Funny story. A few weeks ago, I was going down some stairs and missed the bottom step, landing on the side of my ankle. I know what you’re thinking: how does that happen? The explanation is embarrassing; I was trying to decide whether to get Chick-fil-A or Starbucks for lunch.
Before I knew it, I was on a golf cart headed to the health and wellness center. I saw a doctor who told me I had a sprained ankle, handed me crutches and sent me back to my dorm. Back at my dorm is when my lesson in accessibility started, I crutched up to my building tired and starving and discovered that the automatic door button didn’t work.
That was the beginning of my journey considering issues that disabled students face on campus. I’d like to think that I’m a particularly conscious person, but it really stunned me to find out how much more difficult it was to get around. I guess what they say about walking, or in my case crutching a mile in somebody else’s shoes is true.
I soon realized that our beautiful campus that I love is pretty inaccessible. A lot of buildings have these grand stairs up to the front door so students who cannot take the stairs have to go around the building to find another entrance.
For example, the William Johnston Building as shown in the above picture (notice the stairs). There is no way I can make it up those stairs; when I go to Art History (my favorite class), I have to use the side entrance to avoid taking the stairs. Something else I hadn’t thought about before was that when I was on crutches, I couldn’t carry anything. My friends were very nice to go with me when I went to get something to eat, so they could help me carry the food back to our table.
After about a week of crutches, I got sick of them so I went and rented a scooter. It became much less tiring to get around, but new challenges were presented. Going downhill on a scooter sounds fun, but is low-key terrifying. The journey to get to Suwannee Room, the main dining hall on campus, from my dorm, is an ordeal. After leaving Gilchrist, I have to go up the hill that leads to Diffenbaugh building, then turn left and go through the small lot next to Bryan Hall. Then, further down the sidewalk Suwannee will be on the left, there are so many staircases blocking other routes I used to take. After I eat, I have to make the same trek but downhill to get back to my dorm. Let me tell you, going down the Diffenbaugh Hill in the rain is a truly humbling experience.
I have a new friend, Lauren, that I made in my speech class because of my injury. When she saw me come into class on the knee scooter, she turned around and told me that she broke her foot last November. When I asked her how getting around campus was for her, she said it felt like she was on house arrest because it was so hard to get around. She told me the worst thing about breaking her foot was struggling to get food on campus. She agreed with me that the entrance to Suwannee Room is inaccessible. This is something that a lot of students have experienced. I’ve seen and met a lot of other kids who struggle to get around. Crutches, scooters, wheelchairs—it’s hard. On the bright side, I’ve made a lot of new friends in the past few weeks because of random people asking me what happened. Kind strangers that open a door or hold the elevator brighten my day.
For the record: I love FSU. And the university has been helpful. The Office of Accessibility helped me to arrange a ride to get to my further classes. That button for the entrance to my dorm was very quickly fixed after I sent an email, (thanks guys!). The newer buildings like the EOAS building don’t have this problem, there’s a ramp to get to the front entrance and it has automatic door buttons. FSU is taking steps in the right direction; they should keep accessibility in mind with all new projects. Our campus is for all students, and no one should be having a more difficult time getting around because of their disability.