I would like to respond to the “Inaccessibility at Trent” opinion piece written by Keila MacPherson that was published in the September 28, 2015 edition of Arthur. There are several things that I love about this article! Firstly, I appreciate that this was even written and furthermore published, as it indicates that accessibility issues are relevant and are on the minds of Trent community members. I also love that Keila encouraged all of us to think about accessibility and question whether we are doing all we can to make Trent an accessible and inclusive place; this highlights the important fact that accessibility is not just an issue for persons with disabilities, but an issue for everyone to be aware of regardless of ability.
Keila highlights some definite challenges with the physical accessibility of our campus! For example, although the construction on the bridge was planned for the summer when fewer students would have been impacted, the work has continued into the fall. Also, some ramps are closed during winter. Some of these ramps are not meant for wheelchair access as they do not meet requirements related to slope, but instead are for service and grounds personnel. Still, this may be an issue for some community members. I would encourage all those with a disability who are experiencing challenges traversing the campus, especially during winter periods, to consider using the MV-1 Access Shuttle Service. The MV-1 is a unique vehicle that shuttles any community member with a disability between buildings on Symons campus or between Symons and Trail campuses for purposes related to university business, such as classes, appointments, or meetings. Use of this service is free and is a means of circumventing many barriers in Trent’s built environment. The MV-1 can be booked online at www.trentu.ca/mv1 or by calling the Print Shop.
Also, there is signage around campus that identifies accessible routes on exterior paths of travel including accessible entrance ways. These signs are located on both Symons and Traill campuses and have the words “accessible route” along with the International Sign of Accessibility. If you encounter barriers on these accessible routes, such as physical obstructions like signage or debris, pathways that are icy or otherwise not in good order, please contact Physical Resources or the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility (CHREA)
We at CHREA acknowledge that accessibility at Trent is an evolving issue and we are working everyday with other departments, faculty, and students to increase accessibility, not only in Trent’s built environment but also in terms of technologies, policies, and practices. I would encourage all of those with an interest in further discussions around accessibility or those with related concerns to contact the CHREA office. We are located in the basement of Otonabee College and I can be reached personally by email at [email protected]. I echo Keila’s remarks in encouraging all Trent members to actively consider accessibility. This may mean simple things such as not blocking or parking in accessible spaces without a permit, and leaving accessible seating and washrooms for those who require them. Make a conscious effort to avoid using phrases or jokes that serve to further marginalize those in our community. Lend a hand when you’ve confirmed that someone needs assistance. Seemingly, small actions can have a big impact!