Our entire lives, we are told to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes in order to understand their perspective. I’ve always considered myself to be a thoughtful person, yet I never realized how little I truly contemplate challenges other people might be facing. However, having recently taken part in the Student Learning Centre’s Charrette on Accessibility allowed me to view my world through a different lens.
What is a charrette? It is an opportunity to have community members gather, collaborate and ultimately resolve a specific issue. This particular charrette initiated a conversation on how to make the SLC more accessible by tackling structural and cultural challenges. Both resolved and unsolved issues were discussed to showcase how far the building has come since opening, and how much further the members of the community want to take it. With help from both faculty, staff and students, many ideas were brought forth to foster a culture of inclusivity in hopes of establishing a new standard across campus, starting with the SLC.
Attending the discussion was an eye-opening experience. It never occurred to me that there are students who require interpreters or text-to-speech devices during lectures. I never considered that maybe I should take the stairs so those who require elevators for mobility can get from floor to floor. This doesn’t derive from any form of malicious intent, but rather an honest unknowing. The charrette inspired me to challenge my ways of thinking, widen my scope, and take in multiple perspectives that I might not have considered before.
The idea of creating an inclusive environment can be daunting, but there are everyday things students can do. It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. When studying in the SLC, let’s keep ramps clear and tuck in chairs to make it easier to navigate the space. Simply opening the door or offering to press a button in the elevator jump-starts a positive change. We may think that developing inclusivity starts with the executives in charge, but in the end, it is up to all of us to make sure our campus is truly welcoming to all.
The SLC has so much to offer. It is important that everyone can benefit from these resources, as they are not privileges, but rights for all Ryerson students. Let’s make the SLC all that it can be; let it be the emblem of inclusivity and have that mindset spread across our campus.