Getting a sense of barriers faced by differently-abled students

By Dale Johnson Posted: December 9, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Costa Maragos (l), Peter Adams and Carla Harris wheel through the foodcourt in the Riddell Centre.
Costa Maragos (l), Peter Adams and Carla Harris wheel through the foodcourt in the Riddell Centre. Photo courtesy of Rae Graham - U of R Photography.

Some University of Regina employees recently got experience in finding out about obstacles faced by people in wheelchairs.

The Wheelchair Challenge was co-ordinated by Nicole Bear, a third-year Theatre student and Director of Differently-Abled Students for the UR Students’ Union, and Stephanie Gomersall, Acting Manager for the Centre for Student Accessibility.

Bear says the purpose of the event was to “open up people’s eyes about the challenges of navigating the university in a wheelchair.”

Seven people met at the Crush Space in the Riddell Centre. John Loeppky, who runs the Inclusion Initiative at U of R, gave a demonstration of how to manoeuvre in a wheelchair and provided some safety tips.

Then they were off for a trip around campus – through the foodcourt, browsing in the bookstore, and up to the fourth floor of the Archer Library.

It didn’t take long for them to get a very different perspective of the University of Regina.

“This was an eye opening experience for me. You see the campus in a different light after spending a couple of hours in a wheelchair,” says Costa Maragos, University Spokesperson and Community Affairs Advisor.

“Seeing what people have to go through on a daily basis is quite a mind-boggling experience,” Peter Adams, Assistant Manager at the Bookstore, remarks.

“This has been a great experience. I have more respect for people who have to use wheelchairs everyday,” Carla Harris, Manager of Student Employee Services says.  

So what are some of the obstacles they faced in wheelchairs that they never noticed while walking around campus?

As Harris arrived in the bookstore, she said “a ramp doesn’t appear to be very steep, but when I tried to go up in a wheelchair, it was very difficult.”

Inside the bookstore, the participants had to be careful not to bump into any of the shelves, prompting Adams to say: “Being one of the managers of the bookstore, I will be extremely sensitive in terms of the placement of our merchindise so that it’s fully wheelchair accessable.”

And Maragos also got a different view of the campus.

“I quickly realized how it was the little things that became a huge annoyance. For example a footstool left in between bookshelves made it a challenge to get by. I wish elevator doors could stay open just a few seconds longer,” he says. “On the other hand, I found people on campus were always willing to help - and it was done with a smile.”