‘One design flaw after another’: Accessibility advocate calls out new Ryerson building

Fri, Nov 3: Ontario is promising to be fully accessible by 2025 but as Caryn Lieberman found out, there are barriers in brand new buildings that are causing frustration for some people living with disabilities.

TORONTO – “It’s one design flaw after another.”

David Lepofsky is a Toronto lawyer with a passion for fighting accessibility inequality.

Blind most of his life, he recently created a video highlighting deficiencies he said he discovered at a publicly-funded building in downtown Toronto.

Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre is an eight-storey, 155-thousand square foot state of the art building with a modern design that has won multiple awards for architecture.

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But Lepofsky, who first visited in 2015 when he was asked to chair an all-candidates debate on disabilities issues, noted the building has a number of “accessibility barriers that essentially leave out people.

“We didn’t just invent people with disabilities, we’ve been around as long as there have been people around,” he remarked.

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“This building is an example of the kind of problems people with disabilities should not be facing in the year 2017 in the province of Ontario.”

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Lepofsky brought Global News on a tour to show just how difficult it is for a blind man to navigate the entrance and main floor stairs in the building.

“There’s no handrail which is bad for somebody with balance issues or a person with vision loss, we routinely use a railing to help guide us especially up a maze-like ramp like this.”

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In a statement, Ryerson University wrote “The Student Learning Centre meets the requirement of the current applicable Ontario Building Code and meets the best practices of Ryerson’s Accessibility standards, to ensure that the building is inclusive to all abilities. In the spirit of inclusivity, on-going improvements are being integrated into the programming and physical operations of the building.”

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario also responded, noting “There is still a long way to go to reach our goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025. We will need to keep working together to achieve that goal so that people of all abilities can participate and contribute at their full potential.”

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Meantime, David Lepofsky will keep fighting for a more accessible Ontario.

“Both our laws and our design professionals who serve us are both letting us down,” he said.

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