For students with mobility issues, a snowy campus is more than an annoyance

For most students, snowfall on UBC campus can be an annoyance. For people reliant on wheelchairs and walkers, it can be much worse.

Students with mobility impairments are unhappy with UBC’s measures to facilitate accessibility during snowfall, saying navigating slippery and uncleared pathways can be next to impossible.

Second-year Arts student Mason McClement, who relies on a wheelchair, said he was forced to use a road last week when the wheelchair ramp to the Anthropology and Sociology Building “was completely covered [with] ice.”

“When I finally arrived [at] the ANSO, the conditions were very icy, causing me to lose traction on a number of occasions,” continued McClement. “The sidewalks I used to get there in the first place were not properly addressed, causing me to slide into the road at one point on the way.”

It is not just uncleared pathways that are causing trouble. Access to buildings is also a matter of concern for many students.

Students have reported uncleared snow at the entrances to buildings. “Sometimes the snow is not fully cleared near entrances to the buildings,” said commerce student Shaan Lail. “During the snowfall, I had difficulty entering the Henry Angus Building from the side entrance.”

“[This] leads me to question the system that the university adopts to prioritize efforts to clear ice and snow,” said McClement.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Superintendent of Municipal and Construction Services Jenniffer Sheel said that accessibility is “very important to UBC.” She pointed out that “roads and pathways on campus are cleared according to a priority map that ensures important thoroughfares are maintained, and that buildings requiring wheelchair accessibility are clear of obstructions.”

Map showing priority roads for UBC building operations
Map showing priority roads for UBC building operations UBC Building Operations

But Building Operations does acknowledge that “only main walkways will be cleared” during snow removal because of the campus’ size. It also encourages students with mobility issues to “make your best assessment of the conditions before venturing across campus” during extreme weather.

Sheel assured that UBC strives to clear roads and pathways quickly to ensure that campus remains accessible in inclement weather.

“Anyone with concerns about routes that require clearing is encouraged to let us know right away,” she wrote.

Affected students say UBC should do more to clear peripheral pathways, especially as many students might not be aware of who to contact when a crucial path is blocked.

“Not everyone is going to email or inform [them] about obstructed pathways,” said Lail.

McClement says he wants to see more on UBC’s part to listen to disabled students’ needs.

“[This is possible] if you consult them in a way that is predictable, apparent and open to consultation and discussion.” he said.

Are you a student with mobility issues who struggles to navigate campus in the snow? Reach out to our news team at news@ubyssey.ca.