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York University accessibility assessment: Keele Campus northeast

York University accessibility assessment: Keele Campus northeast

by Timothy Young

Figure 1. Keele Campus Northeast Study Area

The research was done as part of ENVS 6128, Urban Transportation Planning in the Winter 2023 semester. Dr. Mahtot Gebresselassie was the course director. The aim of the study was to examine disability accessibility on the Keele campus. This summary highlights some of our findings. Our group focused on pathway dimensions, slope, surface evenness, and obstructions. 

The northeast area of York University’s Keele Campus is seldom visited by students and is composed primarily of parking lots, a residential Co-op complex, utility and office buildings, and large plots of undeveloped land. We evaluated the accessible paths of travel in this area for conformance to Section 1.1 of the City of Toronto’s Transportation Accessibility Design Guide (TADG) to highlight barriers in exterior paths of travel.

A laser distance measure was used to measure pathway dimensions and slopes for this study. While the laser minimized disruption to pedestrians, it was sensitive to angles introduced by the inconsistency of slopes and walking surfaces. Observations were mapped using Google Maps, and the findings with the greatest impact are discussed below.

Figure 2: (Left) Wide paths on Ian MacDonald Boulevard. (Right) Reduced clear path of travel at York University ZUM.

The highly-travelled paths located along Ian Macdonald Boulevard were overall compliant, with wide, smooth paths, gentle slopes, good lighting, and guards where appropriate. A light pole at the ZUM bus stop reduced the clear path of travel below the minimum specified in TADG 1.1.1(1). The reduced width may create a barrier for people using accessibility devices such as wheelchairs to pass, especially considering crowding in the afternoon peak.

Figure 3: (Left) Sidewalks on Vanier Lane, (Right) Grates at Vanier Lane and Ian MacDonald Boulevard.

In contrast, the residential sidewalks on Vanier Lane demonstrated multiple examples of non-compliance, with narrow and uneven sidewalk slabs violating width, smoothness, and cross slope requirements as per TADG 1.1.1. Paths near the accessible parking spaces  in the York Boulevard parking lot and adjacent sidewalks were found to be excessively steep with a grade of up to 16%, violating TADG 1.1.6 (1). While these conditions could be challenging for all users, people with low or no vision, limited mobility, or using mobility devices are most impacted. Grates at the corner of Ian MacDonald Boulevard and Vanier Lane were also found to have rectangular openings larger than the limit set out in TADG 1.1.1(3). The larger grate openings could pose a hazard for people using mobility devices or canes as these could fall through or get stuck in the grate.

Figure 4: Missing Sidewalks on Severn Road.

The TADG does not specifically require that an accessible path of travel be present, only that the intended users should be considered. Some roads in this area serve utility buildings and are not intended to be used by the public, thus the TADG may not apply. Rideau, Albany, and Severn Roads do not have sidewalks, forcing people onto the roadway. Similarly, the south sidewalk on Chimneystack Road ends abruptly, approximately 70 meters short of a pedestrian crosswalk. The missing sidewalks may still create barriers for travel to and around this area for staff and residents, and the needs of users may change further if the campus expands to the surrounding undeveloped land.

We recommend the following steps to rectify the accessibility barriers identified:

  • Work with Brampton Transit to expand or relocate the ZUM bus shelter on Ian MacDonald Blvd., increasing clear paths of travel through the bus stop. There are wider sidewalks and spaces for bus shelters 1 block south which was previously used by YRT’s VIVA buses.
  • Install grates with smaller openings at the intersection of Vanier Lane and Ian MacDonald Boulevard.
  • Install a ramp or path between the York Boulevard parking lot and Ian MacDonald Boulevard with a slope no greater than 5%.
  • Level and widen the sidewalk on Vanier Lane.
  • Install sidewalks on Albany, Rideau, and Severn Roads to provide an accessible path of travel.
  • Extend the south sidewalk on Chimneystack Road to the crosswalk at Severn Road to reduce distance needed to cross the street.

Considering the TADG and the needs of persons with disabilities can help York University create a campus that is accessible for all members of the university community: faculty, staff, and students alike.


Group B members

Timothy Young (MASc) is a Civil Engineering PhD Candidate at the Lassonde School of Engineering, researching pedestrian behaviour and flow in transit terminals and public infrastructure.

Stang Phankiriya (MES) is a Master of Environmental Studies - Planning student at York University, currently focusing on topics related to mixed-use intensification, sustainable developments, and equity in planning

Ravneet Multani (MES) is a Master of Environmental Studies - Urban and Regional Planning Student at York University, researching on how planners can work towards sustainable retrofitting of suburbia, focusing on complete community (re)developments.

Mani Singh is a planning graduate student in York's MES program interested in and researching the connections between liveability and urbanity.

Ryan Chow is a Planning Graduate Student in York University’s MES Program.