C/O Sharon McCutcheon

A new initiative at McMaster hopes to provide accessibility for more students  

A new student initiative requesting mutual aid is popping up at McMaster in response to the lack of support students are receiving with the university’s mandated return to campus.  

According to the McMaster Oversight Committee Report released in May 2021, professors are not required to record in-person lectures or provide any alternative online resources for students who are unable to attend campus.  

The mutual aid request calls for any students attending in-person classes to record and share lectures with their peers online.  

The mutual aid request calls for any students attending in-person classes to record and share lectures with their peers online.  

On Feb.7, a discussion panel, Push Back on Back to Mac, was held to further address the issues that the mutual aid request highlights.  

Come listen to student and professor concerns regarding McMaster University's mandated return to campus, this Monday at 6pm EST pic.twitter.com/mx40fz8YDx

— Emunah Woolf (@emunahwoolf) February 4, 2022

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess, a student-run advocacy and peer support organization for students who experience disability, chronic illness, mental health concerns or inaccessibility sat on the discussion panel for Push Back on Back to Mac.  

“McMaster is not listening to disabled, immunocompromised, neurodivergent and otherwise at-risk students when we say we need hybrid learning options. We've tried letters, petitions [and] organizing. I don't feel hopeful for an adequate and safe response,” stated Woolf in their announcement of the mutual aid request.  

“McMaster is not listening to disabled, immunocompromised, neurodivergent and otherwise at-risk students when we say we need hybrid learning options. We've tried letters, petitions [and] organizing. I don't feel hopeful for an adequate and safe response."

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

During the panel, Woolf expressed their hope to expand current support in terms of online lectures and course content. The panel was in agreement that more access was necessary for returning to campus, with solutions ranging from completely online classes to hybrid models. 

“We had at the height of [the panel] over 100 people in attendance, which is wonderful and more than I expected. I think we were able to really demonstrate various perspectives on the return to campus, whether that's from faculty, staff and students [and McMaster Students Union] members and workers as well,” said Woolf. 

Although the panel saw positive responses in support of their stance, Woolf also spoke about some of the backlash in reaction to the mutual aid request. 

“When I started talking about the mutual aid initiative, I was warned quite a bit that the university might get worried about it and take action in some way to shut it down just due to, I think, concerns of intellectual property and students recording lectures and then distributing them,” said Woolf. 

Some faculty also raised concerns during the question and answering session about having themselves and course material being recorded. However, Woolf mentioned that during the panel, a point was raised about how the best way to keep students from recording and distributing course material was for the professor to post it online for the class themselves. 

“I also think that there are ways to get creative with how we teach in a way that hybrid can work . . . The fact is, it takes a little bit of thinking and I don't know if professors are willing to put extra work into their course development, especially if they had originally planned it to be one way,” said Woolf. 

“I also think that there are ways to get creative with how we teach in a way that hybrid can work . . . The fact is, it takes a little bit of thinking and I don't know if professors are willing to put extra work into their course development, especially if they had originally planned it to be one way.”

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

Woolf also stressed the importance of including disabled people during planning so any issues are worked out before the plan is used to prevent band aid solutions being used later on that don’t work as efficiently. 

“[McMaster] should have been bringing people who experienced disability into those conversations to talk about accessibility from the forefront because disabled students and staff, we aren't expendable and we deserve to be included and safe on campus but also to be acknowledged for our value and our knowledge here. [I]t would have been a really good use of disabled community knowledge and wisdom to bring us into those conversations from the beginning,” said Woolf. 

[I]t would have been a really good use of disabled community knowledge and wisdom to bring us into those conversations from the beginning."

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

In addition to the impact that Woolf has seen as the director of Maccess, Woolf said they have also seen the difference in their own studies as a fourth-year social work student.  

“All of my classes are continuing to have online options, which is wonderful, but I think that my safety shouldn’t have to rely on essentially luck of where I am in the university,” said Woolf. 

“All of my classes are continuing to have online options, which is wonderful, but I think that my safety shouldn’t have to rely on essentially luck of where I am in the university."

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

If students are interested in contributing to the initiative or would like to access lectures through mutual aid, they can visit the mutual aid spreadsheet at tinyurl.com/MacMutualAid. 

C/O Olivia Brouwer

Hamilton artist Olivia Brouwer creates accessible artwork to bridge the gap between individuals of varying visual abilities 

By: Serena Habib, Contributor

One of the major changes brought about by the current COVID-19 pandemic has been the shift away from physical contact touch in an effort to prevent transmission of the virus from surfaces. This shift, however, has also become a barrier for those who use braille to communicate. 

Olivia Brouwer is a local Hamilton artist and the 2021 recipient of the City of Hamilton’s creator award. She has been creating art that expresses her experiences with blindness and is accessible to those with visual impairments. The pandemic has amplified the challenges visual impairment can bring and highlighted the importance of her work.

“Blind people cannot communicate as they did before,” said Brouwer.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Olivia Brouwer (@olivetreeonthemount)

Brouwer was raised in Mount Hope, Hamilton by a family filled with creativity. She has always loved art and when she entered the joint program in Art and Art History offered by University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College in 2012, she knew she wanted to focus on painting. Focusing on oil painting, acrylics and watercolours with a specialization in printmaking, Brouwer realized during her third-year that her artwork revolved around a common theme: blindness.

For as long as she can remember, Brouwer has been partially blind in one eye. She wanted to produce work that responded to the questions her blindness implored her to ask.

“Especially in high school, it was hard to kind of talk about and I was just very self-conscious about it,” said Brouwer. “I just thought I'd make art about it . . . as a way to talk about my disability.” 

“Especially in high school, it was hard to kind of talk about and I was just very self-conscious about it. I just thought I'd make art about it . . . as a way to talk about my disability.” 

Olivia Brouwer, Artist

Brouwer was also drawn to the idea of how people perceive the unknown and over time, her work has also become more spiritual. After graduating, Brouwer realized she needed to analyze blindness for herself. In her work stitching braille Bible passages relating to parables about spiritual blindness, visual blindness is used as a metaphor for faith and spirituality. To Brouwer, this was about looking into herself to determine whether she was being spiritually aware and spiritually seen.

An example of Brouwer's braille Bible passage work, Hebrews 11v1
C/O Olivia Brouwer

“It kind of reminds me of looking back on my life . . . looking back on all of these stories and trying to spiritually see what needs to change,” explained Brouwer.

As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to return to our previous routines, Brouwer’s collection can encourage us to look at ourselves and our lifestyles in an attempt to decipher what brings meaning into our lives. However, Brouwer’s current Contact Kits remind us to look beyond ourselves and explore with different senses as we return to routine and interact with our environment.

Each kit comes in a silkscreen-printed cardboard box. Inside the box is a painting; different mediums and tactile surfaces are incorporated into every painting. The painting is covered by a removable sheet of frosted mylar with a smooth, plastic texture. Brouwer cuts teardrop shapes out of the mylar and then embosses them in braille by carving templates on Lino blocks and punching them through the tabs. With 42 tabs in total, each tab has a word embossed in Braille. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Olivia Brouwer (@olivetreeonthemount)

Included in the kit is also a silkscreen-printed booklet with designated spaces for the tabs and a corresponding chart to decode the braille; people can interact with the piece by removing the tabs and writing out the message. At the end of the booklet, there is a section for individuals to journal about their experience with the painting. Mirroring the concept of the Rorschach inkblot test, a psychological test by Hermann Rorschach in which participants have different perceptions of inkblots based on their mental state, this is an opportunity to personally perceive an abstract conception.  

With the artist’s statement and biography also included in the booklet and embossed in braille, these Contact Kits are accessible to those who are blind and sighted. 

“[Both people who are sighted and blind] are kind of on an equal level; one’s not ones not experiencing it better than the other,” explained Brouwer. “I wanted to make it fun too, so people who are sighted can learn braille and just kind of have a respect for learning that from a blind person's perspective . . . just open their eyes about how they communicate and other ways of communicating.” 

“[Both people who are sighted and blind] are kind of on an equal level; one’s not ones not experiencing it better than the other. I wanted to make it fun too, so people who are sighted can learn braille and just kind of have a respect for learning that from a blind person's perspective . . . just open their eyes about how they communicate and other ways of communicating.”

Olivia Brouwer, Artist

Looking forward, Brouwer is presently developing artwork that combines sight, sound and touch to share interviews she has conducted with individuals who are visually impaired. She translates the interviews into braille and then paints in braille on canvases that are paired with an audio soundtrack of the interview. 

Through her work, Brower hopes to break down barriers and open our eyes to different methods of communication, providing us an opportunity to venture on an artistic and personal journey as we interact with artwork, braille and ourselves.

“Denver’s ABC’s” significantly lack detail, research and plans for execution

Though “Denver’s ABC’s” address some timely concerns, like tuition and MSU clubs, his platform significantly lacks in research, consultation and detail, both in terms of specific plans and execution.

Significant Concerns

Della-Vedova hopes to use the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance more effectively to reduce tuition. Tuition is an important issue, especially with increased financial barriers during the pandemic.

The MSU and OUSA are bound by their policies. The official stances of both the MSU and OUSA on tuition are: The province should freeze tuition across all programs until a fair-cost sharing model is restored. Then, tuition increases for all programs should be capped at inflation.

Della-Vedova’s platform is in direct violation of these policies. Regardless of COVID-19, OUSA and the MSU have not changed their tuition policies. Both policies are subject to amendment by the MSU Student Representative Assembly or by the OUSA General Assembly, which would likely not meet in his term until the end of October 2021. Della-Vedova will likely face significant challenges to advocate for tuition reduction.

The campus safety point does not address racial profiling or sexual violence prevention and response. In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

Della-Vedova cited a campus climate survey and census from this year for student feedback on campus safety. However, through the Silhouette’s fact-checking, we could only find last year’s provincial government SVPR climate survey. Della-Vedova does not mention any past or ongoing efforts of sexual violence prevention or response.

There is a significant and noticeable lack of consideration for issues of racial justice and justice for equity-seeking groups on campus in Denver’s ABCs.

While there are points around international student representation, financial aid and increasing physical accessibility on campus, there are no points on justice for Black, Indigenous and students of Colour, 2SLGBTQIA+ students, women and survivors.

A is for Accessibility

Della-Vedova promises to ensure the safety of immunocompromised individuals in the return to campus. However, there are no details for how he will accomplish this. No consultations, such as with key return to campus groups, are noted in the platform.

This section includes education and resources on student housing, such as tenant rights and signing a lease. He hopes to work with campus stakeholders, including Residence Life and the Society of Off-Campus Students. It is unclear whether Della-Vedova has consulted with these groups. Further, his platform does not acknowledge or differentiate between similar initiatives.

Della-Vedova hopes to receive and address student concerns around proctoring software and to improve hybrid learning. He plans to streamline student-professor communication and he wants the MSU to be a leader in physical accessibility, such as ensuring McMaster complies with provincial standards.

He hopes to advocate for parking cost changes and for more online course options to alleviate parking needs. There are no details on how he will accomplish these tasks.

B is for Better Advocacy

Della-Vedova wants to continue federal advocacy for international students and provincial advocacy around tuition regulation. He plans to build upon the international student task force implemented by MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré and create long-term goals.

He plans to create an off-campus international student seat on MSU First Year Council and work with the Student Success Centre to understand and deliver on the needs of international students. It is unclear what consultation has been done or how he plans to achieve these goals.

C is for Community

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic. He plans to create an online booking system at the Student Wellness Centre but his platform lacks detail on how this would be accomplished or if he has consulted the SWC.

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic.

Della-Vedova suggests a survey to understand student struggles this year. The McMaster virtual learning task force ran the fall 2020 experience survey and is currently implementing its recommendations. Della-Vedova does not mention this or differentiate his idea.

He plans to address academic concerns for current and incoming students, discuss academics with the vice-provost on academics and include current first years in Welcome Week 2021. He plans to restructure Welcome Week with MSU Spark and Maroons; however, these services do not plan Welcome Week.

He plans to continue improvements on the MSU website and create an Avenue to Learn tab for MSU updates. He does not provide further details.

He plans to work with the Clubs Advisory Council on shaping the future of MSU clubs. This is timely as students were outraged this past fall by policy changes. However, Della-Vedova does not specify the changes he would like to make or provide insight into how he will accomplish these goals.

Students shouldn’t need accommodations for a course because they should be accessible to begin with

This week, I had a very pleasant meeting with one of my course instructors and it made me wonder: why can’t courses be set up in a way that is accessible to begin with?

Let me backtrack a bit. I’m registered with Student Accessibility Services, which is a service that allows you to request accommodations for your courses. To receive your accommodations, you must register and confirm your accommodations every term. Once you register, an accommodation letter is sent to your instructor and you are expected to communicate with your instructor about your accommodations. This is to ensure any details of your accommodations are taken into consideration and that you and your instructor are on the same page.

This can be a tedious process and if I’m being honest, I often forget to schedule a meeting with my course instructors. Unfortunately, this avenue is the only way to access “formal” accommodations from the university and as a result, many disabled students are left advocating for their needs.

Last week, I set up a meeting with my instructor. I was very nervous to meet her as I have had issues with accommodations in the past. Yet, I felt a glimmer of hope — the course had lecture transcripts, which is not something I’ve seen in any of my other courses in the past three years that I’ve attended McMaster University. With in-person classes, many lectures were not podcasted and if they were, they were rarely captioned and never had a transcript. Online classes have obviously been better with recording lectures, but many of them are still not captioned.

Yet, I felt a glimmer of hope — the course had lecture transcripts, which is not something I’ve seen in any of my other courses in the past three years that I’ve attended McMaster University.

As I mentioned previously, the meeting was great. My instructor was very kind, understanding of my situation and made sure to ask me if she could alter anything about the course to make it better for me. She asked me if I needed a notetaker, but I mentioned that the lecture transcripts were very helpful — maybe even better than having course notes. I brought up my concerns surrounding the quizzes and exam, as one of my accommodations included extra time and I wasn’t sure if that would be accounted for on Avenue to Learn. But she assured me that the quizzes were not timed and that the exam was a take-home exam. She also let me know that if I needed any extensions on assignments to just let her know a few days beforehand and that it would be no problem to grant an extension.

When we started discussing the course as a whole, she mentioned something that gave me an interesting perspective on course accessibility. My instructor told me that she could empathize with my disability as she also took medication for anxiety. She let me know that because of her experience with mental illness, she tried to set up the course in the way that she would have liked to take it as someone with anxiety. This meant providing transcripts, offering untimed quizzes and being lenient with deadlines. Since she set the course up this way, I didn’t really need to use my accommodations because I was already accommodated for.

During this meeting, I felt like I was able to sigh a breath of relief. I hadn’t realized until now how often I had to advocate for accommodations. Sometimes it would be just a meeting, but sometimes I had to contact my SAS coordinator because my instructor refused to accommodate me. For this class, though, my instructor considered students’ disabilities when designing the course. Accommodations were considered not as an afterthought but during the preparation of the course. As a result, I didn’t need to push for my needs to be heard because the course was accessible to begin with.

Accommodations were considered not as an afterthought but during the preparation of the course.

This made me reflect on other courses I’ve taken throughout my undergraduate career. Most courses I’ve taken were not set up in a way that I didn’t really need to use my SAS accommodations; they were more of an afterthought. If you had accommodations, the instructor would find a way to incorporate them into the course. Otherwise, the course would just run as the instructor intended it to be, even if the course is inaccessible.

I’m grateful to have SAS accommodations. If a course isn’t set up in a way that is accessible for me, I can meet with my instructor and figure out an accommodation plan. But not everyone who needs accommodations is able to use SAS. If you don’t have accommodations, it’s up to you to figure out how to make the course accessible, whether that’s through asking your peers for notes or asking your instructor for extensions even though you don’t have an official letter to back up your disability.

Although this is the norm right now, it shouldn’t be. We’re paying to take these courses, so instructors should make sure that we are able to take the course. The responsibility of making courses accessible should not fall on disabled students. Instead, courses should be set up in a way that considers disability. Offering accommodations is a good start, but we should strive to make courses accessible to begin with.

By Elisa Do and Yvonne Syed, Contributors

Education is often considered to be a stepping stone towards entering the workforce. University is not only supposed to teach students textbook knowledge, but it is also supposed to support students in the development of transferable skills. Hence, the Ontario government has implemented greater ties between university funding and experiential learning opportunities, which is why we are also seeing an increase in experiential learning within the curriculum of many universities.

At McMaster University, experiential learning is defined with six criteria, including: a workplace or simulated workplace environment, exposure to authentic demands, purposeful activities, assessments conducted by both self-assessment and by the employer, application of knowledge from the student’s university or college program and completion of a course credit. By structuring the experience with authentic demands and meaningful activities, students can face real-world problems and undergo conditions that are relevant to the typical responsibilities of the industry that they are practicing for.

The types of experiential learning that are offered at McMaster include: co-op, internships, professional placements, lab courses, community/industry partnered learning and research projects. Experiential learning provides wonderful opportunities for students to apply theory and gain exposure to the workforce. Therefore, as experiential learning makes its way into university learning, there is also a greater need to consider accessibility options for students.

For starters, the time commitment and duration of experiential learning placements may be difficult to manage for certain students depending on their situational circumstances. Students may also have other obligations, such as having to take care of a dependent, having to work to finance their education or having other commitments to tend to, preventing them from fully completing the placement. Some students may not be able to commit to placements for weeks or months on end, and some may not be able to dedicate a fixed amount of hours per week.

The strict time commitments can be a barrier to those who want to access meaningful experiential learning opportunities but cannot commit to the entire time. This could be in the form of a requirement of 5-15 hours a week of volunteer experiences or conflicts between student class times and shift availability.

Furthermore, since the Ministry of Education’s focus on experiential learning involves participation in a workplace or simulated workplace environment, transportation plays a huge factor. For example, nursing students being able to commute to their clinical placements is essential. However, nursing students at McMaster are responsible for their own travel costs to and from their placement locations.

For some students, this may mean travelling on the Hamilton Street Railway to nearby Hamilton hospitals, but others, it can also mean having to spend money on Ubers in order to make it in time to their placements located as far as Niagara. Not all students can afford a vehicle of their own and public transit is not always accessible. This can mean busses not running at times suitable for the student’s placement, or not extending far enough to reach other cities that the student must travel to. Clinical placements in and of itself are already putting students under responsibilities for which they are typically paid. When transportation becomes a barrier, students may endure heavy financial burdens, as they already dedicate much of their time to their studies and do not always have a source of income.

Clinical placements in and of itself are already putting students under responsibilities for which they are typically paid. When transportation becomes a barrier, students may endure heavy financial burdens, as they already dedicate much of their time to their studies and do not always have a source of income.

Looking at other European universities, such as the University of Dundee and the University of Limerick, travel allowance is often provided when expenses are incurred due to responsibilities associated with the nursing program.

When compared to more nearby universities, Queen’s University offers travel reimbursements to students of their school of medicine. Although each university has their own limitations and variations in their accommodations, the importance lies in providing support for students who have to travel beyond local public transport.

Lastly, when we look at accessibility options, we must also consider the methods with which students are assessed. Students enrolled in experiential learning courses often have to complete reflections. There is also a concern regarding the course outlines and required components that students are graded on as they partake in an experiential learning course. A challenge to assessing student learning through reflections is how to do so while respecting their privacy.

Novel assessment formats and unclear instructions may lead to students feeling they are required to disclose significant personal details in required 'reflection' assignments. They may not feel comfortable disclosing personal encounters or experiences they have undergone to their professor or teaching assistant, but they may still want to address the issues they’ve faced.

However, if they don’t want their teaching assistant or the professor to know of an embarrassing or uncomfortable situation, they cannot write it in a reflection. Thus, bearing this in mind, assessment through reflection can be made more equitable with revisions of this assessment method from instructors. Perhaps instructors could ensure that students are well informed of an anonymous reporting procedure if they ever feel the need to report any inappropriate behaviours or workplace violations encountered during their experiential learning placement. This eliminates the need to disclose this information in a reflection assignment while still addressing any private issues in an equitable manner.

It is undeniable that experiential learning has been growing rapidly within the curriculum of many programs today. With the benefits that experiential learning holds, it is important for universities to critically evaluate the accessible options that are offered. To start, basic support for barriers in time and scheduling, transportation and as confidentiality should be considered. If students are to carry extra burdens, such as financial costs, their learning experience can also be hindered. In order to provide a well-rounded experiential learning opportunity the way the curriculum intends for it to be, further improvements should be made.

 

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Photos C/O Art Galley of Hamilton

 

Walking through an art gallery or a museum is mostly a visual experience, whether you're looking at a sculpture, a painting or a photo. This can be exclusionary for people with little to no vision. The Art Gallery of Hamilton is aiming to make art accessible to a larger range of people with their Touch Tours, monthly group tours which take visitors through a sensory exploration of the art on display.

The tours are run by Laurie Kilgour-Walsh, the Senior Manager of Education at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. In 2007, Kilgour-Walsh attended an orientation program at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, a program targeted at new museum and art gallery employees in order to acquaint them with the process of running a large museum. Kilgour-Walsh says that one of the orientation activities inspired her to begin the Touch Tours. A patron of the gallery, who had lost her sight late in life, walked the visitors through the way that she now experiences art.

“[S]he started talking about her interaction with the sculpture, how she sees it and how she encounters all the different facets of the artists making the work, what the work looks like, the personality of the piece, just through the sense of touch,” said Kilgour-Walsh.

“[S]he started talking about her interaction with the sculpture, how she sees it and how she encounters all the different facets of the artists making the work, what the work looks like, the personality of the piece, just through the sense of touch,” said Kilgour-Walsh.

The Touch Tours were specifically created for people with vision loss, but all are welcome to attend. In many ways, the tours enrich the art-viewing experience. Kilgour-Walsh says that the average time that a person spends looking at a piece of art is about 30 seconds. Art viewing is almost entirely sight-based, unless there is an audio component to describe the artwork. The tours slow down that experience, allowing participants to explore the art in new ways.

Over time, the Touch Tours have evolved to include the other senses. For example, during an Emily Carr exhibition, small salt shakers with pine tree and pine essential oil created the smell of the forest to accompany Carr’s work. 

“In other cases, when we have our public offering, sometimes people [attend] who are curious, who just want to have a sensory experience are coming and that is actually what we see most often. And so some of that is leading us to think more about tours that engage senses, rather than simply focusing on description . . . forming an image in your mind based on the words and feelings, and engaging hearing and sight and sound,” said Kilgour-Walsh.

The primary art medium that the tours display is sculpture. The benefit of sculpture is that it is, by nature, much more tactile than a painting. Running your hands over a sculpted apple is much easier to understand than a painted one, particularly if you’ve never seen an apple. Many of the sculptures that the tours use are made of bronze, because it is a fairly durable material, meaning that it’s unlikely to break or snap under pressure. 

“[W]ith bronze casting, the original work of art is often made in like, clay or wax or some very soft surface, and then cast later. And so feeling this work, you can actually find those spots of the sculpture where you can see how the artists would have used a finger to put in a curve or detail. You can actually follow those movements with your fingers,” said Kilgour-Walsh.

“[W]ith bronze casting, the original work of art is often made in like, clay or wax or some very soft surface, and then cast later. And so feeling this work, you can actually find those spots of the sculpture where you can see how the artists would have used a finger to put in a curve or detail. You can actually follow those movements with your fingers,” said Kilgour-Walsh.

Paintings are trickier to include on the tours, but they're such an integral part of our culture that the AGH has been working hard to include them in the tours. Paintings are much more delicate and easy to tarnish, and they are also fairly flat, with little texture, making them difficult to perceive through touch. The Touch Tours has adapted over time to include paintings. Now, each tour provides a posterboard version of the original painting that visitors can hold in their hands. The posterboard paintings are then covered in different textures of paint to illustrate the different sections, with raised paint being used to outline larger shapes. The participants are then able to experience the painting through touch, feeling their way through the art. 

The Touch Tours have also created materials that illustrate what the different aspects of the paintings would feel like. They’ve created small samples of fabric to demonstrate what is being portrayed in the paintings to create a more immersive experience.

“[A] lot of people who come don't know what canvas feels like, so we have blank canvas so you can feel the give of the surface and the texture. If we talk about images where there's a certain kind of fabric — we've had a couple of painting of really beautiful Victorian dresses — we can use something like this where we've got that silk fabric and we've got suede and we've got all of those different things to have a sense of being able to touch the fabric that is being portrayed,” said Kilgour-Walsh. 

They also have small samples of different paints, from acrylic to watercolour, in order to give an idea of what the painting itself feels like.

Touch Tours and other accessible options are slowly being integrated into more museums and galleries, like the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada and even the Museum of Modern Art. These improvements not only help people with accessibility needs, but also anyone interested in experiencing art from a fresh perspective. 

For anyone interested in exploring the Art Gallery of Hamilton (123 King St. W.), admission is free for McMaster and Mohawk students with a valid student ID. 

 

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McMaster's Department of Athletics and Recreation is making strides towards accessible programming

McMaster’s Department of Athletics and Recreation oversees gym memberships, personal training, intramurals, programming (such as first aid, backpacking and dance classes) and court and facility bookings. They even offer backpacking and canoe trips. Students may seek these services with the hope of continuing to play sports after high school, or with the goal of investing in their physical health for the first time.

Disabled students face obstacles in remaining physically active in university. They must verify that a facility is accessible; ideally, they would be able to use machines and be able to do so independently.

“Some of us may need to find out where the accessible entrance is in advance … Some of us are never able to access athletic facilities if there is no accessible or all-gender washrooms … Some people may need [instructions for gym equipment] explained verbally, in plain language, or in a different way, but there is not always staff around that can do this for us,” Calvin Prowse, a past Maccess executive explained.

“Some of us may need to find out where the accessible entrance is in advance … Some of us are never able to access athletic facilities if there is no accessible or all-gender washrooms … Some people may need [instructions for gym equipment] explained verbally, in plain language, or in a different way, but there is not always staff around that can do this for us,” Calvin Prowse, a past Maccess executive explained.

Wayne Terryberry, the outdoor recreation coordinator for McMaster Athletics and Recreation, said that his team aimed to make services as accessible as possible.

It may be difficult to understand how a building or a certain activity could be made more accessible without the lived experience of a disability. The athletics and recreation department has made positive strides in this regard, such as through the Alpine Tower.

“We chose to purchase [the Alpine Tower] 15 years ago or so. It was purchased primarily for the reason that it’s accessible,” Terryberry said. “We’ve provided accessible climbing with different equipment and mechanism such as ropes and harnesses, plus the [climbing wall] is [accessible] as well.”

In addition to the Alpine Tower, McMaster Athletics and Recreation also offers a Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair for use on trails. This wheelchair allows users to independently navigate hiking trails off campus. In addition, the department is in the process of creating a wheelchair-accessible trail in McMaster Forest, located in Dundas Valley. The trail will be approximately 750 metres long and will be located around the front of the forest.

If anyone is interested in getting involved with outdoor recreation, but is hesitant about whether they have the ability to do a certain activity, Terryberry would be able to help. Activities such as accessible canoeing have been done before, and Terryberry claims that there are discussions being held on buying more adaptable equipment for outdoor recreation.

In terms of indoor recreation, the Special Needs Assistance Program provides a one-on-one opportunity for individuals to work with a trained volunteer to help accommodate their needs. Debbie Marinoff Shupe, the manager of recreation services, emphasized the value of such programs for members with both physical and mental disabilities.

In terms of indoor recreation, the Special Needs Assistance Program provides a one-on-one opportunity for individuals to work with a trained volunteer to help accommodate their needs. Debbie Marinoff Shupe, the manager of recreation services, emphasized the value of such programs for members with both physical and mental disabilities.

“So it could be somebody who feels really anxious in the facility due to a mental health issue and we would connect them to a volunteer,” Shupe explains. “Could be somebody with hearing or seeing disabilities, and we’ll connect [them] to a volunteer so that they can participate in activities in the Pulse.”

If working out in the Pulse isn’t your cup of tea, there are also intramural teams. Intramural programs are adaptable; in the past, ice hockey was adapted to a combination of ice hockey and sled hockey to accommodate the use of a sled. There are also wheelchair basketball and wheelchair European handball tournaments in the fall semester, and parasport as well as unified basketball tournaments in the winter semester.

Of course, disabilities are not limited to physical ones. Mental disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to making athletics accessible, but Terryberry and Shupe assure that there are many programs for those with mental illnesses.

The Nature at McMaster program provides opportunities to go out on a walk, hike, or practice mindfulness — McMaster Athletics and Recreation worked very closely with Student Accessibility Services to help provide this program. The program hopes to encourage going out in nature to help promote good mental health. More information can be found on their website.

Shupe also acknowledged that a lot of the David Braley Athletic Centre is currently inaccessible and that they have plans to improve that in the near future. With the expansion of DBAC, the department hopes to purchase more equipment specific for wheelchair users and to remove other structural issues with the building.

“If you want to get to the second floor of the Pulse right now if you’re using a wheelchair, you’d have to leave the Pulse, take the elevator that’s on the other side and go up and then [back into the Pulse]. So you can get to it but it’s not very easy,” Shupe said. “[In the renovation] the actual elevator and bathrooms would be in the Pulse you wouldn’t have to actually leave the Pulse.”

Signage is also something they’re working on. New signage packages were created for the expansion of DBAC and for the Student Activity Building to improve accessibility for those who need braille to read.

Anybody interested in offering feedback for any programs or starting an accessible program through the athletics and recreation department can contact Shupe at marinof@mcmaster.ca.

“We’re always open to new ideas for sure,” Shupe said. “If folks have any kind of sport interest in terms of making it more accessible or accommodating, it’s me that you contact and then depending on what the program is, we will work with the individual forwards.”

Anyone interested in checking out any athletics and recreation programs or activities or learning more about accessibility in the department can check out the app McMaster Recreation. Getting involved in athletics may seem like an impossible feat when you’re disabled, but there are a lot of opportunities to get active.

Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Gregory Lee, Contributor

Whether it be from the crowded lines at the MUSC Tim Hortons or to the pasta place inside Centro, hungry students are everywhere, looking for ways to satisfy their hunger on campus. 

McMaster Hospitality Services, which operates most eateries on campus, state that they aim to provide high quality food service, variety and value. Eating on campus a few times will show that in reality, these expectations are not always met.

Food at universities is notorious for being unhealthy. It is usually stereotyped as deep fried, greasy, frozen and/or unhealthy, which are all true statements. A quick look at the menu at many of the campus eateries shows that they’re mainly burgers, wraps and fries that are almost always frozen and low-quality in terms of taste — mediocre at best. 

Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with frozen deep-fried food but the fact that campus food is also notoriously expensive as well doesn’t help. For example, a slice of pepperoni pizza at the MUSC Pizza Pizza costs significantly more than a slice at any other Pizza Pizza location. A Mac Burger at Centro costs around $8.95 for the burger itself, plus an extra $2.99 for a combo, which includes a drink and fries. An order of onion rings which normally contains 5-7 rings will set you back around $4.

What really puts the prices of on-campus food into perspective is when it's compared to other locations off campus which offer better value for your money compared to the on-campus eateries. It’s worse for people who live on residence as the meal plans offered by Mac Hospitality are mandatory if you want to live on residence with few exceptions.

Although the meals plans allow students to save tax when buying food on campus, they still cost students at least $3000 upfront for even the lighter meal plans. 

It gets worse when Mac Hospitality takes away exactly half of the non-refundable portion of your meal plan in the beginning of the year for overhead costs, giving you a 50 per cent discount on all food. This discount is only for first year and disappears after the school year ends. The truth is, many students will not finish the non-refundable portion of their meal plan before first year ends. They will either have to go on spending sprees to finish their plans or cut their losses and use the money next school year, even if it technically means losing half of your money.

Health wise, the food on campus doesn’t fare well either. University eating is characterized by fears over the “freshman 15” and uncontrollable weight gain. While the freshman 15 is little more than just a myth, the health concerns of campus food are not. 

A quick look at the nutrition facts of campus food will be enough to give any health-conscious individual a heart attack. Calories, unhealthy fats, sodium, carbohydrates and bad cholesterol are high for most, if not all dishes. In addition, the foods on campus are often low in key nutrients such as fibre, protein and vitamins. The campus eateries do have their healthier options such as salad bars or select food from Bridges, but healthy options are almost always lacking on the menus around campus. 

Let’s not forget the fact that food options for vegetarians and vegans are limited on campus. While we do have Bridges serving vegetarian and vegan options, other eateries on campus are often lacking in vegetarian and vegan options. Halal and kosher options are also limited and just recently, McMaster Hospitality stopped offering halal beef burgers at their eateries.

The food at Mac is definitely not the worst, but it can be greatly improved upon both health-wise and cost-wise. The introduction of the new $5-dollar daily meals is a step in the right direction for food accessibility at Mac and the menu at the campus eateries is always changing. Hopefully, Mac continues to make improvements to the food on campus so that one day, it can be accessible for all.

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Graphic C/O Ember

By: Ember, Contributor

I have previously written about how institutional ableism affects me and other students, but there’s another topic that is also overdue for discussion: casual ableism.

There are things that myself and other physically disabled people face on a consistent basis that an able-bodied person may not even realize are ableist. Using elevators, ramps and public transport, as well as navigating the campus in general — these activities are imperative to my everyday life, but are also an absolute nightmare.

The McMaster University Student Centre is home to many student services and it also acts as one of the main social hubs on campus, so it makes sense that it is very busy. I’m involved with and use multiple McMaster Students Union services within MUSC which span multiple floors of the building. I have lost count of how many times during those between-class rushes as well as during lunch hours that I have been bumped into, almost knocked over or completely plowed past by students and staff alike when walking to the elevators or using the ramp.

My cane is purple, it is loud, and it is very unlikely that able-bodied folks cannot hear it. I know you can see me — it is hard not to. My disability does not afford me the luxury to be subtle and small, so when you push past me, you’re making it clear that you have chosen to ignore my existence for your convenience. Is getting to your destination a few seconds earlier really worth disregarding basic human decency for myself and other physically disabled people?

Speaking of elevators, stop pressing the button and then walking away to take the stairs when it takes too long for the elevator to arrive. The reason why it is taking so long is because there are people on every other floor doing the exact same thing, and when I finally get on the elevator, it stops at every single floor. Somehow going from the first floor to the second floor of MUSC suddenly takes five minutes instead of 30 seconds. If you can take the stairs, just take the stairs — what have you gained by attempting to use and delaying accommodating utilities?

A side note: pressing the button for the elevator only to have it filled with able-bodied people who refuse to make room — all bearing sheepish or indifferent looks on their faces — is humiliating and degrading. The selfishness and misplaced entitlement to disability resources and accommodations make it that much harder for disabled people to exist and get around in public spaces.

Now let’s talk about public transit. Fellow students, I know that you love taking the bus for a couple of stops from inside campus into Westdale Village, but when you push past me to get on the bus when the bus driver specifically stops right in front of me to let me on first, know that I see you. When you fill up priority seating, placing down your bags or groceries beside you on another seat, I see you. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I end up standing on a crowded eastbound bus.

Not only do I feel pain, but I feel ashamed and dehumanized when able-bodied students see my physical form but refuse to acknowledge my need for accommodations. It wears me down and weighs on me day after day — my disability is hypervisible as I cannot hide it, but able-bodied people choose to not perceive me and my presence in order to absolve them of their guilt and responsibility for their actions.

Just because you hold the door open for me or press the automatic door button once does not mean you are at the apex of disability allyship. Check yourself, reflect on your actions, and deconstruct your saviour complex. You are not as perfect as you think you are.

 

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Since 2019, metal straws have taken over. Every day, I see at least 50 metal straws in peoples’ beverages. That should be a good thing, right? To some extent it is, but people aren’t choosing sustainability for the right reasons. Using a metal straw is currently a trend, but are metal straws even the right answer to saving our oceans and marine life?

Of course not. Imagine if saving the environment was that easy. Every day, 500 million disposable plastic straws are used and will likely end up in our waterways. This statistic can scare many people into thinking that the solution lies in replacing plastic straws with their metal counterparts. However, many people fail to realize what materials and emissions go into making a metal straw. 

The energy used to create one metal straw is roughly equivalent to creating 90 plastic straws, and also produces carbon emissions equivalent to 150 plastic straws. This may not seem like a lot, but in order to offset the environmental impact of creating a metal straw, it must be used over 150 times. 

We also need to consider the harsh reality of nickel mining that is necessary in order to create these trendy accessories. The Philippines is a predominant nickel supplier. Much of the soil in Palawan, a major nickel supplier in the Philippines, has been reduced to a wasteland. 

Metal straws are not the only items that are made out of nickel, meaning that they are not the sole contributors to the destruction of soil in Palawan. However, they are trendy accessories and are produced excessively. This is evidenced through the variety of designs metal straws are offered in. Our materialist society  does not hesitate to contribute to this “fast fashion” accessory, with celebrities such as Jeffree Star capitalizing on the movement by coming out with their own packs of metal straws. The excessive production of metal straws contradicts the environmentalist intentions that they are meant to fulfill.

If you’re purchasing a metal straw, you would assume that it would be made out of metal, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many of these items are not labelled due to their “eco-friendly” branding strategy as they are not required to list any ingredients since the straw is not being consumed. Safe metal straws should be made with food-grade stainless steel as any other materials may corrode over time. Safe metal straws should be made with food-grade stainless steel as any other materials may corrode over time. 

Additionally, painted or coloured straws also pose a risk of either contaminating the drink or containing unsafe chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), which  is known to cause an array of health risks. Metal straws might not be the only alternative to disposable plastic straws, but they are very popular because of their durability and cost-effectiveness. 

Make no mistake, I think that we should try to be as eco-friendly as possible. But if you are going to opt for a reusable straw, try to purchase locally and support Canadian businesses, such as Glass Sipper. It’s important to keep in mind that when you are trying to be sustainable to be aware of what goes into the production of “eco-friendly alternatives” because sometimes the good intent gets lost in the action.

 

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