4 Things I Wish My Classmates Knew About Having A Disability In College
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Politics and Activism

4 Things I Wish My Classmates Knew About Having A Disability In College

You think you're having a hard time!

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4 Things I Wish My Classmates Knew About Having A Disability In College
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As a college student with a physical disabilities, my day-to-day challenges are greater than rough homework and deadlines. Mobility, fatigue, and pain have been concerns each day of my entire life. My life at college therefore may look a little different than that of my classmates. Here's some things I wish they knew.


1. My single room and car on campus are medically necessary

A lot of campus tours check out my room, and when the tour guide says, "Oh, this is a single," I point to my mobility scooter and say, "That's my roommate." Her name is Scarlett (that's us in the picture at the PA State Capitol Building and their accessibility signs that I asked them to make) and she's the best roommate ever because the only time she's mean to me is when I leave the key turned, because then she'll make a loud beep that some people mistake for a fire alarm. Sometimes I explain the medical purposes involved in getting a single. I have severe allergies that require treatment with a loud machine called a nebulizer, which is not fun. Because of my allergies, I can never open the windows. Also, there is not enough room in a standard freshman dorm for two people and a mobility scooter. Because of all of these reasons, it was not hard for me to get a single. At Muhlenberg, freshman aren't allowed to have cars on campus. However, for me it would be unreasonable to ask the school's shuttle service to take me to get prescriptions, to the doctor, and to physical therapy once a week. I had to write a letter to the Dean of Students in order to be allowed to have my car on campus as a freshman, and my request was accepted. While it is great to have my own space that I can do whatever I want with (i.e. plaster David Bowie's face with), I often get lonely in my single. While having my car on campus is so convenient if I ever don't feel like eating at the dining hall or need some retail therapy after a distressing exam, the weekly physical therapy appointments and frequent doctor appointments take away time that I could be spending with friends or studying, and occasionally time in class if there's no other option.


2. I really wish I could walk around campus

Muhlenberg was the only campus that I visited that didn't cause me unbearable fatigue and pain after tours. My hope was to use my scooter for excursions and emergencies. On my very first week of classes, I realized that an entire day on campus is incomparable to an hour-long tour. Luckily, Muhlenberg is fully ADA compliant and I do not have any issues getting around campus in my scooter. However, riding around in a scooter all day is not all fun and games. Sometimes people don't pay attention where they're walking and almost bump into me, which will hurt them and potentially make them pissed at me even though they weren't paying attention. Sometimes the accessible route takes longer than the route more people take, and if my class is going on an excursion they always have to wait for me. Sometimes the pathway is blocked by a maintenance vehicle or a pile of leaves and I can't simply go on the grass! And don't get me started on riding in the cold...when you can't go faster towards your destination and you can't move around more to warm yourself up. Nope. I wish I could walk around campus, and maybe someday with more physical therapy I will, but in the meantime, it's me and Scarlett.


3. Pain and fatigue prevent me from doing college things

My first semester of college has ended, and I have not been to one party. I'm not disappointed about it, though, because I'm not much of a partier. My friends and I have our own parties in my room watching Saturday Night Live, Once Upon A Time, the presidential debates, and other stuff. During the few opportunities I had to go to a party, I was always too fatigued or pained. I didn't know if I could get into the venue with my scooter, if it was safe to leave, how long I could stay, and what sort of physical consequences I could face in the morning. Of course, there's more to college than parties! Still, I did not have the chance to partake in a lot of student activities or weekend events due to the chronic fatigue and pain that comes with my disability, and the consistent need for my scooter. I need a lot of rest on the weekends in order to do homework and study, and I focused on that this semester. I'm hopeful that next semester I'll be more adjusted to college and will be able to do more student activities and attend more events.

4. I'm doing great

Despite a rocky first month; despite back pain unlike anything I've ever had before; despite physical therapy not working out; despite needing extensions and accommodations; despite the pain and fatigue not getting better; despite issues in the dorm and loss of sleep and stress and stakes and confusion: I came out of my very first semester of college with a B+ GPA. I could not be prouder of myself. I have 7 more to go, and I know that I'll keep moving forward and doing great.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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