Several months ago, I was pleased to host a Vic alumnus who is in his 90s on our beautiful campus. As we walked throughout campus, he told me stories about playing sports in our quad, spending time in the library and rushing to classes and clubs. Just like our students today! It was emotional for him, revisiting our iconic buildings and green spaces that were so special to him in his youth.
But there was a tinge of pain as well, emotionally and physically, because it was not always easy for him to navigate our less accessible spaces. He has limited mobility at this age and uses a walking stick. His disability is visible, but there are some neurodiverse members of our community who face accessibility challenges that make it difficult for them to fully engage with and enjoy our campus and robust academic offerings.
My academic research explores these types of opportunities, so this is close to my scholarly passion. I was encouraged by the great insights shared with us by participants in our Minding our Minds conference this past fall. We have made a lot of great strides to increase accessibility, including adding ramps, rails and elevators; widening doors of washrooms; and supporting those who need accommodation. But we need to do more.
Accessibility is front and centre as we start to re-imagine some of our spaces on campus, and our EDIA work will help shape how we move forward. Everyone’s input will be required as we shape a more accessible Vic U experience. The Victoria University HR team recently posted new accessibility policies and the Multi-Year Accessibility Plan on our EDIA webpages. I would encourage Victoria University staff and faculty to review them and consider their role in ensuring that anyone with a disability feels like they truly belong at Vic U.
Rhonda N McEwen
President and Vice-Chancellor