Student Council CAREs

USC aims to enlighten students about disabilities

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Pedro Lopes tests campus wheelchair accessibility

Jon Purdy

WHEELING FOR AWARENESS. Pedro Lopes, University Students’ Council VP-campus issues, is spending today (and yesterday) in a wheelchair to test accessibility on campus and promote awareness about disabilities.

Many students complain about trekking up UC Hill. But what would they say if they were in a wheelchair?

These are the types of questions Melissa Brideau hopes to bring to students’ minds via the “Hallway of Enlightenment and Safety,” an interactive structure set up in the University Community Centre atrium this week.

“The hallway was created to give students an idea of what it’s like to live with a disability,” said Brideau, the University Students’ Council commissioner for students with disabilities. “It’s basic education " if you stop people and make them think, I think that’s how you get students to speak up and realize the difficulties some disabled people face.”

The hallway features a wheelchair obstacle course, a video demonstrating what it feels like to be hearing-impaired, a passage written out as it would appear to someone with a learning disability, and informative quotes, facts, and figures.

“I have an ongoing theme " dare to be different,” Brideau said. “People shouldn’t be afraid to stand out and instead embrace being different and use that difference to teach others.”

Western has pledged to be completely accessible by the year 2026, said USC VP-campus issues Pedro Lopes.

“Everything on campus will be fully accessible for everyone, including learning disabled and physically disabled people... the CARE [Campus Accessibility Review and Enhancement] committee was given funds from the university to complete projects, such as making washrooms accessible for everyone, everywhere.”

CARE is a student-funded committee created to address student identified barriers on Western’s campus in the effort to improve the overall student experience.

“There is much to do to make a fully accessible campus,” Lopes said. “Things like UC Hill " how can people get up? That is what we’re doing with interactive displays, like [the Hallway of Enlightenment] in the UCC.”

Lopes’ goal is to foster thought and discussion about accessibility issues on campus.

“My goal is to start making students think in a different way. I want to leave a lasting impression, beginning with students and leaders at our school.”

Lopes has also challenged himself to open his mind to accessibility issues.

“I’ll be in a wheelchair for the entire day [yesterday and today], testing out which areas on campus are accessible and which aren’t, and hopefully creating awareness.”

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