MIVA toilet EUR campus ontoegankelijk rotstoel_feb2024_Ronald van den Heerik
The bathroom in question on the 18th floor of Mandeville. Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

“So, this is where I once fell flat on my face”, Kristel de Groot, a PhD student at the Erasmus School of Economics and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, points at the restroom on the eighteenth floor of the Mandeville building. Her workspace is just around the corner, making this the wheelchair-accessible restroom she uses on a daily basis. Due to a combination of rheumatism and an accident, she relies on a wheelchair. In the corner of the room is a shower. After a colleague had showered, the wet floor was slippery enough to cause Kristel to fall. “The feeling you get is that we need both an accessible toilet and a shower. Neither is a priority, so let’s combine them.”

Crossing a threshold

One floor below, Mike Duijn, managing director and researcher at Erasmus Business & Research Support, shares Kristel’s sentiment. “The Board has good intentions to make the campus more inclusive, but the focus is on gender. They are a bit clumsy regarding accessibility.” Mike has been in a wheelchair since a traffic accident at the age of four. Like Kristel, he can exert force with his upper body. They both emphasise that navigating this campus can be very different for wheelchair users without such strength or those in larger electric wheelchairs. “Many toilets are already tight for me to manoeuvre into”, Kristel gives as an example.

Kristel de Groot parkeergarage trap EUR campus ontoegankelijk rotstoel _feb2024_Ronald van den Heerik
Kristel explains: “If the banister would start here already, I would be able to go down the stairs backwards. A trick I’m very proud of, and worked hard for. I just can’t do that now. Is also not convenient for people with mobility problems.” Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

With experienced individuals like Kristel, a team from Erasmus University conducted various audits across the campus. This resulted in a long list of points to improve. Changing the layout of some toilet spaces is also on the to-do list from the project plan. In the future, signage will be clarified, door swing directions changed, heavy doors lightened, and the list goes on.

“You are making the campus accessible not just for us but for everyone”, says Mike when discussing desired adjustments. The steps in front of the A-building, towards the aula – the elevator often doesn’t work – are also challenging when your grandmother wants to attend your graduation, the revolving door is heavy if you’re on crutches, climbing many stairs is a trial when you’re pregnant.  It’s about universal design, designs that make the space accessible to everyone.”

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Outdoor space

Currently, anyone wanting to go from the pond to the aula must navigate a small staircase with an often malfunctioning platform lift or go around through the Theil entrance under the library.  However, that is going to change: a ramp will be built from the street next to the pond, and two more will be added to Van de Mandeleplein, leading to the A building and Tinbergen entrance. Initial designs for these changes have already been completed.

More examples

In the campus outdoor space, Kristel and Mike can point out numerous examples of areas needing improvement. The threshold at Mandeville is a recognisable issue for both: you need to approach the revolving door with momentum, but then you have to hope a group isn’t exiting and blocking access. The side door, intended to enhance accessibility, opens outward, exactly where your wheelchair is when you are trying to open it. Mike demonstrates. A staff member arriving with a coffee cart also struggles with the approach to the building. The tiles are uneven. “They’re not level”, explains Kristel. “That can be draining, sure.”

Both employees share a laugh about the fairly steep Institutenlaan – saying ‘what else can you do’.

Kristel de Groot Mike Duijn Institutenlaan EUR campus ontoegankelijk rotstoel regenboogpad_feb2024_Ronald van den Heerik
Going up Institutenlaan is a challenge for both Mike, and Kristel. The other option is to detour via the car park between Hatta and the E building and then take the lift up, if the lifts are not broken. Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik