Ryerson’s new state-of-the-art Student Learning Centre is less than three years old but it’s already receiving a failing grade when it comes to accessibility.
According to David Lepofsky, a lawyer and the chair for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, the building presents barriers with its zig-zag ramps, slanted pillars and the angled railings – to name a few problems.
“It’s especially shocking that a building with this many accessibility problems actually won an architecture award from the Canadian Architect Magazine,” Lepofsky explained.
“It shows how out of touch our design laws [and] our building codes are, that they allow these barriers to happen.”
Lepofsky, who has been advocating for better accessibility for the past 40 years, recently posted a video highlighting these challenges in detail.
And he is not the only one concerned.
The Ryerson Student’s Union (RSU) will be rolling out an accessibility audit that has been put together by an accessibility justice organization. The audit will go through every single building on campus to get metrics before sitting at the table with the university.
Camryn Harlick, the vice-president of equity for the RSU, admits the new building was designed for style and less for accessibility.
“People sit along the steps of the ramp, it’s hard to get by,” Harlick said.
“The elevator has restricted access and even then, it only brings you to the main floor.”
CityNews reached out to Ryerson University for comment but has yet to receive a reply.
This past weekend marks the 19th anniversary of a landmark unanimous provincial resolution calling for strong accessibility laws. But Lepofsky believes his video shows Ontario is falling further behind on its goal of becoming accessible by 2025.
Lepofsky thinks it’s up to the government to take more responsibility and stay true to their promises.
“This is a serious problem. To her credit, Premier Wynne, in the 2014 election, promised the coalition that I serve, in writing, that public money would never be used to build building with barriers for people with disabilities,” Lepofsky stated.
“Here, millions of public dollars have gone towards building this building and the results are new barriers for people with disabilities.”
Lepofsky said he and the AODA are not after Ryerson University. AODA has done several videos in the past highlighting challenges at other buildings.
But that they want to see better building codes and accessibility laws province-wide, as well as better training for design professionals and architects.