During my second year of taking classes at LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY, majoring in TR (Therapeutic Recreation) everyone in the field of study took a class that we just called Phys Dis, the name of the course is actually ‘Recreation with people with Physical Disabilities.’ Our instructor, Dr. Lynch, assigned everyone to go around campus for the entire day using a wheelchair. Not only navigating around the dining hall, the library, up and down the elevators in the dorm buildings, but to also see the difficulties of being in a wheelchair (our campus was very much ADA compliant, and it isn’t too difficult to get around). There is an accessibility ramp bypassing the stairs that went up into our physical education building, where most TR majors’ classes are held, and another ramp going into the dining hall. Ramps were accessible basically everywhere there were stairs. The ramps were there to be used, and though I had used them a few times when I was super tired from trekking from one side of the campus to the other, most of the times chose to forgo the hikes up the steps just to appear ‘capable to do it.’ There was nothing else that I wanted to do than to ‘blend in’ and be like everybody else.
[I hated being photographed with my cane in college, but you can see in the left corner, my collecction of different colored canes-gotta match the outfit, right?]
When Dr. Lynch gave out the assignment t0 use a wheelchair everywhere around campus, ‘EXCEPT FOR DANIELLE,’ I had an attitude of what, you don’t think that I don’t need to do this? Why? [The whole point of therapeutic recreation is inclusion; that anyone can do this if we only adapt it in some way] Why everyone else, I ask Dr. Lynch…she replies to me that I could, if I really want to. But upon thinking about it, I have a hard enough time getting around already, walking with a cane. This exercise is to show the students how difficult it is for those with physical disabilities to get around, but also show the students how they are perceived by the rest of the school.
During my time at Longwood, I was given all possible accommodations, from reserving my room as a single room when my roommate moved out after the first semester to being assigned a dining hall student worker to carry my tray of food to a table. Of course, I did this once, it just left me to sit by myself in the dining hall which I found was depressing enough and made me feel different. Maybe it’s my hypersensitivity paranoia, but I thought that the other students all had looks of pity on their faces as they saw me sitting alone at a table.
In academic accommodations, I had access to a quiet place to take tests free from the distractions of being in the classroom with all of the other students. I received the notes of another student to supplement my own notes, written on carbon copy paper. We tried tape recording the classes, but in college it’s hard enough to stay awake during a class and there is not an extra two hours in the day that you would like to sit through it again. Plus my attention span made everything extremely difficult. Longwood did try to give me every advantage possible, and we tried out all the ideas that technology could provide: the voice recognition computer programs wouldn’t recognize my voice, it was too quiet/squeaky, or something. It’s not like I needed it, if anything taught me patience it is the traumatic brain injury and my pride that was reluctant to say that I needed help.
[I wasn’t different than anyone else, so I shyed away from being photographed with a cane, but I couldn’t help it this time]
a little background info: this picture was taken during LONGWOOD COLLEGE’s Oktoberfest, and I got the great honor of being a clown, a person has to be nominated to the spirit board by other professors and students]
I wanted to be treated and perceived as an equal among students, just not that much of an equal to endure an entire day in a wheelchair. I figure that I’ve already had my share of weird looks, plus the enjoyment of the obstacles of getting around with a physical disability. I think my classmates should at least try some of the difficulties, if even for just a day.