By Jeff Bolichowski, Standard Staff
The doors of knowledge will swing open a little wider this summer for Brock University’s growing crop of physically disabled scholars.
The school will widen the west entrance and varsity team room doors at the Walker Complex with a grant of more than $104,000 in federal cash, announced Monday by St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra. School officials expected the overhauls, which include adding automatic door openers, to be finished by early July.
It’s a welcome announcement for 19-year-old Natasha Southwell.
“I’m pleased,” said the second-year accounting student, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. “It’s important to find funding for accessibility.”
The Fonthill resident, who sits on the school’s accessibility advisory committee, said getting around is already fairly smooth but the new work is critical
to help keep things that way.
“I guess it’s an opportunity to sort of advance the school, make it more appealing for other students to come.”
Dykstra said the upgrades, the funding for which was accounted for in the 2009-10 economic stimulus plan, are overdue for visitors seeking a straightforward route to the facility’s gym and pool.
He said visitors couldn’t access those areas from the western entrance and had to take a more roundabout route through the building.
It’s all the tougher to get in for wheelchair athletes, he said, because their chairs tend to be wider than normal wheelchairs.
“Both of these projects certainly have been a need to be completed for a number of years,” he said by phone.
University accessibility co-ordinator Margaret Sanderson said the upgrades mean it will be easier for disabled students and staff to make it to classes
and other activities on their own.
It’s a needed change, she said, for a growing population of disabled students occupying an older building.
“Over the years, building codes change and we have more people with disabilities participating in sports and health and well-being and community events,” she said.
An aging population, too, has more seniors visiting campus, she said. She declined to put a number to Brock’s population of disabled students and staff,
but called it “significant” — and rising, as it is at other schools in Ontario.
The projects are slated to be completed in time for the World under-25 Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Championships that run July 15 to 21.
Work on the doors will come to about $56,000, while the west entrance will cost about $48,300.
The cash comes from the federal government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund. It’s among $14.2 million being shelled out for 297 accessibility projects across Canada.
Dykstra said Brock was the only school to gain funding under that plan, in part because it’s open to the community.
“It was felt that it was a community pool, a community gym,” he said.
Reproduced from http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3157588