Thursday, December 13, 2018

WISC DoorIt was supposed to increase accessibility, but it also “opened the door” to so much more.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at St. Paul’s opened in 2012, providing a welcome space for the sharing of Indigenous knowledge, culturally relevant information and support services for all members of the University of Waterloo community, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. 

But for anyone who was not fully able-bodied, accessibility to the actual centre was challenging.

This year, the Centre received an Enabling Accessibility Fund grant, from Employment and Social Development Canada, allowing the construction of a direct entry from outside the building, facing onto Westmount Road.

“We thought that this door would make it easier for accessibility and for Indigenous students to come in and out,” says Lori Campbell, WISC Director. “It has done that and a lot more.”

At least one regular user of the Centre and several visiting Elders who are mobility-challenged have found the new door to be a very useful asset. But in addition to its planned purposes, the door has also helped build relationships with other St. Paul’s students and staff, and visitors, many of whom use the door as they move through the College.

WISC FLags“The door has caused a lot of opportunities for interaction,” says Campbell. “Part of taking steps toward Reconciliation is interacting with one another, and being visible to one another. This door has created opportunities for education and relationship.”

Many people just walking past the Centre stop and engage with materials and people connected with the Centre. Campbell has particularly noticed people reading the displays on which Indigenous students have finished the sentence, “I self-declare to be of Indigenous ancestry because…”

And as with any renovation, the new door has also made much of the work of the Centre easier, whether that’s allowing the Centre’s Coordinator, Cheryl Maksymyk, to more easily bring in supplies for the Centre’s weekly Soup and Bannock Days (open to the entire university community), or simply that no longer do students need to message someone to open the back door to the Centre or to find their way to an elevator and through the entire College.

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