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Increasing accessibility across Queen’s campus

University's oldest building awarded for accessibility upgrades while Accessibility Café highlights new residence’s accessibility plans.

East-facing facade of the proposed residence design.
Conceptual design of the east-facing facade of the new residence building.

Campus community members recently gathered for a look at some of the modern accessibility features slated to appear in the university’s newest residence building.

During an Accessibility Café event, members of the Queen’s Built Environment Advisory Group and Ray Zaback of the structure’s architectural team Diamond Schmitt/Shoalts and Zaback outlined details that will ensure ease-of-access, mobility, and comfortable accommodations that are welcoming to everyone – even service animals.

“It is exciting for our team to be sharing the accessibility features within our newest residence building and providing an opportunity for input,” says John Witjes, Queen’s University’s Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities). “Feedback from our campus and wider communities is essential as we refine the design and move toward construction and ensure that all future users and occupants feel respected and at-home in the new spaces we create on campus.”

The building, which will have more than 300 residence rooms, is set to include four fully-accessible suites with private bathrooms, as well as 40 enhanced suites that have wider dimensions than a standard room and incorporate accessible showers.

The building will have three accessible entrances, complete with motorized doors and wide vestibules, and an accessible centre courtyard made up of a combination of soft terrain (grass and gardens) and hard surface. Inside, there are accessible common spaces, including lounges, meeting rooms, and study space, as well as two large elevators.

In a first for the architectural firm and for Queen’s, the new residence will also have an accessible, lower-level wash and grooming tub specifically for service and support animals, like guide dogs.

The new residence presentation was part of a recurring series of Accessibility Café events during which the campus community members can draw attention to and discuss ideas for accessibility improvements on campus. For more information, visit the Queen’s Accessibility Hub.

Queen’s oldest building wins 2019 award for accessibility

Student wins for Youth Accessibility efforts
Queen’s student Seth Glasner was honoured at the Accessibility Awards ceremony as well. He was recognized in the “Youth” category for hosting group guitar lessons in Kingston for people with disabilities through Community Living Kingston. Glasner uses assistive devices to eliminate physical barriers to participation, even developing a prototype device for a student who does not have the use of a hand to be able to change chords on the guitar.

Queen’s is one of seven Kingston organizations, educators, businesses, and volunteers honoured at the city’s 2019 Celebrating Accessibility Awards. The university’s oldest building, Summerhill – built in 1839 – was recognized in the competition’s “Built Environment” category for its broad accessibility renovations.

“Everyone should be able to participate fully in an event in a building, and that includes events in our most historic structures,” says Witjes. “Through our renovation of the Agnes Benidickson House wing of Summerhill, we are demonstrating the university’s ongoing commitment to helping everyone feel that they are welcomed and valued members of our community.”

The renovations blend the building’s heritage attributes with accessible amenities, including a new accessible entrance ramp and threshold, power door operator, a larger vestibule opening and a gender neutral single-user washroom.

"It's a pleasure to recognize and celebrate the outstanding individuals in our community that make Kingston more inclusive for everyone," said Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson in a media release. "We want to be a city where everyone can fully engage in a meaningful way, without barriers, and these are the people making the vision a reality! Thank you to all the winners and nominees for going above and beyond to make Kingston a better place for everyone!"