Throughout my five years at UTM, I’ve had my fair share of gripes with accessibility services being inaccessible. From broken elevators in CCT and Davis to electronic door openers not working, I’ve exercised patience in hoping that UTM would make improvements to facilities that would prevent or limit these problems. However, I have been continuously disappointed by the lack of effort from the institution in making buildings accessible for everyone.
Recently, I started work as the Arts Editor for The Medium at the Students’ Centre. I was happy and excited to work with people who are so passionate about journalism, but I was less enthusiastic about the Students’ Centre’s facilities, especially the elevator.
Have you ever seen a four-by-four elevator that uses a key to operate? I’ve only seen it once in the old North Building before it was demolished. The elevator in the Students’ Centre fits two people maximum and the door does not open on its own. It looks more like a space locker than an elevator, which is fitting because it evokes the feeling of being trapped in space.
Since The Medium’s office is on the second floor, I have to use the elevator to get upstairs. Doing so is easier said than done though as the key is under the supervision of the UTMSU. We work on Sundays, when the UTSMU is closed, meaning that the key has to be prearranged for use.
For the first two weeks of my job, Ali Taha, The Medium’s Editor-in-Chief, arranged to pick up the key on Friday and return it on Monday—a plan that worked until it didn’t. I have not been at work for the past two weeks because the key has been inaccessible due to fears of liability.
Throughout my use of the elevator, employees at the info booth were adamant about being the sole handlers of the key and elevator because of fears that it would break, which is a valid concern. The problem is the elevator has been in use during the weekdays for students and facility maintenance.
If the elevator is such a hazard, shouldn’t it be permanently closed off until facilities are able to determine its safeness? Why is the elevator considered hazardous on the weekends when student staff are not around?
These are the questions that have been repeating in my mind for the past two weeks. I don’t mind not being able to pick up my cheques, but I do mind not having access to the office so I can do my job—a job that I love and want to excel in.
As a person with a disability, I strive for independence. I am unable to be independent at my job because of these restrictions and accessibility issues. It’s frustrating because I’m not the only person with a disability on campus. If I am denied the opportunity to do my job, then what message does it send to others with disabilities who want to work at The Medium or in the Students’ Centre?
The bottom line is buildings at UTM should be accessible to everyone unless there are official rules or regulations that say otherwise. If the UTMSU is unable to solve these issues in a timely manner, the university must step in and help, otherwise shame on both parties.