This is a bimonthly newsletter featuring community updates from Capilano University President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Dangerfield.
I am not afraid of ladders—but ladders, it would appear, are afraid of me. For reasons that are still unclear to me, I fell off one while painting a room in my house recently and came down hard. The next day I had surgery and left the hospital in a wheelchair with two new screws in my ankle—and a healthy new appreciation for the barriers millions of Canadians face every day when it comes to matters of accessibility.
Accessibility review at CapU
Coincidentally, my accident occurred right in the middle of an accessibility review at Capilano University. In response to 2021’s Accessible BC legislation, we are assembling our first formal Accessibility Committee to create a strategic plan to improve accessibility, equity and inclusion on CapU campuses and learning locations. We now have a feedback mechanism in place to identify accessibility pressure points, and will appoint the committee members (with broad representation from across the University campus community) by the end of this year. By the start of the fall term, we aim to have a comprehensive plan in place that is aligned with Envisioning 2030 and reviewed regularly.
We’ve already begun to check off quick wins, such as improving ramp access, installing additional automatic doors and gender-neutral washrooms, and providing free menstrual products. But as Rick Hansen observed during a recent keynote I attended, “Accessibility is not about meeting the minimum standard.” In a country where more than 20 per cent of the population aged 15+ lives with some form of disability that affects their independence, freedom or quality of life, true accessibility would ensure that every Canadian enjoys the same level of ease while moving through the world.
We sometimes forget that disability is not always obvious: the Canadian Survey on Disability lists 10 types including seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain-related, learning, developmental, mental-health related and memory. That means the solution is bigger than just a couple of extra ramps and automatic doors; at a university like ours it means screen readers, and closed captioning, and ASL interpreters, and assistive listening devices, and…the list is long, and often costly.
We’ve got the legislation. We’ve definitely got the will. But without additional funding, we must build the upgrades and improvements into our capital plan, which will no doubt slow our roll. Still, it is our stated goal to create “the most inclusive and accessible experience for our community” at CapU and I am confident we will get there, even by small steps such as our recent introduction of relaxed performance accommodations at the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts.
Our commitment to do better
Happily, my optimism is shared by our Associate VP of Student Success, Daniel Levangie. “We need to make our space, our place, our learning, universal,” he says. “We must build a plan that can be refined and then refined again; stopping or slowing down is simply not an option. I hate seeing students blocked or discouraged on their educational journey, and if we’ve inadvertently excluded someone from being fully a part of our community, then we must do better.”
May we all strive to do better as we step together into the new year. I wish you and yours much happiness, good health—and no menacing ladders—this holiday season.