Western CHIRPS closer to audio

Student accessibility campaign to go before administration

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A campaign to install audio signals at Western’s intersections is well underway thanks to the efforts of Western CHIRPS.

Western CHIRPS is a student-run campaign with the goal of introducing audio signals at all university traffic lights. The audio signals would make crossing the intersections safer for visually impaired students.

The campaign started as an alternative media class project for third-year media and public interest students Katy Swailes and Mark DeMontis.

“Without accessibility, these [visually impaired] students cannot get to school. If they cannot get to school, they cannot learn,” DeMontis, campaign coordinator of CHIRPS, said.

“Next time you’re at an intersection, realize how difficult it can be for someone who is visually impaired [to cross].”

Recently, CHIRPS has been busy meeting with university officials to discuss the project.

According to Brandon Watson, communications officer for Physical Plant, the intersections at University Drive near Delaware Hall and University Drive near Elgin Hall are both owned by Western and funding for the project would depend on several university branches.

“The process for capital spending on a barrier-free project like this is to have CARE recommend it as a capital priority. From there it goes through the typical capital approval process. Physical Plant will get involved if it is identified as a capital project.”

CARE is the Campus Accessibility Review and Enhancement Committee, which recommends expenditures for capital improvements and capital equipment requirements to ensure accessibility for students with disabilities.

However, in a meeting with CARE, CHIRPS was told CARE could not pay the cost of fixing up the old infrastructure at the Delaware Hall intersection because of budget constraints.

As for the intersections not owned by the university, CHIRPS will make a pitch to the Department of Transportation at City Hall within the next few weeks recommending the audio signals.

“It’s [City Hall’s] responsibility to ensure the safety of Western students ... each student at Western has the right to come to school without fear of their life being in jeopardy,” DeMontis said.

CHIRPS plans to organize a focus group made up of all students in preparation for the upcoming pitch to city hall. Swailes invited all interested students to attend the presentation.

“You don’t have to have a disability, you can be any year … we just want to get a diverse group of students together to talk about this issue in particular,” Swailes said.

Students interested in joining the CHIRPS campaign can contact Mark DeMontis at mdemonti@uwo.ca or Katy Swailes at kswailes@uwo.ca for more information.

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