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
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
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
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.