Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
General Physical Accessibility
While it is understandable that many college and university campuses were built before accessibility standards came in to place, there are relatively easy things – including retrofit projects – that can be implemented to better accommodate the needs of students with disabilities on campus. As upgrades are made and new buildings replace old buildings over time, the goal should be to promote campuses that are fully accessible to everyone.
Many PSE institutions across Canada are working towards the goal of full accessibility. The following are some tips and considerations from PSE institutions on enhancing physical accessibility on campus:
- Provide reserved seating to students with disabilities where the disability requires them to sit in specific locations.
- In instances where students with disabilities find themselves with a class in an inaccessible room, alternate classroom arrangements should be made in a timely manner.
- Ideally, a student with a disability should not have to miss a single class due to inaccessibility. Provide maps and a detailed breakdown of which buildings and classrooms are fully or partially accessible for students with disabilities. Remind students to be proactive in ensuring their classrooms are accessible by visiting the sites before classes start and reporting any problems immediately to the appropriate office.
- Make accessible washrooms available in various convenient locations across campus. If all washrooms are not made accessible, ensure that the locations of the accessible washroom be readily available to students, for example, on campus maps.
- Make all social, recreational and retail locations on campus accessible as these are important elements of campus life for students.
- Commit to regular retrofit projects that enhance accessibility. Any renovation projects should be carried out in consultation with the disability office, or other relevant experts.
- Put in place barrier-free guidelines for any new on-campus buildings. Plans should be reviewed by an accessibility committee comprised of experts and stakeholders before any construction begins.
- Make the safety and security of people with disabilities a priority in all campus locations by installing visual and auditory fire alarm systems in all areas of the college/university, including washrooms.
- Devise emergency evacuation procedures for people with disabilities and ensure appropriate personnel are trained on these procedures.
- Public telephones should be available with volume control and low-mounts for easy reach. TTY or video telephones should also be made available on campus.
- Conduct an on-campus review of accessibility which highlights areas that require attention. Outline accessibility goals and a timeline for reaching full accessibility. Have a committee or organization which includes experts and stakeholders lead the review and conduct consultations ensuring that people with disabilities are included in the process.