Taking accessibility to the next level

For many members of the McMaster community, grabbing a sandwich or slice of pizza in La Piazza, or selecting a soft drink from a display case are straight-forward parts of any regular day.

But these routine actions are anything but straight-forward for some.

“Reaching for a drink, placing an order at a service counter or grabbing a coffee can be challenging for McMaster community members with varying physical abilities,” says Chris Roberts, Director of Hospitality Services.

Last spring, Hospitality Services brought Sterling Frazer Associates in to audit the physical accessibility of the 18 food service locations within McMaster Hospitality Services so that the University could understand any service gaps and in preparation for compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

For Roberts and his team, some of the results were surprising. Most food service counters were too high, debit machine cords not long enough, and some shelves, display racks and self-serve stations could not be accessed by all customers. And this was only scratching the surface.

After the audit, Roberts developed 93 actions to make hospitality Services more accessible. The list was long but was divided into what required immediate action and those items that required longer term planning.

The hospitality team took these results seriously and have already completed most of the items that required immediate attention. There has been new accessibility training for Hospitality Services, and for its major suppliers.

One of the most important outcomes though, was a change to how the hospitality team thinks about customer service.

“All students, staff and faculty should feel comfortable dining on campus. This audit helped identify what we can do to be more inclusive to our customers. Personally, it’s changed the way I see things and make decisions. I’m paying attention to different details now, from colour contrast on menus to how and where we place our displays,” Roberts says.

While the Summary and Action Plan developed from the audit was specific to Hospitality Services, the experiences and lessons learned may be applied to different areas across campus. The Hospitality Services team is hoping to share the audit and summary with other departments that are looking to make accessibility improvements.

“This is a great step for the McMaster community,” says Tim Nolan, Director, Student Accessibility Services. “McMaster is a home and workplace for thousands with varying physical abilities. Taking actions like this are important not only for complying with AODA but for improving the daily experiences of everyone who visits, lives or works on the McMaster campus.”

For additional information on the Accessibility Review, contact Chris Roberts at roberch@mcmaster.ca.

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