Accessibility issues at UNB Saint John

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Recently, the Baron published a piece on the Student Accessibility Centre and the services they offer. The accessibility centre itself provides excellent aid in academic accommodations.

(Wolfgang Duechtel/The Baron)

However, it begs the question of whether or not UNB Saint John’s campus itself is accessible. The Baron sat down with Kimberly Mazerolle, 2021 BSc Honours graduate who uses a wheelchair, to learn about her experiences with accessibility issues on campus.

Elevator access

Elevators can be found in all UNB Saint John buildings on campus, but occasionally, elevators break down. Without any form of notice, students who rely on elevators either end up late for class or are forced to miss class entirely.

This is a grave inconvenience to students, and they are not made aware of this situation before getting to the elevator itself. Mazerolle says an accommodation should be made for students who require elevators to have as many of their classes as possible on floors with an immediate exit.

This would eliminate the issue caused by maintenance problems and aid in the case of fire.

Accessibility in residence

UNB Saint John’s Sir James Dunn residence. (Wolfgang Duechtel/The Baron)

Mazerolle says students with disability issues should be prioritized to live on floors with immediate exits. Students who cannot use the staircases in residence are “expected to wait in the stairwell for someone to come,” as elevators cannot be used in the case of a fire, Mazerolle says.

This was confirmed with David Gillespie, the campus’ Director of Environmental Health, Safety, and Security. Students with mobility issues that require the use of an elevator are required to wait inside the floor’s stairwell for emergency services to arrive in the case of an evacuation.

Residence Life tries to avoid placing students with accessibility needs in the Mackay residence because the Beckett and Dunn are best suited for them.

“If a person uses a wheelchair, there are two fully accessible rooms, as well as fully accessible laundry and washrooms, in the Sir James Dunn Residence. There are six fully accessible rooms, along with fully accessible laundry facilities, in the Barry & Flora Beckett Residence,” Hira Niazi, Residence Life Coordinator, says.

She notes that “If a person requires a certified service animal they are both accommodated without question. This does not include emotional support animals”.

Snow removal

Snow causes issues for everyone, but it is incredibly difficult to manage a wheelchair through slush and snow. A big struggle for Mazerolle in terms of accessibility has been making her way through the snow. “I’ve gotten stuck a few times over the years,” she says.

Doorway access

(Wolfgang Duechtel/The Baron)

The size of doorways plays a large part in accessibility on campus because although a student’s class may be on a floor with an immediate exit and they did not get stuck in snow on the way to class, if they cannot fit through the door, they cannot attend class.

Mazerolle says she has never “…found it too difficult to get past the doorways, but that’s due to my [physical] capabilities. For others who might have less arm [or upper body] strength, it might be more difficult”.

Accessibility needs are addressed on a case by case basis at UNB Saint John

“Thankfully, most professors and [administrators] have been very accommodating, whether it be meeting up with me individually when I was unable to get to class or finding a different room to meet with me if the classroom was inaccessible,” Mazerolle says.

Have you experienced accessibility issues on campus? We’d like to know. Send us an email at editor@thebaron.ca.

For any immediate accessibility concerns, students should reach out to the Student Accessibility Centre by emailing sjaccess@unb.ca.