Western University’s Accessibility Services department is ensuring that the school keeps accessibility in mind for students with disabilities when developing new buildings or renovating older ones.
“Our biggest challenge is our physical landscape, we have some beautiful and historic buildings, which can be very challenging to negotiate,” Lesley Oliver, Diversity and Accessibility Coordinator said. “Where we can put in ramps and do renovations to incorporate more inclusive areas is challenging and very expensive. I think it is our biggest hurtle and ongoing concern.
In order to ensure that the buildings reflect the desired accessibility for students with disabilities, Oliver says it is all structured under a campus-wide initiative that involves Accessibility Services, Facilities Operations and other members of the school to make sure that the buildings can accommodate various needs a student may have.
“Students have been very integral in identifying the concerns,” Oliver said. “We give feedback to [the students] to show them that we are proactively looking for other problem areas.”
With the growing number of students that are being identified with a disability, Oliver says that it is a result of awareness and support form other students.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time a person planned an event, they thought if it would be accessible to everyone?” Oliver said. “It would be excellent if people considered every member of their audience.”
According to her research, Oliver says that one-in-seven people have a disability currently, with the statistic expected to drop to one-in-five.
Organizations including the University Student Council are encouraging Oliver to join a committee with the school to represent the accessibility argument on campus.
Oliver says she will be looking for a panel to take place during the year where the community can voice their concerns on and off of campus to brainstorm future initiatives and more effective practices when working with students that have a disability.