Accessibility Needs Fall Short on Campus

How the Accessibility Justice Collective is fighting for the rights of all students.  

Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer

The Accessibility Justice Collective, a division of the Capilano University Students’ Union (CSU), held a meeting on Nov. 14 to discuss accessibility concerns across the university. For able-bodied students, navigating the campus and meeting daily accessibility needs are not given a second thought but for others, Capilano offers many challenges outside of typical student stress.  

For one student, it took a year into their program before the university fixed and added all the necessary accessibility buttons. “You’d think that when they admit someone with wheelchair accessibilities that they would get everything that is needed for that specific individual all set for the first day they’re on campus,” said Marco Dixon, Accessibility Justice Coordinator at CapU. Dixon is working with the Accessibility Justice Collective and the CSU to fight for a smoother university experience for all students, but especially for those that have specific accessibility needs to be addressed.  

Throughout the semester students may require extra time to take their exams and will complete them in the Accessibility Services offices in the Birch building. Dixon is in the process of trying to eliminate locking personal belongings away from the exam room. During an emergency—such as an earthquake—students may need their possessions to remain safe. As it stands, students are made to lock away their phone, wallet, keys and jacket. “If it’s a closed book test in the classroom, the instructor tells students to put away or turn off [their] phones. They let [them] keep [their] keys, wallets and jackets on the chair that they are sitting on,” Dixon said. He believes that the same treatment should be given to those outside the classroom. 

Dixon and the Accessibility Justice Collective are trying to create a space for workshops on campus that will educate students on the different types of disabilities and how to appropriately interact with each of them. Many students live with invisible disabilities such as epilepsy, autism, brain injuries, chronic pain, mental illness, gastro-intestinal disorders and others. The workshops would educate students and staff on what the disabilities are along with potential first-aid components and how to prepare for them.  

Able-bodied people may have the best intentions when approaching a person with disabilities, but their actions can lead to wrong assumptions and dangerous situations. Pushing someone’s chair without permission can lead to that individual becoming unstable in their chair, catching their fingers in the wheels or dislodging any medical equipment due to the sudden unexpected movements. Along with physical dangers, assuming someone is incapable of travelling on their own can be frustrating to people with disabilities. Dixon instead suggests getting to know someone for the person they are and to always ask if assistance is needed.  

Students are encouraged to speak out for themselves to request that their accessibility needs are met and to make their university experience the best that it can be. Dixon knows that it can be difficult to come forward to ask for the required help, but wants to make it known that he is available. When students book meetings with Dixon and the Accessibility Justice Collective, they are adding another perspective to the campus to help the university grow stronger. “[Students] should have the confidence to speak out for [themselves] when [they] have that disability and have their voices open to the public,” Dixon said. “They’re the ones making the rules.” 

Marco Dixon is available for any students facing accessibility issues and can be reached at access@csu.bc.ca 

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