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Concerns over lack of button for accessible washroom in SC building

Credit: JESSICA THOMPSON

Although the SC1006 washroom is designated accessible, there isn't a button to open the door.


Emily Stewart | Interrobang | News | January 9th, 2017




Fanshawe has many designated accessible washrooms on campus. The F2012 washroom has a change table and motorized lift, and the A2031 has a manual lift to help those who may need to use these features.

However, the accessible washroom in SC1006, the closest accessible washroom to the Health Clinic and the Fowler Kennedy Clinic, does not have a button that can be pushed to open the door to serve people with physical disabilities.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires that the province is fully accessible by 2025.

Donna McInnis, the manager of project and construction management and acting manager of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe, explained that the SC building was first built in 2004, and the Ontario building code at the time did not require that the door have an accessibility button. She explained that whether or not an accessible door button can be installed, and how much it will cost, also depends on factors such as where they can access electricity. McInnis said that the total cost for installing one could start from “a couple thousand dollars” depending on the situation.

She added a lack of a button “doesn't make the washroom inaccessible, it's just a bit more difficult for individuals barring ability to get into the space.”

However, some current and previous students of the college said that the washroom should have a button.

Annette Dawm, a filmmaker and writer, attended Fanshawe College from 2010 to 2014, and went from interactive media and design (formerly multimedia design and production) to general arts and sciences, to advanced filmmaking, to office administration.

Dawm has cerebral palsy affecting her mobility, along with her visual perception and motor skills, and uses a wheelchair. She said that when she was at Fanshawe, she would often go back to residence to use the washrooms because she couldn't access the other ones on campus without also using a walker.

When asked about the washroom in SC building lacking a button, Dawm said, “If you do not have a button, you are not accessible.”

She added that washrooms must accommodate all students because everyone needs to use the washroom at some point. “It's a bodily function that's not optional, so a button should not be an option. If I can't even open [or] shut the door, how am I supposed to use the toilet?”

Melissa Socha, a social service worker student, said she often speaks on behalf of her friends and colleagues with disabilities and that they agree some of the on-campus washrooms are inaccessible. She noted that the doors in the washrooms in F building need to be pushed open, and the ones in SC building have a handle that needs to be first gripped than pushed down to open it.

“I don't get why you have different door handles in different washrooms of different buildings,” she said.

Socha added that she finds there are only so many washrooms on campus that accommodate many disabilities on campus. “What happens if that washroom is occupied and they can't hold it in? What are they going to do?”

Helen Goertzen, a developmental service worker student at Fanshawe, said that she has “good upper arm strength” and “can open the door to the washroom in SC building”, but added she feels “bad for students who have to travel to a different building to use the washroom because that door does not have a button.”

Goertzen also said that she has had issues with the elevators on campus. She's been at Fanshawe for four years, and said that she did not know that H building's third floor wasn't connected to any other buildings when she took the elevator on her first day of college.

She added that she struggled with finding elevators because signs listing elevator locations were not available.

“Don't get me wrong, I love being a Fanshawe Falcon, and the campus is accessible for the most part,” Goertzen said. “There are a few things I'd change so that the campus is more inviting and more inclusive.”

Carlie Forsythe, Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) president, also said she “always thought it was a tiny bit strange” that the washroom in SC building lacks an accessible button. “I think if we're going to do [add a button], we're going to do it very soon with the Wellness Centre opening up.”

Forsythe added that the renovated SC building will have a refillable water bottle station and moving the FSU office on the lower level. “Hopefully, we have it done next year. If not, maybe absolute latest 2018,” she said of installing an accessible washroom.
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