Creating a barrier-free campus

By Brandon Watson
September 09, 2010

Second-year Law student Alexandra Papaiconomou finds herself walking on campus with more confidence these days.

With less than a month with her new guide dog, she is still building trust.
However, recent enhancements to Western's walkways have made it a little easier to get around, providing "added assurance" with each trip she takes. The new detectable warning surfaces at the edge of the road crossings have made getting around campus safer.
The bright red plates and yellow concrete ramps provide visual and non-visual cues for Papaiconomou and others who are visually impaired. "A lot of crossings on campus are angled and (guide) dogs are only trained to do straight crossings," Papaiconomou says. "I do think the tactile markings will help my dog make that adjustment."
Already familiar with the campus, she believes the true value of the warning surfaces will be realized by newer visitors, who have not established landmarks for moving around campus.
As a complement to the vibrant colours, texturing in the concrete also plays a critical role. The raised pattern of bubbles – often referred to as truncated domes – enables persons who are visually impaired to determine the edge of the walkway. The unique design makes easy distinction under foot and by sound on cane contact. The parallel lines on either side of the tactile plates provide directional cues to the plate location and orientation for crossing.
"The new enhancements to our facilities will remove physical barriers and ensure our campus is open to everyone in the community," says Craig Fellner, Physical Plant project administrator.
Detectable warning surfaces represent roughly one quarter of a larger $2-million project to eliminate physical barriers in Western's built environment. According to Fellner, other portions of the project include upgrades such as widening existing barrier-free ramps and retrofitting existing entrances.
While most of these projects are scheduled to commence in the fall, Althouse College and the University Community Centre are already sporting new exterior ramps.



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