Disabled students deserve an accessible campus

SFU fails to accommodate physical access needs

Bureaucratic processes to hostile infrastructure make SFU’s accessibility less than adequate. PHOTO: Kriti Monga / The Peak

By: Anonymous, SFU Student

I’m an undergraduate student who lived on campus for two years out of necessity. I live with disabilities that affect my balance and can make walking extra distances exhausting. Even when the campus isn’t a labyrinth of construction, it’s a maze of stairs and broken elevators. SFU is an accessibility nightmare for people like me.

Even before the additional barriers from SFU’s careless choices since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration was failing to address many disabled students’ needs. With the inaccessibility of the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL), departments lacking compassion, and a failure to consider disability justice in its planning, SFU already routinely ignored us.

CAL’s accommodation process is lengthy, can include financial barriers, and requires more time and energy than students have between semesters. Even with documentation, accommodations are sometimes inadequate and may be denied altogether. Much of the documentation must be done by specialists, who can take months to see and who may not complete forms in a timely manner or at all.

Even when students get accommodations, SFU’s campus is incompatible with many students’ needs. SFU’s physical access guide has not been updated since 2002. It does not reflect today’s campus and student needs. Our administration should be ashamed. With constant renovations, elevators are often closed off without notice. Even when elevators break unexpectedly, it can take some digging to find where to report issues. 

Many accessible washroom stalls and entire single-stall washrooms have been closed for social distancing. For students who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, it’s especially important to keep these washrooms accessible. I need frequent and urgent access to washrooms, especially with symptoms including incontinence and urgency. It’s frustrating as a non-binary disabled person to lose access to gender-neutral washrooms and have most other stalls closed off. 

Living on campus, I would often make urgent washroom stops when just walking to the store and back, but lost that access when SFU chose to close so many single-stall washrooms during the pandemic. I need SFU to make an effort to prioritize student and faculty needs before they bring more students back to campus, and to communicate changes to the buildings that especially impact disabled people. 

I’m exhausted with SFU’s carelessness when it comes to disabled students, but not surprised. Disabled students are not disposable, and SFU needs to recognize that.