Volume 95, Issue 38

Thursday, November 8, 2001
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Equal access for all

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Equal access for all

When you walk across campus, how often do you stop and wonder how accessible Western's many buildings are?

If you are able-bodied, chances are not very often.

Western students with disabilities face numerous problems on-campus every day, including access to washrooms, classrooms and entire buildings. While the recently-unveiled Ontarians with Disabilities Act aims to make life easier for the disabled, it is clear that not enough is being done to help.

While able-bodied people may have a small grasp of the obstacle course that campus can become, there are more subtle hurdles that only people who are confronted with them can truly understand.

For example, Western's administration may spend money on new, accessible washroom stalls, but not understand the washroom entrance itself is difficult to overcome. Or they may not realize the stairs at the front of the Social Science Centre are difficult to manouevre for people with visual impairments, due to their erratic layout.

Beyond the missing pieces of the accessibility puzzle, some of the automatic doors rarely open when the buttons are pushed, making the existing technology pointless.

Clearly, not every building on-campus can be completely retrofitted. The Medway-Sydenham residence layout makes it a lost cause for renovations, while University College is so old that full accessibility is out of the question.

However, the question remains – what needs to be done at Western and by whom?

Students with disabilities deserve the same access to buildings and facilities the rest of our community is provided, yet it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what problems exist.

In order for changes to occur, the needs of students with disabilities must be brought to the attention of those who have the power to make improvements. But, because there exists no single body to ensure all of Western's buildings meet a certain standard, there is the chance that concerns are being ignored and problems left unsolved.

Administration and the University Students' Council must work together to provide equal access to all campus facilities. The USC has a strong lobby with administration, so perhaps publicizing this issue should become their responsibility.

Once the needs of students with disabilities are brought before administration, it is Western's duty to make the necessary changes. Disabled students pay the same price to attend this school as the majority of the population so Western should spend the extra cash necessary to ensure access.

The key here is communication.

The USC and the administration need to listen when disabled students voice their opinions on specific accessibility issues and then they need to respond.

In time, these actions may make Western a more desirable place of learning for all people.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001