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Accessibility pilot project aims to improve access in lecture theatre

By Eula Mengullo, March 14 2023

Students from the Undergraduate Biological Sciences Equity Sub-Committee (UBSEC), in partnership with Enrolment Services and Student Accessibility Services, initiated an accessibility pilot project in the Science Theatres to help reserve seats for those who may or may not have formal accessibility accommodations.

With the help of the Registrar, courtesy stickers were placed in certain seats in the Science Theatre lecture halls as it was deemed to be one of the most crowded spots on campus.

The idea was spearheaded by a group of undergraduate students within the undergraduate group of the Equity Committee of Biological Sciences, UBSEC.

“We basically had brainstorming sessions where we were trying to decide on projects that we could actually do something about,” said Constance Finney, associate professor and chair of Equity Committee of Biological Sciences. 

Finney elaborated that the group aspired for an initiative that could yield immediate, tangible results. 

Initially, the group wanted to address equity within the context of hybrid learning, but with the return on campus, they recognized the need for physical accessibility measures that most had forgotten due to remote learning.

“The project was something relatively straightforward that we could push,” said Finney. “And it was something that our committee could start from beginning to end, and be able to really get something done.”

Similarly, Betalihem Lemma, an undergraduate representative in the sub-committee, expressed the importance of increasing accessibility for those who have non-visible accommodating needs. 

“I think that it’s great that we’re pushing to gain more accessibility on campus,” said Lemma. “Especially for individuals who may not visibly appear like they need accessibility and people who don’t have formal accommodations.

“I think it’s important that we are casting a wide net so that we can make it inclusive for as many people as possible,” Lemma continued.

While the initiative evidently includes those who have long-term accessibility issues, it also encompasses individuals with temporary mobilization accommodations such as pregnant individuals or those with injuries. 

“It’s a lot broader than people think,” said Finney. “If at any point you have a mobility issue or an access issue, then this initiative can be of benefit to you.”

Overall, the committee hopes that this project will not only raise awareness, but eventually translate into a campus-wide initiative. 

“It’s just reminding people that access is not equal for all, and reminding them that equity is important,” said Finney. “These small things make for a better overall equitable campus.”

The group is currently holding a survey to help garner feedback from the campus community and transform the project into a campus-wide initiative. Finney emphasized that this feedback is crucial in order to move the initiative forward. If successful, this would enable a campus-wide roll out of courtesy seating stickers in other crowded lecture halls. 

In their concluding remarks, Finney also acknowledged the help of the Enrolment Services and the Student Accessibility Services in bringing the pilot project to fruition. 

“They were supportive and made sure the project can actually move ahead,” said Finney. 

Surveys for the initiative can be accessed through a QR code on posters posted across campus or by reaching out to biosciedi@ucalgary.ca.

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