Posted by: Chasy | 23/08/2012

Thoughts on being a temporary Person With Disability at university

Before I get into this post, I want to make clear that I am aware that my bung knee is just temporary, so, as such, my experiences in dealing with issues as someone with a physical disability are not the same as someone with a permanent disability. I have the perspective that I will soon be able to run free, like a spring lamb, around my university grounds eventually. Just not at the moment.

Also, as a point of reference, I refer to PWD as wheelchair users, simply because it relates more closely to my injury and the accessibility issues I’m having at the moment.

Anyway, these are just short points I noted while I was walking around campus. I encourage you to read them and spare a thought for people who have to consider these as a part of every day life.

Upon arrival at Armidale Airport, I had to get my own heavy bag off the trolley. There were no staff members to help me. I s’pose this is the same everywhere, but, at a larger airport, at least, there would be plenty of ground staff (one would hope). There wasn’t anyone available I could ask. Obviously, I managed to get it by myself. Someone with less freedom of movement or strength may not have been able to do so.

The taxi ride to the university was fine. I don’t know how many, if any, wheelchair accessible taxis there are in Armidale, though.

When we arrived at the college where I was to take residence for the next few days, I asked the driver if he could get as close to the front door of the office as possible. He was happy to oblige, but I was still a good 20 metres away and the office was up a grass hill. Having one particularly unsteady leg and a huge backpack, this was particularly difficult.

The office of the college has two small sets of stairs between it and the front door. For me, that was O.K, but I didn’t see any access ramps. No one in a wheelchair would be able to access the office. Same with the computer lab in the Dining Hall.

There was access ramps to the Dining Hall, which was good. Yay! However, when I first arrived to check into my room, the guy behind the counter said, “Heh, you’ll have trouble going up the stairs!” Thanks for pointing that out, you stupid old cunt. Did it occur to you to also point out that there was, indeed, an access ramp to the level of the building my room was in? It took me two days to find it, and that was after a maintenance guy stopped me as I was walking towards the stairs and pointed it out. It wasn’t marked and was kinda hidden. The conclusion we draw from this is stupid old cunts hamper accessibility.

The distance from the college to the library and lecture theatre wasn’t too bad, but it was up some steep inclines. Any wheelchair users able to actually conquer those hills on a day-to-day basis should probably try out for the Olympics. For me, personally, it resulted in a very ouchy knee at the end of the day. Waaaaaaaah.

In the lectures, I was able to get a seat up the back with a table, as opposed to the theatre seats with tiny fold-away tables. However, if I turned up late (say, because it took me fucking ages to walk anywhere), I other students would grab the tables and I’d end up on the floor. I probably could have asked someone nicely to move for me, but I couldn’t be arsed. As well as this, every time there were lecture notes or similar to grab from the front, I had to get a friend to get a copy for me. I don’t think this was deliberately ignoring the student that was less mobile, though. I think there was a skew of perception at play. I am obviously able to walk, and my injury looks temporary, so the perception would not be that there is an actual PWD in the class. I firmly believe, if there was, the lecturer would have made an effect to make the lecture notes accessible. He’s a nice guy, after all.

People would often comment on my injury. Personally, I don’t mind having a chat about it, but it did strike me as slightly odd that complete strangers would ask me how it happened. Half of them weren’t even in my class. I’m not the sort of person who would get upset by discussing it, but not everyone is comfortable discussing their medical history with strangers. I know their questions were not meant to be intrusive, but it grew tiresome after a while. Maybe that’s just cos I’m hungover today, I dunno. Anyway, an actual PWD could get that sort of treatment on a daily basis for their entire lives. Why there aren’t more wheelchair using serial killers bumping off nosey fucks, I’ll never know.

In short, I can see how much we take for granted as able-bodied people and how the world is set up for us to succeed in the most basic of tasks. To be perfectly honest, it’s not fucking fair that someone with a disability doesn’t have the same access to services that able-bodied people do. Even if allowances are made, things still take twice as long. I don’t think it would be that hard to ensure buildings are accessible to everyone.

I often see people on the internet taking the piss out of those who rightly complain about the exclusivity of accessibility and that makes me sad. PWD should be able to access everything we able-bodied people take for granted and should have the right to complain about it without being a called a whinger. It’s not good enough if only half of everything is accessible and you’re a cunt for thinking it is.

And you’ll be pleased to know my knee is feeling O.K. But my brace is scratchy.

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Responses

  1. Oh my god. I just wrote to Sydney buses about this. The bus I catch to take baby to childcare is one of those really old ones with the stairs and annoying handrails that you have to maneuver around to get on the bus: a nightmare with baby and bags. So I can’t take pram.
    More importantly, however, the bus route goes through areas where a huge number of elderly and disabled live, and who use the service to get from surry hills shopping centre and/or marrickville metro to do their shopping. A large number of these people have walking sticks or frames. It’s SO HARD for them to get on and off the bus. What prompted my email to Sydney Buses last week was how horrendous it was to watch an older lady who had obviously had a stroke and had barely any use of one side of her body try and get on and off the bus with her walking frame and two bags of shopping. I couldn’t help with the baby, and was just SO relieved when another passenger helped her. What was even more exceptional was that the bus driver got off and helped her too.

    But echoing your post, I had the same realisation after my knee surgery. Your just lucky you weren’t here in the city. People in the city don’t even notice if you’re on crutches or in a wheelchair. And don’t get me started on the people that use lifts at stations CAUSE THEY CAN, NOT CAUSE THEY NEED TO!

    Sorry, I’ll stop ranting now


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