Physical Accessibility @QueensU

This week I will be continuing with our theme of the month, “accessibility”.  Specifically, I will be exploring physical accessibility on Queen’s campus.

First off, what is accessibility?  As stated by the Accessibility Hub’s Blue Folder, accessibility means,

“Giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life”.

In terms of physical accessibility, I understand this to mean a built environment that is strongly aligned with universal design, thus… “giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life”.

In recognizing that people have different abilities, a major goal set out by Queen’s is to honour an individual’s independence and dignity, such that they can experience day-to-day tasks on their own without interference from others, and perform these and other tasks in a manner that maintains their self-respect and dignity.

Within this post, I will highlight resources that are meant to help individuals to plan their day-to-day on Queen’s campus; as well, I will briefly touch on what is being done to ensure that Queen’s campus is fully accessible.

Getting Around Campus

Queen’s University campus is a maze of buildings both old and new, winding footpaths, and the occasional parking lot.  Depending on one’s schedule, an individual may travel to multiple buildings and cover a considerable distance over the course of a regular day.

In recognizing this, the Accessibility Hub has created a tool called the Campus Accessibility Guide that provides a wealth of information about the physical layout of Queen’s campus; from West to Main campus to peripheral building located downtown (ie. Haynes Hall).  I was especially impressed by the Building Guide, which provides information about the location and number of accessible parking spots, entrances, washrooms, elevators, etc. for each building on campus.  This is a fantastic resource for many people, including those visiting campus for the first time.

The downside?  The Building Guide was last updated July 2006.  Queen’s campus has undergone a number of changes since 2006 and major building, like the Athletics and Recreation Centre (the ARC) aren’t included on this web page.

Classroom Guide
Complimenting the Building Guide is the Classroom Guide, which provides a picture and floor plan of just about every classroom on campus.  This is an excellent tool for students, TAs, and teachers alike.  It provides individuals with a detailed layout of their classrooms and helps to identify potential barriers within each room.  Furthermore, unlike the Building Guide, the Classroom Guide has been updated recently.

The downside?  The listed classrooms are limited to lecture halls and seminar rooms.  Rooms such as laboratories are not included.

Overall, I was impressed by the ease with which I navigated the Campus Accessibility Guide and the resources available on this page.  The Campus Guide is an excellent resource for alleviating anxiety associated with integrating into a new environment, as well as planning your route / identifying potential obstacles in your day-to-day.  I recommend these tools for anyone looking to become better acquainted with their current / future campus.  If you wish to find out more information or have comments about these tools, please contact Maridee Osolinsky (mlo@queensu.ca)

The Accessible Queen’s of the Future
The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 (AODA) is to make Ontario more accessible by 2025.  As such, Queen’s University has a plan that lays the long-term vision for the campus and the time-course in which these changes will be mandated: check out the plan HERE.

According to the plan and the Blue Folder initiative, changes to the design of public spaces will be completed by 2016.  The types of changes included in this plan are:

  • Newly constructed and redeveloped outdoor public-use eating areas shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • Newly constructed and redeveloped off-street parking facilities and on-street parking spaces shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • Newly constructed and redeveloped exterior paths of travel shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • New service counters (inclusive of replacing existing service counters) shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • Fixed queuing guides shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • Newly constructed or redeveloped waiting areas where the seating is fixed to the floor shall adhere to accessibility requirements
  • Queen’s Accessibility Plan shall include procedures for preventative and emergency maintenance
of accessible elements in public spaces as well as procedures for dealing with temporary disruptions when required accessible elements are not in working order

One element that was missing from these materials was how Queen’s and the City of Kingston plan to maintain roadside parking spots and sidewalks during the winter in the neighbourhoods around campus.  This past winter saw significant ice accumulation on sidewalks and roads and was treacherous to navigate by even the most agile pedestrian.  I am certain that in some areas these sidewalks were completely inaccessible for individuals using an assistive walking device, such as a wheelchair or cane.  I have submitted a query regarding this question but have yet to receive a reply.  I will update this section once I receive a response.

I have gained a considerable appreciation for the thought that goes into planning public buildings and spaces, as well as the resources available at Queen’s.  I recommend checking out the resources posted on this page, and if you have any suggestions or concerns about accessibility issues that you see on campus, start a dialogue with people at the Accessibility Hub!

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Posted in All, General, Kingston, New Students
2 comments on “Physical Accessibility @QueensU
  1. Colette says:

    Some great information here Jeremy and I am sure the Accessibility Hub is working with Campus Planning to update all guides.

  2. Andrew says:

    Yes, Campus Planning is currently updating the Campus Accessibility Guide and when it is completed the entire guide will be placed on the Accessibility Hub website.

    Thanks for these great articles on accessibility! They’re helping to raise the level of awareness across campus.

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