The lack of wheelchair-accessible washrooms at Room at the Top (RATT) is being brought up by students and patrons of the Students’ Union-run bar.
At a Students’ Council meeting on October 16, Brandi Kobes, a student councillor for agricultural, life and environmental sciences, brought up how wheelchair users at RATT have to go down from the seventh floor to either the first or sixth floor to use the washrooms as the ones in RATT are inaccessible to them. The Students’ Union said they are looking into short and long-term solutions to the issue.
Ron Ally, a long-time customer of RATT and a wheelchair user, said the washrooms on the seventh floor are congested and difficult to get into as they must go through two sets of doors, as opposed to a single door in other wheelchair-accessible washrooms. According to Ally, the washroom problems aren’t limited to getting in and out.
“Even if you have someone to help you get in, there’s no privacy,” Ally added.
Even though the issue of accessibility was recently brought up, Ally said it’s “an old issue that’s been going on for a long time.”
Located on the seventh floor of the Student Union Building (SUB), RATT opened in 1967 and underwent renovations last fall. Ally said he doesn’t understand why the washroom’s inaccessibility wasn’t a consideration in those renovations.
Emma Ripka, Students’ Union vice-president (operations and finance) said the lack of wheelchair-accessible washrooms is a problem faced by both RATT and Dewey’s, the other Students’ Union-run bar, where the nearest accessible washroom is in Triffo Hall, across the path from the pub. Ripka added that the SU has implemented short-term measures to address the issue at RATT, and are looking into long-term options.
Currently, the sixth floor is being kept open until RATT closes to allow people to use the wheelchair-accessible bathrooms on that floor, which was not the case previously. Before this change was made, patrons who needed accessible washrooms had to go down to the first floor.
Ally said while this change in operational policy is more convenient, he still maintains that the washrooms in RATT should be made more accessible to wheelchair users.
“Why should a person go to another floor when you’re in an establishment that should be having these necessities?” Ally asked.
Ripka said a long-term solution of renovations in RATT is an option, but only in the future as it could take anywhere from one to ten years to complete.
“It is pretty tricky to change because it not only requires a lot of capital investment, but it’s blowing out walls to make space for accessible washrooms because the current ones are quite small,” she added.
One idea Ripka mentioned, which she has presented at Students’ Council and will go to a referendum in March, is levying a capital fee to be used for projects in SUB and around campus. These projects could potentially include washroom renovations in RATT.
“The Students’ Union currently doesn’t have the resources for it, but if we have a certain amount of money to spend on enhancing one of our venues or spaces, that would be a really excellent use of those funds,” she said.
Ally said he’s encountered other accessibility issues around campus besides the washrooms in RATT. While he doesn’t know if those issues can be addressed anytime soon, making campus more accessible would mean a lot for wheelchair users like himself.
“I don’t know if they can do anything about it cause right now, we just, you know, not so many people in wheelchairs, but it would sure make a big difference for us,” he said.