Everyone experiences life differently. On March 18, I, Addie Gerber, had the chance to get a glimpse of someone’s life in a wheelchair.
A lot of things were different from walking; how I got around was the main difference. At first, it was a little difficult to control the wheelchair. I kept on rolling to one side or I would constantly roll over into the dirt and get stuck. One of my friends would constantly be by my side to help me get unstuck. I would also bump into objects and sometimes run over people’s feet. Since I was having a difficult time controlling the wheelchair, my teachers would let me leave class early, so I could make it to my next class. Around lunchtime, I finally got used to the wheelchair and controlling it became second nature.
Every once in a while, I would have someone push me to class or up some hills. Having someone push the wheelchair was much more time efficient and helped me get to my last class on time. They also helped me get up a really steep hill by the tennis courts.
One of the most difficult obstacles was doors. Doors are the worst enemy for a person in a wheelchair.
When I had to open a door by myself, I would keep the door open with one hand, grab the door frame with the other, and pull myself through the door — all while staying in the wheelchair. Having someone open the door was so helpful!
Finding ramps around campus was very confusing. Some of the ramps were either very easy to spot or blended in with the road.
I was either able to find the ramps and mind my own business, or I would waste five minutes trying to find one.
Grabbing my textbooks and notebooks from my locker was a little bit difficult, but I didn’t have that much of a problem doing it.
It took me a while to open my locker, but once I did, I put my supplies in my backpack and was able to move on.
When it came to being in class, I felt a little bit excluded. I could obviously tell no one was doing that on purpose, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of the class. Sitting in the back or in a corner off to the side, away from the desks, makes it hard to interact with the other students. It was also hard for the teachers to see me. I actually had two teachers unintentionally ignore me for a bit.
Being in a wheelchair was really hard and very eye-opening. I got to experience just a small portion of the obstacles.
I know my experiment had its limitations, but it was a good experience and can help me sympathize with those who experience life differently, especially those who do so for more than just a day.
March is National Disabilities Awareness Month.