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If you were parking like that, you’d get a ticket …

28 November 2013 No Comment

Hey, you! Yes, you. I’m on to you– I know where you surreptitiously disappear to when you think nobody’s looking. What’s the big deal, anyway?  Everybody does it. Going to the bathroom is a universal thing.

Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Using the accessible washrooms (the huge ones featuring wheelchair signs, support bars, and other equipment) when you don’t need them is ignorant.

Mohawk College has over forty washrooms on campus. Jennifer Jahnke, the college’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act project coordinator, says she doesn’t know the exact number of accessible washrooms on campus, but her “best guess” for the Fennell Campus is that of those forty plus washrooms, only six are fully accessible. Four are in the DBARC Fitness Center; two are in the E-wing, and there are only two semi-accessible washrooms in rest of the school.

All the other bathrooms, though they technically include “accessible” stalls, are so tiny that it’s difficult to fit a rolling walker in one, let alone anything larger, like an electric wheelchair or even a scooter.

How would you feel if you were in a similar position? Needing a bathroom that was big enough to accommodate you and the only thing that allows you basic mobility, only to have other people- people who can move just fine and can fit themselves into regular stalls without hassle- using it all the time, preventing you from doing so. Some people require more than just the extra space, they need support staff, too- and those support staff can’t wait around for people who should know better.

This issue is not unique to Mohawk, but seems to be present everywhere. McMaster student Freddy Bautista can attest to this. “In McMaster, in some cases there are buildings that only have one disabled washroom. If an able-bodied person uses it, that takes away from someone who actually needs it, and there aren’t any other options. It can ruin someone’s day.”

Bautista adds, “Nobody really notices that we (the disabled community) exist. No one really realizes how many people actually need these washrooms. People don’t respect the disabled as much.”

Considering the number of differently-abled students at the school, something needs to change. If Mohawk touts “accessible” stalls in its bathrooms, then they should actually be accessible, with enough room to accommodate an electric wheelchair and the person using it. It’s not impossible: even WalMart has one. This is not a case of expecting preferential treatment when it comes to using pre-designated washrooms; it’s a case of calling out the gaps in equality and expecting change that will not only make Mohawk a more attractive place to study, but make it a leader when it comes to accessibility issues.

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