I’ll start this off by introducing myself. My name is Megan. I’m 19 years old and a sophomore biology major here at Winthrop University. I’m a sister of Delta Zeta sorority, and obviously, I write for Her Campus.
All in all, I am your typical college student, except six year ago I was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disorder that has left me with no choice but to now depend on a manual wheelchair. Over the past few years, I have noticed that handicap accessibility is far from good, and it doesn’t get the awareness it needs to improve. In hopes to raise the awareness, and challenge my fellow Collegiettes to think about something you probably don’t think about that often, I am going to walk (or should I say roll) you through a typical day in my life navigating the world as a wheelchair user.
It’s a Monday morning. At 7:30 AM, my dreaded alarm goes off. I hit snooze once or twice (or three times…), then gather the energy to roll out of bed, grab the side of my desk to steady myself as I stand up, and plop myself into my wheelchair.
I wheel to the bathroom and wash my face and brush my teeth. This takes about 7 minutes, as I have to manage standing up at the sink and balancing while also completing these tasks. I then grab something to eat, which is usually just a granola bar, since that is a whole lot easier then balancing a bowl with cereal and milk on my lap while I roll to a table to eat. Afterwards, I pick out my outfit and change, which let me tell you, is a chore. Putting pants on when your balance sucks is not easy, and getting dressed completely takes about 10 minutes. I figure out what shoes to wear, and they are normally slip-on vans because I don’t have to tie them, since tying shoes takes another 5 minutes. Finally, I am ready to head to my 9:30 class!
I roll to the other side of my residence hall to get on the elevator. Even though I am on the first floor, there are a few stairs to get to the ground, so I have to wait for the slow elevator to take me down seven feet. Once I reach the bottom, I begin my journey to math class. I get to the front of Kinard Hall, where my class is, but there are stairs, so I have to keep going until Scholar’s Walk so that I can enter in through the side door on the ground. Again, I wait on the extremely slow elevator for usually 5 minutes, and finally make it to my classroom.
Class ends at 10:45, and I usually go meet some friends at Digs before my next class. We go down to Markley’s to get food, which is fine, until the cashier at a restaurant hands me the cup to get my drink. I have to ask one of my friends to get a soda and hold my cup for me, so I can wheel myself. I only have two hands! If my friends aren’t there for some reason, I’ll just tell the cashier I don’t need a drink since I can’t carry it. At 12:15, I head to my German class in Kinard, where I have to wait for what feels like an eternity for the elevator, again.
There have been days where the elevator never comes because it is out of service, so I can’t get to class and miss the material we covered that day.
After class, I go in the restroom. I have to basically run into the door with my chair in order to open it, and often times, I scrape my knuckles on the door as I’m wheeling through.
After German, I’m done with classes for the day. I make my way back to my dorm, but when I am about to cross the street, I hit a big bump before a ramp that almost flips my wheelchair. Thankfully, it doesn’t, but I have to back up a bit and pop a wheelie to get over the bump. Once I get back to my room, I decide to do some laundry, so I lift up my laundry basket on to my lap, wheel to the opposite hallway, hope my basket doesn’t fall off of my lap on the way, and throw my clothes in the washing machine.
Crossing Oakland Avenue is pretty much the same as crossing shark infested waters, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess.
After I press the crosswalk button, I have to wheel down to the bottom on the ramp, so I am ready when the walk sign is up. I’m almost to the other side of the street, when the traffic light turns green, so I have to go super fast up the ramp, and sometimes, I get stuck on a bump here, which holds me up even more.
After I eat dinner, I go back across Oakland Ave., but I have to make sure someone is crossing the street with me, because I almost always get stuck on a bump going up the ramp on the way back, and I am unable to pop a wheelie and keep going like normally. I go back to my room, finish any homework I might have, and relax for the night. Tomorrow is Tuesday, which means I have more classes and a busier, more stressful, day.
These past six years have made me realize that people don’t notice things, like the inaccessibility of places, until they are forced to see it.
There are even things I don’t notice about certain things. It isn’t because people are ignorant or rude, they just aren’t informed, and they don’t deal with these things on a regular basis. It’s definitely hard to not get frustrated with these things, but you have to look at things from everyone’s perspectives. I hope this brought some awareness to what physically disabled people have to deal with in a normal day, and made you all think about what things others might have to deal with. Have a good week, Colligates!