December 3 marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD). The United Nations first proclaimed the day in 1992, “to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.”
The theme for this year’s IDPWD is “the future is accessible.” In line with this, McGill has been working to promote greater equity and accessibility for persons with disabilities at the University.
“Striving toward an accessible campus is a fundamental component of McGill’s commitment to and ongoing work on equity and inclusion,” says Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies). “Enhancing our collective ability to recognize and challenge barriers – whether physical, social or policy-based – is essential to the goal of ensuring that McGill is a place where students and staff with disabilities feel welcomed and supported.”
Here are some of the ways McGill supports students, staff and faculty with disabilities:
Office for Students with Disabilities
As a member Student Services, the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) provides support, supplementary academic resources and reasonable accommodations to nearly 2,500 undergraduate, graduate and Continuing Studies students at McGill with documented disabilities of either a permanent, temporary or episodic nature.
The OSD fosters an accessible and inclusive university experience for McGill’s diverse student population in collaboration with other services and the wider McGill community. The OSD offers a variety of complementary academic supports, including some online resources and webinars which are available to all McGill students, and may be helpful regardless of disability-status.
The OSD provides critical services to McGill students with disabilities, yet there is no similar resource for staff and faculty with disabilities situated in one place at the University. McGill has therefore created the new position of Accessibility Advisor within the Office of the Provost. The incumbent will be in office in early January 2020. Their mandate will include working with all units across the University to enhance awareness about disability and its impacts, the meaning and scope of the duty to accommodate and of universal design principles, and about how to render our workplaces more accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities.
The Accessibility Advisor also will be a point of contact for information about accommodations for persons with disabilities and for human resources advisors charged with ensuring the effective implementation of accommodation measures.
Universal Access Capital Project Working Group
McGill’s campus, while beautiful, is home to many older buildings that were not designed with accessibility in mind. The University is constantly working to address the challenges that some of its infrastructure poses to persons with disabilities. Established in Fall 2013, the Universal Access Capital Projects Working Group (UACP-WG) identifies and manages projects that seek to improve accessibility of buildings across McGill.
In particular, it is important that the built environment be accessible to all people, regardless of age, mobility impairment or other factors. For McGill’s campuses, topography, the state of the built environment, distances between functions and the age of the buildings create significant barriers for members of the community and visitors to the campuses.
The University recognizes the importance of removing and mitigating these barriers without adding new ones while opening the campuses to the widest variety of users.
Each year, a call for proposals is issued inviting members of the campus community to submit proposals for capital projects that will enhance campus accessibility. These include things like paving walkways, installing door openers, and building lifts and elevators. Be on the lookout for the next call for submissions in 2020.
JBSCE Subcommittee on Persons with Disabilities
The Persons with Disabilities Subcommittee assists the Joint Board-Senate Committee on Equity in advising the Board of Governors and the Senate on policy matters that affect persons.
The subcommittee is chaired by Rachel Desjourdy, and consists of faculty, student and staff representatives. Anyone interested in learning more or participating in the Subcommittee can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interactive Accessible Network Map
The Interactive Accessible Network (IAN) map is a newly developed navigation tool for the McGill community to find accessible pedestrian routes on the downtown and Macdonald campuses. This service will be housed on the McGill campus map, where one could also find easy access to information on McGill services and spaces.
Aside from providing the shortest path between two locations on campus, the routing service considers building, entrance and path accessibility for a range of mobility options – which include aided walking, manual wheelchair, assisted wheelchair, and motorized wheelchair.
The IAN map is an initiative to improve ease of information access and adapt greater inclusivity on campus. As such, this resource was built on community participation and knowledge sharing from student and staff groups. Currently undergoing user testing and improvement, the IAN navigation service will be available for use by the McGill community in the new year.
If you are interested in user testing of the navigation app or would like to get involved with the project, please contact the project administrator, Chris Liang.