Blind student receives no aid

Langara behind other campuses in braille signs for students

Soma Ali uses her white cane to navigate campus. Roxanne Egan-Elliott photo.
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Reported by Roxanne Egan-Elliott

Soma Ali can do everything that other students can on campus, but she can’t fight a bureaucracy that fails to address her concerns.

Two years after raising concerns about the lack of braille signs on campus, Ali still has to ask strangers for help identifying the women’s washroom.

When Ali talked to her disability adviser about why the signs were needed, she was told to go to facilities. Facilities then told Ali that she needed to get her disability adviser make the formal request.

She first made the request in 2016, but no signs were put up. She repeated the request Wednesday and was given the same runaround.

“I just don’t feel like anyone really cares,” Ali said. “I feel like I’m not being taken seriously.”

No braille in Building A

A Voice tally found that campus officials had put no braille signs in any of the washrooms in Building A. Ali spends most of her time in Building B, where she is in the social service worker program. There is only one women’s washroom in the basement of that building, and that washroom has a braille sign.

Ali was so frustrated that she ended up putting up her own signs on the third floor washrooms of Building A, and in classrooms that she regularly used.

Soma Ali reads braille on one of the two women’s washrooms with braille in Building A and B. Photo by Roxanne Egan-Elliott.
Other campuses have braille everywhere

Ali is familiar with UBC, SFU, VCC and Kwantlen Polytechnic University campuses. “I find they have braille services in pretty much every building, every floor, every room, the washrooms including, wherever you’re going. There’s always braille,” she said.

Tashlin Naidoo, who is sighted, was at Langara fundraising for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind on Oct. 18. He has also spent time at SFU, UBC and KPU, and agrees there are braille signs everywhere.

“This is terrible,” Naidoo said. “Without any braille there’s no real way to know which building am I entering? Where am I going?”

Director of facilities Dwayne Doornbosch said by email that he is unaware of when or by whom classroom signs with braille were installed. There are no current plans to install braille on any washroom signs, according to Doornbosch.

Ali said that the response from campus makes her feel defeated, and like she is trapped in a cage.

“My thing is I can do what you guys can all do but I just have to find adaptations to make it work for me,” Ali said.

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