Working to enhance accessibility
By Karmen Dowling
June 19, 2003
Western is working on making people with disabilities feel more
welcome and comfortable on campus.
The Western Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (WODAC) is a new group formed at Western to ensure the university takes a proactive approach in meeting its obligations under the new Ontarian With Disabilities Act (ODA).
"This Act requires the University to ensure the accessibility of our programs, facilities, practices and procedures to persons with disabilities within our student body, faculty and staff," says Peter Mercer, Vice-President (Administration) and General Counsel and WODAC committee member. "The committee will perform two key functions; prepare Western's Annual Accessibility Plan as required under the ODA and identify existing barriers to accessibility at Western and develop a plan for their removal."
Mercer adds this committee is important because it embodies the University's dedication and commitment to diversity as set out in the Strategic Plan.
"Western has a long history of working to enhance access for persons with disabilities through areas such as Services for Students with Disabilities, Student's Council and through Physical Plant's efforts to build and renovate existing buildings," says Lisa Klinger, Department of Occupational Therapy and WODAC committee member. "WODAC continues this tradition and provides a vehicle to strengthen and enhance Western's track record in this regard."
Klinger is also involved in the University Campus Accessibility Measure (UCAM), which is being developed from work done by Drs. Linda Miller and Doreen Bartlett and several students from the department of Occupational Therapy. Through UCAM, several buildings will be assessed, enabling the group to measure and record whether buildings are physically accessible to persons with various impairments.
"UCAM will identify specific areas for improvement, so that physical improvements can be prioritized," says Klinger. "We also hope to assist in the completion of a map of campus and affiliates, outlining routes and points of access for persons with disabilities, to have ready for September 2003."
Mark Walma, Equity Services Advisor and Chair of WODAC, says the committee is on the right track, but to achieve their goals, they need to receive more advice from faculty, staff, and students. They would like to hear about people's experiences, both positive and negative, of how "barriers" exist or have been removed at Western and what impact they have had on their ability to be fully involved in various endeavours.
For more information about WODAC, please visit: www.uwo.ca/equity/WODAC/WODAC%20index.html
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