Broken wheelchair buttons are leaving students stuck out in the cold

The wheelchair-accessible buttons for the main doors into the N-building have been broken on and off since early 2022. As the weather continues to get colder, this goes from being a nuisance to being a danger. Logan Stewart is a first-year student in the public relations program at Algonquin College. He uses a wheelchair, and […]
Logan Stewart, a first-year public relations student at Algonquin College, says the broken buttons in the N-building have left him outside in the cold this term.

The wheelchair-accessible buttons for the main doors into the N-building have been broken on and off since early 2022.

As the weather continues to get colder, this goes from being a nuisance to being a danger.

Logan Stewart is a first-year student in the public relations program at Algonquin College. He uses a wheelchair, and has been left out in the cold more than once since he started school last fall.

“Ever since I started attending Algonquin in September, most of my classes are in the N-building, so with that the majority of the time, like nine out of ten, the button doesn’t work to get into the building,” Stewart said.

“That either leaves me outside in the freezing cold in the winter or it leaves me awkwardly sitting there until I message my class group chat to see if somebody is available to come to open it.”

Last week, Stewart was left outside of the building at 7:30 a.m. and was forced to wait 10 minutes for someone to come by and open the door. It was a recorded -6 C outside.

The coordinator of the public relations program, Lara Mills, had reported the problem six different times since Sept. 16, as reported to her by Stewart.

The broken buttons would be fixed and work for a time, then break again.

“We’ve had real problems with it this year,” Mills said. “I reported this again last week.”

One item she noted about the accessible buttons on campus is they don’t always extend to the classroom doors. “I want all my students to get to class on time and not have to run into these obstacles,” she said.

Murray Bourck, coordinator of operation services at Algonquin maintenance department, says when the maintenance department is notified about a broken accessibility button, it gets addressed immediately.

“It’s a high-priority call, we do not take it lightly,” he said. “We understand that students with access issues need to be able to open doors.”

The ongoing problem in N-building is likely due to a system malfunction of incompatible parts, Bourck says.

In early January 2022, the front door and main floor lobby of N-building were redone. However, a design issue with construction meant the accessibility buttons were replaced with newer ones, but the old technology system was left in place.

Since this problem in the N-building has begun, new measures have been taken by the maintenance department including scheduling monthly check-ups on the accessibility buttons on a rotating basis.

For the 20 staff members who work in maintenance on campus, there is one person who does the locksmithing and maintains all the doors and accessibility buttons.

Bourck says they are working on further repairs in the N-building.

“Going forward what they are going to do is either A, buy the existing buttons that are compatible with the existing technology, or B, replace the whole system,” he said.

Two buildings at Algonquin College recently received the top accessibility rating from the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification TM Program in April 2022: the Jack Doyle Athletics and Recreation Centre and the Robert C Gillett Student Commons Building. This means that the buildings scored over 80 per cent on the foundation’s survey of accessibility features including doors and the buttons required to open them.

“Personally, I think Algonquin is one of the most accessible campuses in Ontario,” Stewart said. “I choose Algonquin because of the accessibility. I think it’s a really good campus, they’re just lacking in one specific area with the buttons.”

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