safe and more inclusive spaces at Humber College is a major issue that we are still trying to fix. It is an ongoing struggle to balance the specific needs of all students, one that we continue to strive towards. One of the major suggestions that came out of the focus groups was creating a resource centre dedicated to those with disabilities and those who want to learn more. Students mentioned throughout the chats that a resource centre would help create a safe environment where those living with disabilities could meet each other and have an opportunity to de-stress and talk. This program could be created through a similar lens as the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre. This centre would also create programming for students and faculty relating to accessibility issues and help to promote awareness of the cause.
Creating safe spaces for students on campus also involves physical safety. We may not always realize it, but not all students are able to benefit from emergency notices. One of the safety suggestions addressed delivering emergency notices in different formats to make them more accessible to students.
Have concerns or thoughts about how to increase accessibility on campus? Let us know by filling out the IGNITE Accessibility Survey!