The photo shows the brightly coloured rainbow stairs that can be found on the Nanaimo campus of Vancouver Island University. The coloured steps go blue, green, yellow, orange, and then red up the stairs.

VIU tries to makes the steep climb to accessibility much easier / Image via Lauryn Mackenzie

A VIU press release announced that the Nanaimo campus and the Cowichan Trades Centre will be seeing new upgrades for greater accessibility. The Rick Hansen Foundation recently granted the VIU Foundation $240,000 for improving VIU’s 12 least accessible buildings.

VIU’s Universal Access Committee Chair Dr. Linda Derksen explains that the money comes from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Ministry of Social Development and Property Reduction.

Handrails on ramps, high-contrast signs pointing to accessible routes, hearing equipment at service desks, change tables in washrooms, adjustable desks, and rolling workstations are some of the many upgrades to improve accessibility.

According to the press release, in 2018, the VIU Foundation had the Rick Hansen Foundation rate all the buildings at each of VIU’s campuses for a “wide range of accessibility needs, including vision and hearing.” Only 29 buildings met the criteria to achieve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification.

In 2018, the Universal Access Committee was formed to apply for grant money to make improvements at the university. Since then, many departments on campus, including the library, human resources, and campus development, have been working to make their areas more accessible.

“We are making hundreds of little changes that add up to making the whole campus much more accessible for a wide range of people,” Derksen says.


Lauryn is a fourth-year Digital Media Studies student. She has had her work featured in the Powell River Peak, Portal Magazine, and The Discourse. When she’s not looking up fun facts about bees, she’s probably fantasying about Portland, Oregon.

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