By Aniza binti Abu Bakar
In an inclusive and diverse society, educational institutions must strive to create environments where every individual, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, can fully participate and thrive. In this spirit, we introduce an exciting and transformative initiative aimed at increasing accessibility for disabled students on our campus. Thus, the Department of Landscape Architecture, KAED and the Disability Service Unit (DSU) are collaborating to implement the transformation.
The Disability Service Unit (DSU, spearheaded by Professor Dr. Ruzita Mohd. Amin from the Kulliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences [KENMS]) was established to implement the IIUM Disability Inclusion Policy. Among other things, DSU aims to enhance campus accessibility for students with disabilities. In the meantime, the Department of Landscape Architecture, KAED has been offering a course – Universal Design for External Spaces. Therefore, the noble intention of DSU is well supported by the Department of Landscape Architecture by having its students work on enhancing campus accessibility for the those with disabilities through the students’ projects.
The initiatives started during Semester II, 2021/2022. The project was about identifying an accessible route for the vision-impaired students to manoeuvre from Mahallah Uthman to DSU, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Masjid and the office of the AHAS KIRKHS. The second phase which was carried out during Semester 2, 2022/2023 by the second batch of students, covered the route for persons in wheelchairs from Mahallah Safiyyah to the Central Complex including the Azman Hashim Building. While identifying the route, challenges were recorded and the proposal to increase the physical accessibility was done by applying the Universal Design principles and referring to standards. At the end of the semester, the proposals were orally presented, and the written proposals were submitted to the DSU for further action. The areas covered in the two proposals are based on the priority given following the needs of the students.
Apart from the proposals, the two batches of students also prepared the accessibility map for the IIUM. The accessibility map is meant to show facilities that support the community with disabilities on campus. However, the map is still in progress as the students did the inventory accordingly. It is to be continued by the following batches until its completion.
DSU and the Department of Landscape Architecture, KAED are committed to continuing the collaboration and keep on working to identify more routes to be improved. On 20 October 2023, DSU organized an event to appreciate the Department of Landscape Architecture and its students under the direction of the lecturer in charge – Dr. Aniza Abu Bakar. The students received their certificate of recognition for their efforts from Professor Dr Ruzita Mohd Amin, witnessed by Professor Ar. Dr Abdul Razak bin Sapian, Dean of KAED, Associate Professor LAr Dr Putri Haryati binti Ibrahim, Head, Department of Landscape Architecture, KAED, and Assistant Professor Dr. Rustam Khairi bin Zahari, Director, IIUM Development Division.
“Enhancing Campus Accessibility: Empowering Students of All Abilities” is not just a student’s project; it is a commitment to ensuring that every student, regardless of their disability, has equal access to the resources, facilities, and opportunities necessary for a successful educational journey.
This initiative underscores the fundamental principle of equity, recognizing that all students should be afforded the same opportunities for learning, growth, and personal development. While significant progress has been made in recent years, there is always room for improvement, innovation, and a renewed dedication to creating a truly inclusive educational environment. Through the comprehensive efforts and collaborative partnerships of our campus community, we aim to remove barriers, challenge assumptions, and foster an atmosphere of true inclusivity where every student can achieve their full potential. ***
(Dr. Aniza binti Abu Bakar is an academic in the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design, IIUM.)