Skip to main content Skip to main menu

Policies for Improving Physical Accessibility in College and University

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommended policies for improving physical accessibility in college and university.

Policies for Improving Physical Accessibility in College and University

The Committee recommends that colleges and universities should review all policies, procedures, and practices involving buildings and spaces. This review should use an accessibility lens to identify any ableist beliefs in the policies, procedures, and practices. For example, procedures for building updates that do not address accessibility are written with the implicit assumption that only non-disabled people would use the updated buildings. Revised policies, procedures, and practices should avoid these forms of discrimination. Instead, policies, procedures, and practices for current and future building and renovation projects should be based on inclusive principles.

Furthermore, Colleges Ontario, and the Council of Ontario Universities, should support schools in reviewing policies and developing new policies that comply with the minimum standards for physical accessibility.

Maintenance Policies

For instance, maintenance policies should require staff to prioritize maintaining and repairing features of buildings and spaces that promote accessibility. For example, when maintaining washrooms, staff should ensure that accessible washrooms are maintained in good repair. Similarly, procedures for snow removal should take accessibility into account. Therefore, colleges and universities should review their existing maintenance policies and plans. Reviews should list features of buildings or spaces on campus that are most important to maintain accessibly. Colleges and universities should then monitor maintenance of these features, with help from their Committees for Responding to Results of the Campus Climate Instrument.

In addition, colleges and universities should report on their spending regarding maintenance of accessible building features. Reports should track spending in the previous five (5) years, as well as current spending. These numbers should be part of internal maintenance reports, and external space management reports.

Moreover, the government should a lot funding for physical accessibility and maintenance. The government should also require colleges and universities to allot a percentage of their budgets toward maintaining accessibility features. For example, colleges and universities should have an inventory of materials to maintain and repair accessibility features. This inventory would allow maintenance and repair as quickly as possible, in keeping with policies to prioritize accessible maintenance.

Accessibility Plans During Construction

Furthermore, colleges and universities should have plans and processes to maintain accessibility during construction. Whether a construction project is small or large, it should not prevent students, staff, or visitors from accessing other parts of campus. Therefore, colleges and universities should provide ways for people to navigate campus and reach their destinations despite construction projects. College and university Committees for Responding to the Campus Climate Instrument should support their schools in developing these plans and processes. Finally, colleges and universities should post plans and processes publicly and in accessible formats.

Reviewing Physical Accessibility

Moreover, colleges and universities should hold frequent reviews to determine how physically accessible their campuses are. The Committees for Responding to the Campus Climate Instrument should help to design these reviews. When reviews note possible accessibility improvements, a college or university should plan to make these improvements. These improvement plans should be posted publicly. In addition, the government should view the improvement plans of all colleges and universities in the province. From these plans, the government can collect data about physical accessibility in higher education across Ontario. The data that the government gathers about this systemic accessibility should also be posted publicly.

Furthermore, every year, each college or university should choose one (1) area of improvement from their plan. Then, with support from the Committee for Responding to the Campus Climate Instrument, the school should design and implement a project to improve in that area. Each project should make the college or university more compliant with the government’s minimum standards for physical accessibility. Colleges and universities should outline each project in their annual status reports. If a college or university cannot complete a project in a given year, it should instead explain its reasons in this report.