Blocked from medical appointment, McGill student with disabilities speaks out against construction

A McGill University student who uses a wheelchair says ongoing City of Montreal construction work on McTavish and Sherbrooke streets is making it difficult for her to get around the university’s campus.

Doctoral candidate says repositioning a plank ramp when construction shifts should be obvious

McGill doctoral student Stephanie Chipeur says construction around the university's downtown campus is making it even harder to get where she needs to be. (Submitted by Stephanie Chipeur)

One McGill University student with disabilities is speaking out against ongoing construction around campus which has now caused her to miss a medical appointment and an important event for doctoral students.

Doctoral candidate Stephanie Chipeur is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair. She says work on McTavish and Sherbrooke streets is making it difficult to get around.

Chipeur says that in the past two weeks, she missed a medical appointment at the Brown Building's student centre, because the building's access ramp was blocked due to construction.

"Places that were once accessible are no longer accessible," Chipeur said.

Nearby city workers offered to lift her and her wheelchair into the building — an offer she refused.

"My wheelchair is 250 pounds, and it's not safe. I told them, this is a public university, and you're blocking me from seeing my doctor."

The scene on McTavish Street, one of the main streets along McGill Campus. (Cecilia MacArthur/CBC)

In a statement to CBC Montreal, McGill says the school is in "daily contact with the city to adapt as best we can to ensure that any disruptions are minimized."

"Pathways around the main student services building, for example, are constantly shifting. So access ways also have to be moved and adjusted," McGill communications agent Chris Chipello said in a statement.

Missed most important event of the year

Chipeur says she was also unable to attend an event for doctoral students because her adapted transit vehicle could not drive through a construction site to let her out, even though she says workers were letting food delivery vans through.

"I missed the most important event of the year for doctoral students," says Chipeur.

"We were all there, my aide, my transit driver, and we were turned around. I couldn't go to school that day."

Chipeur says the city needs to do more to ensure its work doesn't disrupt the daily activities of people with disabilities.

"When it's [work near] public buildings, they need to think about people in wheelchairs. It's no big deal to make a plank ramp, they have to think about it."

City open to suggestions

City of Montreal spokesperson Philippe Sabourin says they have taken steps to ensure the campus is accessible to people with disabilities during the ongoing construction, such as "fixing the minimum width of outdoor pathways to 1.5 metres, to allow for a wheelchair to pass through."

He says the city hasn't received any formal complaints about accessibility during construction, but it is open to receiving suggestions on how to make the campus easier to navigate.

The university adds it is exploring options to make the campus more accessible during construction, such as extending the opening hours of a building that provides elevator access between McTavish and Dr. Penfield streets.


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