Often, the excitement of new things causes us to forget other things. And, equally as often, being used to a particular situation for a long time can make for a rude awakening if that situation gets changed. Both of these have been true with me as this week has begun.
The excitement of being at a new school, learning the ropes, finding the ropes quite manageable, and aligning myself with my new routine — all of this caused me to forget about the possibly-necessary question of disability accommodations at this school. I had my accessible room, after all, and classes were going well. Accommodations had slipped my mind, for the most part.
When they hadn’t slipped my mind, I viewed them with a kind of suspicion. Why?
Because of community college.
When I began community college, I used accommodations as necessary and did so strictly according to protocol. At the beginning of each semester, I would be given accommodation letters to take to my professors for various things. Laptops for note-taking. Extra time to complete tests. Things like that. I was grateful to have these things during my first two semesters, because I needed at least one of them during that first school year.
Then, my situation took a turn for the better in one direction and a turn for the worse in the other. The better thing was that, eventually, the only accommodation I really needed anymore was access to a laptop for notes. And so many professors let their students take notes on laptops, even without any written agreements, that I ended up not getting any accommodation letters at all in my last year and a half before I graduated. I didn’t need them. That was the positive change.
The negative change, however, crept up on me and didn’t make itself fully clear until today. As I said above, I began to view accommodations with a kind of suspicion.
I didn’t need them. And because I didn’t need them, I didn’t want them. And because I didn’t want them, then to request them would be a defeat to my sense of self-sufficiency. A blow to the image that I’m “normal,” just like anyone else. A sign that the school was dumbing things down for me because I couldn’t handle it.
Then, as the saying goes, God threw a curveball.
I viewed the weather forecast to discover, to my horror, that today there would be, not just a chance of rain, but a 100% chance of rain.
For those who haven’t spent much time in a wheelchair, rain, wind, and snow are the trio of weather conditions that make up an unholy trinity meant to destroy all you hold dear. They are, without exaggeration, public enemy number one.
It’s about a half-mile trek from my residence hall to the main campus; the rain today hasn’t been horrible, but if it were to get horrible, or if the wind were to pick up, I wouldn’t be able to get myself to class easily. The slick wheelchair wheels. My feet not staying on the footrest due to the water. My flinch reflex activating horribly once the wind picks up.
Sure, there are ponchos and good Samaritans that can push you to class and make life a little easier, and — in the end — there’s good old fashioned grit that allows you to trudge to class yourself. And to a point, all of that stuff works.
I could have looked like this guy.
I have before, and will no doubt have to again. It’s life. Life is hard and you make what you can of it, each and every today. It builds character and determination, and, for that much, it’s an amazing thing.
But there are also disability-related absence accommodations. And accommodations that give you the teachers’ outlines and powerpoints. And ways to record lectures. And all of these could save a whole lot of heart-and-bodyache if the weather gets horrible.
So, today, I bit the bullet and did it. I called Michelle at the disability office. I filled out the form to (no wheelchair pun intended) get things rolling.
And I realized, I don’t need to tear myself up to live life properly. The accommodations are there for a reason, and even if I rarely need what they offer me, it’s a safe bet to apply what I learned as a Boy Scout and be prepared anyway.
After I made the phone call, I made a late breakfast of bacon and potatoes. I would have made eggs, too, but I didn’t feel like taking the time right then, and besides, a guy from my hall came in after smelling the bacon and we had a nice chat about life, faith, bacon, and wheelchair use before he needed to head off somewhere.
So I made a realization about accommodations today; and there was bacon. Things could be worse.