Thanks in part to the collaborative efforts of History Professor Dominique Marshall, a co-primary investigator in Carleton University’s Disability Research Group, the elevator in Paterson Hall is now more accessible to all users. While a short excerpt has been included below, you can read about the full process from conception to completion in “Carleton Collaboration Creates Automated Access to Elevators” by Joseph Mathieu.

Have you ever used closed captioning on video, automated doors when your hands were full, or curb cuts for baby strollers or bicycles? Originally, these innovations were designed with people with disabilities in mind; an approach known as accessible design.

Now, in Carleton’s Paterson Hall, a new way to call an elevator without touching its panel buttons offers a kind of curb cut effect. In the world of COVID-19, the Contactless Access app that controls an elevator from your smartphone offers a safe, sanitary way to move around buildings without touching any surfaces.

“It’s been a long process,” says Carleton’s special Accessibility Advisor Dean Mellway.

“But we were fortunate that so many people were on-board from the beginning. And with COVID-19 hitting, we realized the benefits of the project went even further.”

Carleton University has been acknowledged by its peers as the most accessible university, and more recently has acted as a catalyst for research and applied design in many sectors. With its new Coordinated Accessibility Strategy and pilots like this one, Carleton is working to make its city, country and world accessible for all.

Dominique Marshall standing at a podium speakingThe project began in early 2018, when then History Chair Dominique Marshall, who had long been aware that students in History were having issues with the only elevator of the building, heard of a solution that would not involve a complete refitting of the elevator that would take too long.

Hollis Peirce, who received his MA in History and Digital Humanities in 2019, was one of four students who regularly frequented Paterson Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.

For Peirce, who lives with congenital muscular dystrophy and uses a motorized wheelchair, the button panel of the elevator was out of reach. Often, he would have to visit the building’s Scotiabank branch to request assistance from a teller or call up to the fourth floor for someone to come down.

Marshall had been discussing the issue to the Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ) Initiative, where Mellway and Director Boris Vukovic were also becoming aware of the touchless contactless possibility.