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See University Through The Eyes Of A Wheelchair User

April 17, 2013

One of the funniest articles I’ve ever read, from today’s Guardian.

Imagine the scene. You’re walking around campus, surrounded by all these “normal” people in wheelchairs and everyone’s staring at you. It happens so often that you’ve stopped noticing it. You are a walker after all, part of that strange group of people, those oddities who don’t use wheelchairs like everyone else.

You’re one of those people who causes inconvenience to bus drivers as they have to move their ramps out of the way for you. You don’t need them. You’re always in the way of everyone’s wheelchairs, causing a nuisance.

You have to use those weird things called stairs too. You enter the students‘ union through a shady-looking back entrance, having to take the long way round while everyone else gets in straightaway. By the time you get there everyone’s already sat talking, sitting down in their wheelchairs while you’re awkwardly standing up, wondering how to start a conversation.

That’s if you’re lucky. You might not be able to get into the building in the first place. I suppose there’s always the Disability Discrimination Act, which means that every public place must be accessible to walkers, but excuses are plentiful. “We’ve made reasonable adjustments”, “it’s only for wheelchair users”, “it’s too expensive”, “you don’t really need to go there anyway”. There’s always a get-out clause.

Some people are great, really helpful and have an instinctive understanding. Even if they don’t understand immediately, they listen and are prepared to compromise.

But others? They haven’t got a clue, happily sat in their wheelchairs with no idea of what it’s like for walkers. Some people say walkers shouldn’t go to university. They should be put in special schools and homes, away from public view because they’re just weird, aren’t they? They make people feel uncomfortable.

And there’s another thing, they just stand there all the time, scrounging money from genuine, hard-working non-walkers who pay taxes. Why should we pay for them? Most of them are probably faking it anyway. I’ve seen those programmes, where they claim all that money for uni, pretending they’re walkers just so they can get a free laptop, when they’re actually playing wheelchair basketball every week on the quiet. That comedy programme too, with the guy who pretends he’s a walker and then does some wheelchair racing when nobody’s looking!

What about the genuine walkers? Bless them, they do their best, the poor little souls. It’s not their fault. We should just be glad we’re not like that…

…Back to the real world. As a wheelchair user, I’ve encountered a range of attitudes towards my disability. But from my experience, students are the most open-minded people around. They can play a key role in ensuring greater tolerance and understanding of disability in the future.

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