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Student project to lay groundwork for emergency evacuation assistance

Volunteering with the Active Aging and Health Management Program, which serves seniors living with chronic diseases, has given kinesiology students Charles Kahelin and Rob Ward a better appreciation of the wide spectrum of mobility issues people must cope with.

The two are now helping with a research project on the location of emergency evacuation chairs in campus buildings.

Ward, just finished his third year studies in movement science, says that for a university geared to accessibility, the project is important.

“Besides the obvious issues of people in a wheelchair, there are gait issues, strength issues, stability issues, shortness of breath – all sorts of reasons why a person might need assistance in exiting a building during an emergency,” he says.

Students working with kinesiology professor Dave Andrews are testing a model evacuation chair, assessing how it can be incorporated into the current fire warden emergency system. Besides his department, partners in the project include the Health and Safety Office, Campus Community Police, and the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility.

Kahelin, who will graduate with his BHK this June and commence an MHK in the fall, said he and Ward will assess buildings to determine how many evacuation chairs each needs, and recommend locations that will provide easy access -- and a quick exit. They will prepare a report to inform decision-making by the Fire & Life Safety Committee.

“This is a practical project that meets a real need,” says Kahelin. “It is a great experience to be working on something we expect will be implemented to benefit people.”

The two will begin this week on the months-long process of auditing stairwells and hallways in Chrysler Hall, the CAW Student Centre, Leddy Library, the Human Kinetics Building, and the Toldo Health Education Centre. To allay the concerns of occupants, they will wear Kinesiology Research shirts while conducting their work.

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