While many students will be celebrating 10 days off by going to Mexico, Canada or other fun locations. I will be at home recovering from ankle surgery. Yes, I know, you are asking, ‘why are you telling me this?’ As of next week I will be considered ‘handicapped.’ I am sure most students have never had to experience this and I hope they never have to. However, since most students have never been in this situation, they have never considered the handicap accessibility of our campus and how even just going to class can be difficult activity.
For the past month and a half, I have been considering it and am concerned about how I am going to have a normal life once I come back from spring break. How will I get into the bathroom in my residence hall? How will I shower? How will I get to and from the different buildings on campus? This is a daily concern for those who are handicapped on our campus. Horrible brick sidewalks make walking difficult enough when able-bodied students walk on them; imagine having to crutch up and down them. Also consider the possibility of more snow and ice. With the way sidewalks were cleared after the snow storm on Valentine’s Day, I would be lucky to even get out of my building without having my crutches slip and injuring myself further. I guess I should get the chains and snow tires ready for my wheelchair just in case.
While these concerns are occupying my mind, my biggest concern is actually getting to and from classes. My program holds all of its classes at the Graduate Business Center, which is off 202 and Boot Rd. near Exton. There is so transportation from the main West Chester campus to this location. Because of this, for the past two semesters, I have taken Septa to and from class when I wasn’t able to get a ride from a classmate. Of course, the bus does not go directly to the GBC, so I have to walk on the shoulder of the road for about a half-mile from the bus stop, with cars flying past me. This trip will be extremely difficult if not impossible in a wheel chair or on crutches.
However, that is not where my problems end. Once I get to the GBC, I am presented with the dilemma of getting into the building. There is no handicap entrance in the building at all. So, even if I am able to make it from my hall to the bus stop and the bus to the GBC, I am stuck outside until someone comes to the door to let me in, if there even is someone to do that.
Concerned about this, I contacted my department chair and the Office for Students with Disabilities who contacted the building administrator. Last week I found out that the building administrator has no plan to make the building handicap accessible, as it is very expensive, and suggested I have someone open the doors for me. Would this fly if this was one of our residence halls or any building on our main campus? I don’t think so. In fact, the Office of Residence Life worked on one of the two handicap accessible doors in my hall to make sure both of them will be working for me for when I come back after spring break.
I feel as though the campus does not really care about its handicapped students or maybe it is just its handicapped graduate students they forget about.
I urge the student body, especially our huge education department, to speak up for this population and demand that our university is accessible to all students. I also challenge you to look at things from a different perspective this week and be extremely thankful that you are able to do the things you can. I know I am very thankful my handicap will only last a few months and only have to feel this discrimination for a short time. I really respect and admire those who deal with this for their entire lives.