One Video Changed It All

One Video Changed It All

The harsh reality in this New England town forced a young disabled woman to plead for an accessible bathroom at the local beach.

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For most people, finding a bathroom available to use is a non-issue. It crosses your mind as much as breathing or blinking would. But when you're restricted to using a handicap accessible bathroom, it can be a fight to use the bathroom.

In the coastal town of Westport, Connecticut, the populus was divided by the town's proposal to build a set of accessible bathrooms on the southern tip of the local beach. The proposal, after tenuous consulting with multiple experts, was made public and outrage ensued.

The debate became so contentious amongst residents, so the human resources department reached out to a Westport mother in hopes she and her daughter could help sway the representatives to vote to pass the proposal.

That mother was mine.

Living anywhere while disabled, especially as a wheelchair user like myself, any simple outside the walls of my fully adapted house can prove to be difficult, if not outright impossible. Louis Mall, one of the town's representatives, recognized this and uses his political platform to advocate for change.

"The RTM voted several years ago [in 2013] to make Westport more accessible for people with special needs," Mall said, adding these bathrooms would be a great improvement to accessibility in the town.

However, even the endorsement from a town representative wasn't enough to assuage the town.

"Flushing money down the toilet," Bart C. Shuldman, a voice of the opposition, said in a Facebook comment.

Facetious comments by fellow residents are what drove my mom and myself to take action. Before this situation, she admittedly was inactive in her local government.

"Until there were these Facebook sites, I didn't really know about [local issues]," Jessica Purcell, or Mom as I call her, said. "I guess I didn't really pay attention."

It was when we realized this great improvement to accessibility could be taken away from us, we decided it was time to speak up. Purcell took to her most comfortable medium of writing a thoughtful email, while I decided to take a different approach.

It dawned on me if I could have them see my face and hear my voice, it would be much harder to dispel my pleas with a dismissive wave of the hand.

One day after school, I quickly settled onto my couch and opened my laptop, proceeding to record seven minutes of cries to move forward with construction.

The privilege my able-bodied neighbors cease to acknowledge is when you can walk with ease, you are guaranteed to be able to leave the house without worrying about if there will be a bathroom close by or if you will have yet another close call of almost wetting yourself because it took you five minutes to reach the nearest accessible bathroom.

For this reason alone this project is worth every penny.

The precise amount of money needed for the project is 840,000 dollars, however, this budget would cover the construction and maintenance of the bathrooms for 20 years. The implicated burden on each Westport household was calculated to be at most six dollars a year.

Despite the copious amount of data and reasoning provided to the public, a fierce opposition took to protesting.

"I truthfully believed expected the project to be voted down because of the cost," Jessica Bram, a town representative, admitted.

The sheer unbridled joy that filled me when I received word the proposal was approved during the wee hours of the morning at a 26-8 vote is the sad reality for people who live in a world built to exclude them.

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Transferring To My Dream University Was Harder Than I Expected It To Be

Attending the #1 public university in the nation is not all fun and games.

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Since I was a senior in high school, my goal was always to attend UCLA but back during high school, I did not have the best of grades to get in a freshman admit. I knew I was gonna attend community college so I could see if college was going to be truly the best option for me. After my first semester at my community college, I was jazzed to see where it would take me as I fell in love with school. This drive is what pushed me to work hard so I could get into my dream school. Through constant doubt and fear, I got into every university I had applied to, including UC Berkeley and UCLA.

When I got into UCLA, I cried and was in major disbelief that I had gotten in but felt absolutely blessed to have done so. I was so excited to start this new journey after working three years for it. I was impatiently and annoyingly counting down the days for the day I would move into my dorm.

Once I moved into my dorm, I felt more at home than in my actual home.

During the first week of being there and prior classes starting, I met wonderful people in my dorm building and floor that made me not feel homesick and made me even more excited for the next two years at this institution.

Once classes began, things suddenly became intense and gave me a reality check. Since I began school, everything was taught in a much slower pace than at UCLA. I had to become accustomed to the quarter system used by UCLA and most of the schools in the UC system when all my life I have been in semesters.

Adjusting was not as bad as I thought it would be but it was not the easiest thing I have had to do. This adjustment period also brought extreme stress that made my immune system weaken and I got sick for over a month. It also made me miss the easier coursework from my community college that helped prepare me for the rigorous load I have to endure at UCLA.

It is very common for transfer students to have a rocky first quarter and I thought I was going to be an exception but nope, I am another example to confirm that it is indeed hard.

Although it has been tough first, I am thankful every day that I go to this beautiful and wonderful school. It has changed my life in both good and bad aspects if I am being completely honest but I would not want it any other way.

Sometimes I joke about attending a different university that doesn't have the notoriety that UCLA has but even if I chose a different school, I would still stress about school being tough and would still have to adjust to another institution.

As my first quarter is coming to an end, I want to reflect in all the experiences I have had even if they weren't the best because they have taught me some great lessons so I avoid making the same mistakes. I worked hard to get to where I am and even through this rough time, I will keep my head up with every all-nighter I pull.

Go, Bruins!

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