Feb. 17, 2023

Student group launches accessibility pilot project in Science Theatre classrooms

Courtesy seating stickers encourage a more accessible classroom environment
courtesy seating stickers

This semester, new courtesy seating stickers were placed on certain seats in lecture halls in the Science Theatres. Students from the Undergraduate Biological Sciences Equity Sub-Committee (UBSEC), in collaboration with Enrolment Services and Student Accessibility Services, initiated the project to open up seating options for students who may face various challenges but not fall under a formal accommodation.

The courtesy seating stickers are different from the priority seats designated for students with formal accommodations. The courtesy stickers are meant to leave space for students who don’t have a formal accommodation but may find it helpful to have access to a range of seat locations in the classroom. Examples of students who may need them include those who are pregnant, someone who has received a non-permanent injury or someone who needs to be in a particular spot to see or hear the lecture better.

The most accessible seats are often the most desirable seats

The Science Theatres are busy classroom spaces. The seats that could offer better accessibility, such as those near the front or back or close to the aisles, tend to fill up quickly. As a result, some students have a more difficult time finding seats that work well for them. The new stickers serve as an encouragement to others to leave some of the more accessible seats empty so they can be used more easily by students in need.

Additionally, students who find themselves needing a courtesy seat can also take longer to get from their old class to their new class. Some students are faced with a choice: leave class early to avoid the crowded hall to ensure they obtain a desirable seat in the next class and miss part of a lecture, or leave when class is done and worry about not being able to find a seat that works well for them in their next class.

Collecting feedback from the university community

This is an important initiative that can reduce barriers to education. The goal was to make everyone feel at ease when learning and to promote a more inclusive and accessible environment.

"Courtesy stickers can be found on seats in many public spaces. They remind us that everyone's mobility needs are different, and that someone may need a more accessible seat than we do. I hope this pilot is successful and expanded across campus, making classes more accessible for all students," says Dr. Constance Finney, associate professor in the Faculty of Science, and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences Equity Committee.

To expand the pilot project, we need your feedback! Please email biosciedi@ucalgary.ca or use the QR code on the posters around campus. The pilot project will run until the end of the Winter 2023 term. Once it’s wrapped up, it will go through an evaluation period and UBSEC will use the feedback to support their application for a campus-wide rollout.

Betalihem Lemma and Constance Finney are from the Faculty of Science, and Casey Blais is from Student Enrolment Services.