Nfld. & Labrador·Access Denied

CBC report card: We invite a journalism student to put our building to the test

College of the North Atlantic student Jonathon Pittman found assets and liabilities when he took a tour of the CBC St. John's building.

A Point of View from CNA student Jonathon Pittman, who found assets and liabilities

Jonathon Pittman said the table in CBC St. John's boardroom was too high for him to use. (John Pike/CBC)

People who are living with a disability have to face many challenges every day that able-bodied people do not even have to think about. 

How do I know this? Well, I am one of the adults living with a disability who worries about whether a building is wheelchair accessible every time I go into a new place. 

So, it was a real honour when CBC asked me to tour its headquarters in St. John's and give my opinion on its accessibility.

First impressions

When I arrived on the GoBus with videographer John Pike, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was relieved to see that the wheelchair ramp was low enough for me to wheel and that there were rails on the ramp for my safety.

However, I needed help to enter the building because the doors were too heavy for me to open. An automated button to open the door would have helped me get through the door without assistance. [There is a sliding door on the ramp, but it needs to be opened from the inside.] 

Ramona Dearing greeted Jonathon Pittman in the CBC St. John's lobby to begin the tour. (John Pike/CBC)

Inside the door and elevator: I was greeted by Ramona Dearing, host of CrossTalk (and reporter on the Access Denied series), and we made our way to the elevator.

The buttons were easy to reach, but the elevator itself was very small. Ramona and I could fit in the elevator, but John had to take the stairs to the second floor.

My wheelchair takes up more room, so extra space is always needed.   

Second-floor hallway: After getting off the elevator, I navigated the narrow hallways to look at the different rooms and workstations. I had to be careful with the twists and turns of the hallway because there was no extra space for my wheelchair to move. 

Something really cool in the hallways was that all the signs had braille — but it was too high for me to see unless someone pointed it out to me.

A room where I felt excluded

Boardroom: I noticed right away that this room was not accessible. The table was too high for me to use; I couldn't move around the room because there wasn't enough room; and I had to strain my neck to look at people because they were sitting in high chairs. 

Jonathon Pittman placed his notebook on the boardroom table at CBC, but said he would be unable to take notes. (John Pike/CBC)

This made me feel very excluded and isolated, but the people I met were all very welcoming and did their best to include me. 

Production areas: I could not enter a few of the equipment and control rooms because there was a high yellow lip on the floor, as well as some heavy doors. I did manage to get into one room because I used my wheelchair to open the door.   

Jonathon Pittman tours Studio A, home to CBC Radio's current affairs shows. (John Pike/CBC)

Washroom: The washroom was great! The door wasn't too heavy, the sink was low and easy for me to use, the toilet was the right height, and a small shelf was available for me to lay my belongings on it.

Jonathon Pittman said he was impressed with the accessible washroom on the first floor. (John Pike/CBC)

I wish more businesses had a washroom like this one. For me, it was perfect. 

Newsroom: This room had a lot of cubicles where journalists did their research for stories that they were working on. It was hard to move, but I was able to manoeuvre on my own as long as I slowed down. 

I had to move my wheelchair around a lot in order to get into a cubicle, but I did manage it without running anyone over.  A highlight for me was meeting Here & Now host Debbie Cooper and meteorologist Ryan Snoddon. Definitely a moment I won't soon forget!

A highlight for Jonathon Pittman (centre) during his visit to CBC St. John's was meeting Here & Now host Debbie Cooper and meteorologist Ryan Snoddon. (John Pike/CBC)

On the studio floor

TV studio: I was able to look around Here & Now's studio and even got a chance to play weatherman using the green screen to read the weather. 

There were a lot of wires on the floor that I could not get over. The camera could also not see me when I was doing the weather, and the desk was too high.

Jonathon Pittman tried his hand at giving the weather forecast. (John Pike/CBC)

But people could see and hear me when I did the Labrador weather, and I could always move around the desk.

This room had its issues, but I still had an amazing time!   

Final thoughts

CBC is a great example for inclusion because the building was accessible while only needing a few modifications, and the staff at CBC included me in every way throughout the day. 

Final grade: Overall, I give it a grade anywhere from a B-minus to a C-plus.

Stay tuned for ongoing coverage of accessibility issues and solutions this week online, on CBC Television's Here & Now, and on CBC Radio One.