Construction on and around McGill’s downtown campus has been causing accessibility issues for individuals with injuries or mobility impairments. Roadwork on McTavish and Dr. Penfield is directly impacting pedestrians wishing to access the west side of campus–especially for those with reduced mobility. Construction is due to the City of Montreal’s preparation for its 375th anniversary and is set to be completed in May 2017.
Director of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) Terri Phillips noted that construction has been especially difficult for students with reduced mobility.
“Pathways are continually shifting and changing, which creates difficulties not only for those with mobility impairments, but also those who experience visual impairment,” Phillips said. “The unevenness and, in some instances, reduced width of these pathways create navigational barriers. Often being constructed of gravel creates challenges related to the washing out of temporary ramps, as well as uneven and debris-littered corridors.”
Senior Director of Student Services Cara Piperni acknowledged the difficulty that users of the McGill campus are currently experiencing due to construction.
“The configuration of pathways through the construction zones are frequently changing […making] it difficult for students with mobility impairments to be able to anticipate their journey from point A to point B,” Piperni said.
According to Phillips, McGill is committed to accommodating students with reduced mobility despite challenges created by on-campus construction during this time and is one of the few Canadian Universities that provides adapted transportation. The university runs an on-campus bus service that provides personalized transport across campus between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. This service is available to all McGill students and staff with impairments or injuries that reduce their mobility.
“Security Services has increased the hours that the [adapted transportation] van is operating during this construction period [in order] to support the increased demand for service,” Phillips said.
Darren Elias, U1 Management, is currently experiencing reduced mobility due to surgery on his leg and explained that the adapted transportation service is sometimes difficult to utilize.
“The minibus service closes at 5:30 p.m. and it is by a first-come, first-serve basis,” Elias said. “Since I missed the first couple weeks of school due to surgery, I had to adapt my academic schedule as there were limited openings with the adapted transportation service.”
According to Phillips, accommodating and helping students is an ongoing process.
“Facilities Management is working on a day to day basis with the City of Montreal to identify and rectify accessibility concerns as they arise,” Phillips said.
According to Phillips, the city has been in communication with the OSD when major pathways are being changed. In turn, the OSD is responding to student complaints in order to solve problems on an ongoing basis. An online form on the OSD website allows students to voice their concerns with construction accessibility anonymously.
Some students have complained that it is difficult to get from Lower McTavish to Peel and Dr. Penfield by way of the Brown Building, specifically after hours. Piperni said that this issue is being addressed by extending the hours of the Brown Building to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“[Student Services has] arranged for the Brown building to be open longer hours Monday [through] Friday,” Piperni said. “This will ensure safe and universally accessible route of passage to Dr. Penfield, Peel and Upper McTavish for those experiencing mobility-related barriers.”
Campbell Veasey, U2 Arts, is on crutches after hip surgery is concerned that the university is not doing enough to accommodate those students who are experiencing reduced mobility.
“I’m not even in a wheelchair and it’s hard,” Veasey said. “Getting up and down McTavish is almost impossible, especially on rainy days [….] McGill is definitely not doing enough and if I was to pinpoint the improvement area it would be reworking their construction, parts at a time. Which is next to impossible for their agenda so I don’t really see a solution in sight.”