Bloopers on the surface, accessibility underneath.

By Stephanie Dieble | 11/7/12 1:10pm

Sure, college brings about challenges for all of us. For some, those obstacles may come in the form of finances time management or their academic studies. As a college student with a disability, my biggest transition has been dealing with matters of accessibility.

Thankfully, Grand Valley State University has done an exceptional job at making the campus wheelchair friendly. Still, accessibility is and will continue to be an every day battle.

Given that one of my goals throughout my reign as Ms. Wheelchair Michigan is to raise awareness about creating an inclusive and accessible environment, I thought I would shed some light on some of daily things that a person in wheelchair, on college campus, must learn to roll with.

I mean, what is a person to do when they have a presentation on the second floor of Lake Superior Hall and minutes before class discover that the elevator is out of commission? You could scope out the scene and see if anyone is willing to carry you upstairs. More than likely though, you’re going to have to make a frantic call to your professor.

Or what is a person to do when they are zooming down a hill and all of the sudden a fellow student cuts in front of them? Do they choose to slam on their brakes and crash into a crowd of people or veer off to side and risk flying out of their wheelchair? Either way it isn’t going to end pretty.
My advice for those on campus in the future is let people wheelchairs enjoy their downhill rides because they don’t come along often enough.

While it is true daily adventures in a wheelchair can create a blooper show, these matters are serious. Let’s face it, unless you have been put in a situation where you have had to adapt to life in a wheelchair or any disability, you don’t always think about how inconvenient cracks in the side walk may be. Nor do you think about how blocking a ramp into a building with your bicycle probably isn’t such a good idea.

On the surface some of these issues may appear to be small, but they certainly do add up. As my last semester as an undergrad at GVSU winds down, I have taken a lot of time to reflect and appreciate the campus environment. If there’s one thing that I have learned about accessibility throughout my time here, it’s that we all, myself included, should take a step back and evaluate how our actions impact other people. Are we creating an inclusive campus or are we creating more obstacles for our peers?

Stephanie Deible
Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2012

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