The AMS, Access and Diversity, and Campus and Community Planning (CCP) are teaming up to plan an accessibility shuttle service for central campus. While Translink's community shuttles provide transportation around the campus perimeter, this program would focus on making UBC’s pedestrian core safer and more accessible for those with disabilities.
“Campus is large and the central part of the campus is highly pedestrianized. It has been a very successful public realm plan that has been put in place for the campus. It made it very walkable,” said Michael White, the associate vice-president of CCP. “What we want to do now is to build on that by providing access to destinations in the heart of campus for those with mobility challenges.”
Current services available to students with disabilities inhibiting their mobility through Access and Diversity include the ability to shift the location of classes and working spaces, closer parking spaces and information concerning where to rent aid equipment. To access these services, students have to provide documentation and discuss their needs with a disability advisor, which usually take 40 minutes. Access to the shuttle service would most likely require the same registration process.
A needs assessment recently conducted by CCP pointed towards a need for better mobility access on campus, especially to and from key buildings.
The result of this assessment was brought to the AMS’s attention by Aviva Savelson, CCP’s senior policy manager and the head of the mobility needs program project.
After spending the summer exploring the feasibility of the program, the team — which includes members of the AMS, Access and Diversity and CCP — is now sending a proposal for the project to both the university's executive and AMS council for approval. While certain parts of the governance model are yet to be finalized, it has been determined that the program will be hosted by the university, and run by the AMS and Access and Diversity as a joint venture.
“Once [the plan is] approved, we will spend the next term building the actual service itself,” said Hussam Zbeeb, the AMS Student Services manager. “We will look at pieces like which groups are we going to reach out to and how are we going to consult students. Hopefully, early launch of the service will be next summer and all ready to go by September 2017.”
In the coming years, it is hoped that there will be two shuttles navigating campus and dropping people off at their respective buildings. White hopes that a shuttle services will improve the accessibility of buildings such as the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Indian Residential School and Dialogue Centre which is currently under construction.
“We looked at schools in the [United States and] some of them have upward of 60 different shuttles operating during busy times,” said Zbeeb. “Most Canadian schools don’t have this service, so we hope to bring it up here.”