MRU blind to needs of the sight impaired
Campus layout a serious hazard for the visually disabled
Mount Royal University seems blind to the fact that the campus is in need of a serious renovation.
Marco Migotti, a former MRU student who still frequents campus to visit his friends, is blind. He said he has struggled when trying to do even the basics around campus.
The main building, which is also the oldest, is not safe for the visually impaired and the fully blind.
“The old building we are in here is really in need of a renovation. We have been talking about it for years,” said Janice Rieger, an interior design instructor at MRU, who has won an award for advocacy towards universal design.
Even locating things as simple as bathrooms is “a hit and miss thing,” unless you’re always using the same ones and memorize which side is which, Migotti said. When you’re in a new hallway it’s a huge challenge, he added.
Bathrooms around MRU don’t have signs for the visually impaired. Not only do the doors lack Braille, but the signs aren’t tactile in any way.
“You just kind of open the door and hope nobody screams,” Migotti said.
Although new buildings such as the EB and EC buildings are very well designed, Rieger said, most of the main campus isn’t updated. However, the recreation center won an award for their inclusive design.
Rieger recognizes the challenges that the visually impaired and blind face. She explained that those with physical disabilities are now being taken into consideration, but the visually impaired still remain forgotten in a lot of cases.
Bathrooms aren’t the only issue Migotti has faced on campus. Many doors lead to stairwells that aren’t marked with Braille. Steps around the campus don’t have grips, which are designed so that those with visual disabilities know when they have reached stairs.
Staircases don’t have color-coding that help those with different degrees of visual impairment distinguish each step.
“It is because when we think about accessibility as integrated into architecture and design, it is only usually for physical access and not for people with vision loss or people with hearing loss as well,” Rieger said.
Problems are occurring not only in the old building, but in some of the newer ones as well. Water fountains are a typical example, placed at levels that can’t be detected by a white cane.
When asked for potential reasons why the changes may not have been made, Rieger explained that part of the reason is that there isn’t funding and that lately the concept has been put on the back burner.
According to Migotti, the best resource currently available to him on campus is other people.
“I find what helps in terms of getting around is just the people that are helpful,” Migotti said. “I can ask most people for help.” One of the most helpful resources for those with visual loss is the security desk, where guards will escort you to a certain location, he added.
Something to remember for students is to be considerate of those with a visual disability — watch which side of the hallways they are walking on and help anyone who appears to be struggling. This way, students can make MRU a little safer for the visually impaired.
Migotti still enjoys his visits to campus because it has given him a chance to meet a lot of people and make some new friends along the way. Practice with walking, not only around campus but other locations as well, helps him keep up with navigation skills and allows him to challenge himself.