Campus must be made more accessible to students with disabilities
Although campus offers accessibility options, there are still many improvements needed to be made to create a more inclusive space for all
Most university students have experienced the discomfort of some of the older lecture halls on campus; choosing between either your notebook or laptop, as only one can fit on the tiny stowaway table, is every lecture’s struggle.
Now imagine this struggle for a person who already faces challenges on a day-to-day basis. The disappointment they feel when they finally reach the lecture hall after a long wait for the elevator, just to realize there is nowhere they can comfortably adjust their wheelchair without drawing the attention of the entire lecture hall.
As McMaster continues to strive for a more inclusive environment, we need to remember to consider the needs of those members who have difficulty accessing basic places such as lecture halls and study areas.
When we take one step into this discussion, we will discover that it is quite broad as disabilities present themselves in many ways, some that are not even visible to the eye. They can be, and are not limited to, physical or cognitive. It may seem overwhelming that every disability is unique and has its own needs, so it is important that we effectively implement solutions for each specific one.
I think it is also bare minimum to simply include all communities when creating establishments that will stand for decades, especially respected one’s where individuals from all around the world come to learn.
It is crucial that we begin this reform now so that this community does not feel discouraged to pursue their studies. It is natural to feel detached to something when it is not being taken seriously by others.
When students begin to observe the efforts being made to alleviate the challenges that individuals with disabilities face, it plants the seed for discussion surrounding this topic. Young students have active minds and fresh perspectives which makes them great innovators.
Adjusting campus to suit the needs of students who have a disability is immensely important so that they can receive the same post-secondary experience that their peers do as well as aiding in dissolving the pre-existing stigmas of a wide variety of disabilities.
This is all not to say that change is not being implemented as we speak.
“MacChangers is an interdisciplinary program led by the faculty of engineering at McMaster to encourage students from all backgrounds to collaborate on community engagement programs within the greater Hamilton area”, says Haniya Rahman, an active member of the organization.
MacChangers frequently partakes in brainstorming ways to implement accessibility resources and customizes them to the lecture halls of McMaster. The initiative encourages its participants to think outside the box in order to help their peers.
As students at this university, taking part in extracurriculars like MacChangers can help emphasize the importance of customizing areas of our campus so that it suits the needs of everyone who makes use of it.
Making campus more accessible ultimately benefits every one of its students in the end, whether they face a disability or not. When an establishment makes it a point to include every sub-community that they house, it shows a united front.
This not only attracts potential students to choose that university over another, but it also creates a more welcoming and comfortable environment for their current students in which they can prosper and as a result, become notable alumni.
If it's encouraging more eyes on buildings that need renovations to be more accessible, or simply taking the stairs when the elevator is full, we can all be doing something small to make even a slight difference.
It is important that every student’s needs are met, regardless of how unique they can be to the individual.