I was blessed to be able to spend a week touring our beautiful campus in a rather different position than I was used to. Due to a “traumatic laceration”—or so the doctor’s diagnosis reads—which strategically occurred over several stress points on the bottom of my left foot, I was consigned to crutches, something my hand-eye coordination was not ready for. Until my foot grew back to a unified whole, my impersonation of a newborn giraffe was surprisingly accurate as I navigated a whole new world.
I learned several interesting things about the University of West Georgia’s campus due to my new perspective on it. First of all, the entire campus, including parking lots, manages to be uphill. I’m not sure how this phenomenon occurs, but it makes the smallest change in location an arduous journey. When you depend on two sticks and your upper body strength to get you around, nothing is quite as simple as you might think.
Secondly, the floor layout of most of the buildings on campus does not help to simplify the difficult. I’m looking at you, Humanities. While the rest of the buildings each have their downfalls, such as Pafford’s narrow hallways and small classrooms, Humanities takes the cake for “Most Ridiculously Complicated Floor Plan Of All Time.” Three short stubby stairs, with hardly room for a pair of crutches to get a hold on, ring the building and lead up to a plateau that offers different entrance options depending on which corner of the compass you approach from. Once inside, you either take the stairs down to a flight of stairs up, or you wander down narrow and intersecting hallways, praying you stumble across an elevator before you pass out from muscle exhaustion. This is difficult even to those who don’t need assistance walking.
Thirdly, there are five benches between Pafford and the UCC. That is, if you take the path that travels by the TLC, the UREC and Starbucks. I know this because I sat and elevated my foot on every single one of them in an effort to get from the commuter parking lot in front of East Commons to Subway. These benches are falling apart. I was afraid to sit on the two between Pafford and the TLC, for fear of falling right through them and gaining more traumatic lacerations. Understandably, new benches are not high priority in the budget for the university, but some boards and a few nails would not go amiss in reinforcing the seating.
The biggest thing I learned was that the majority of the student body is woefully unaware of how to coexist with those of different travelling abilities. I was run off the sidewalk by herds of students. People stared when I hobbled by, but ignored me when I tried to get through the door behind them.
While my week long experience on crutches does in no way exactly mirror the every day reality for several of my fellow students, I am thankful I got to experience a taste of how the campus must appear to them. I hope that this makes you, the reader, more aware of some of the differences and difficulties they face and how you can make campus just a little easier for them. So, hold the door open. Hold the elevator. Smile and acknowledge, don’t stare and then ignore. Make room on the sidewalk. Make room in the hallway. Make room in the classroom. Just make room! Maneuvering around campus is difficult enough; don’t make yourself an extra obstacle in the course. And someone, please, fix the benches.