The University of Ottawa recently updated its accessibility plan to improve the quality of services for people with disabilities, whether physical, sensory, psychological, cognitive or social.
The 2019-2024 Multi-year Accessibility Plan is nothing less than a roadmap to help the University meet its accessibility-related objectives.
“Surveys of the University community with disabilities will help us assess the effectiveness of our strategic planning,” says Marie-Claude Gagnon, senior adviser on accessibility policy with the University’s Human Rights Office. “The responses will help us write annual status reports on the plan, and if necessary, review our strategies.”
It should be noted that the standards set in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) are reviewed by the government every five years and that new requirements and target dates are added. The University is required to comply with this law.
What have we done so far?
Policy 119, approved by the University in 2018, sets out everyone’s roles and responsibilities concerning campus accessibility for matters such as procurement, human resources and institutional communication.
The Accessibility Hub, created in 2015, is a website bringing together information about the accessibility services on campus, and the place to submit your comments about accessibility. A link to the hub appears in the footer of all University web pages.
Campus virtual maps allow readers to see the plans for each floor of a building, as well as the accessible services available, including accessible washrooms and barrier-free passageways. Maps also indicate tunnels and pathways allowing for travel between buildings without going outside.
“It’s a living resource, since it’s regularly updated,” says Gagnon. “Very few universities have such detailed maps.”
Finally, the migration of the University’s website to the Drupal 7 platform in 2016 has made it easier to create web content that is accessible and update existing content that was previously inaccessible.
One of the measures included in the accessibility plan is the creation of a new procedure for service animals.
How can you get authorization to have an animal with you in class or in the office? What safety measures are in place for people who also have to interact with these animals? How can you make a complaint? All this information will be easily available for students, staff and visitors.
Accessible procurement procedures will be developed as well. “We have to determine how to take accessibility into account when purchasing supplies,” says Gagnon.
Staff and volunteers will also be required to complete five new training modules on accessibility. “A professor planning an activity for students involving transportation will learn, among other things, that if the means of transportation is not accessible, another option must be made available at no additional charge to persons with disabilities,” says Gagnon.
How to get involved
Members of the University community with disabilities are invited to take part in an online consultation, now underway, to comment on the new Multi-year Accessibility Plan. The consultation, which involves a four-minute survey, will run until February 15.
It is also possible to become a member of the new uOaccessible advisory committee.
Finally, you can stay informed about any new consultations through the Human Rights Office’s (HRO) email list. “People can choose to take part in surveys on matters they’re really concerned about, whether it’s the physical accessibility of buildings or the visual accessibility of websites,” says Gagnon. Email the HRO to sign up.
To learn more about uOttawa’s efforts to improve accessibility and where the University wishes to go between now and 2024, see the Multi-year Accessibility Plan.
Send us your comments on accessibility at the University of Ottawa by taking part in the current consultations.