By: Julie Do
Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre (SLC) has received a failing grade by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.
The grassroots group released a video earlier this week laying out what it sees to be “serious accessibility problems” at the SLC.
AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, who has been an outspoken critic of the SLC’s design, narrates the video with a tour of the building.
He says the SLC fails to meet accessibility standards for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia, balance issues and others.
The video also points out specific stairs, ramps, elevators and group study areas that require significant improvement.
Ryerson’s failing grade is one of several to be handed out by the AODA Alliance to public institutions.
It’s part of an effort by the Alliance to increase awareness on Ontario’s long road ahead in its promise to lead the province to full accessibility by 2025.
The SLC building opened its doors at Ryerson less than three years ago.
The building has been lauded for its modern and state-of-the-art design, with each of its eight floors catered to specific student needs.
Matt Vocino uses a motorized wheelchair to get around school.
He says it’s the ramps that cause him the most trouble when travelling through the building.
“Obviously it’s not the most design-friendly because the ramp is winding and people usually sit on the stairs and block the ramps… For someone like me who uses it constantly, it’s very challenging.”
Another barrier Vocino faces during his time at the SLC are the slow elevators, which he says once made him 25 minutes late for an exam.
Aly Manji shares similar frustrations after having to rely on crutches for the last two weeks due to a basketball injury.
“Sometimes if I’m on the eighth floor and I want to go down one or two floors, I just decide to stay there, because I know it’s going to be too hectic to get up when I can just stay where I am,” Manji says.
The SLC’s sixth floor, which creates an open-concept beach horizon with winding ramps that line the room, is littered with patio chairs, bean bags and cushioned mats for lounging.
Sitting on a couch and looking at it all, Manji says he feels for anybody with accessibility needs who want to use the space and just can’t.
“It gets extremely crowded,” he says. “People eat everywhere (and) the little pads you sit on could be all over the place, so it could be hard for a lot of people to get around.”
He adds that increasing the signage around the SLC could help combat this.
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi admits that the building design was flawed. But he says the school is working towards fixing issues around accessibility.
He says it’s not perfect but that is why Ryerson is always looking to create more multi-purpose spaces for everyone.
“Our commitment is very clear. We definitely are committed to offering accessibility in an inclusive campus,” Lachemi says.