Tag Archives: Accessibility

The UNlimited College Experience

On Monday I went with my in-laws to drop my sister-in-law off at college. I was so excited that you would have thought I was the one starting on a new adventure. My sister-in-law has chosen to attend my alma mater, Grand Valley State University, and I can’t help but feel like her experiences there are partially my responsibility. I know that’s silly, but I just want her to have a great experience.

I loved college; it was easily four of the best years of my life, part of that is probably because high school was pretty terrible for me. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend a four year university. Having a disability seemed to make this accomplishment even more important, although I didn’t particularly think so. College was always something I knew I would do, but there were still some challenges that needed to be overcome. If you have a disability, and plan to attend college, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Every college has an office that is supposed to tend to the needs of students with disabilities. My advice is to contact these offices before you are admitted. That’s right, research the services that are provided for students with disabilities and make that research part of your decision to attend. Accessibility should not be the only reason you attend a college, but it should probably outweigh the male to female student ratio, or the food selections.

My second piece of advice is to visit the campus, more than once, before accepting admittance. Especially if you have a disability that will affect how you navigate the campus. Because I had visited Grand Valley several times before becoming a student, I knew I would need a power chair in order to be fully independent. I never considered a power chair before, at this point I had only been using a manual chair for a few years; this was not something I would have thought of had I not thoroughly toured the campus. When you visit campuses you might discover that you will want an aid, a service dog, or another accommodation to help you navigate. You may also discover that the campus is not as accessible as you had been led to believe.

My last piece of advice, do not be afraid to speak up and ask for the things you need. In my first year at GVSU, I found out that there were many small things that made it difficult for me; doors that had no buttons, counters that were too high, restroom stalls that were too small. I wrote a letter to a school newspaper called The Rant. Days after it was published, I was contacted by the dean who wanted to tour the school with me; I was able to point out the things that were not accessible and explain why they needed to be adjusted (which is not always obvious to those who don’t have disabilities). Not only were these things improved, my advice was used for future projects.

College can be a great experience. It can also be a not so great experience. Sometimes situations will be out of your control; but embrace the things you can control to make it the best experience possible. College isn’t just about getting a degree. It is also where you learn about yourself, your needs, your strengths, your weaknesses and really grow into yourself.

Safe in any weather …

Railing

 

Every Christmas I get the  “What do you really want?”  question from my children and I usually have a wimpy sort of answer like … “whatever you give me will be great.” But this year I decided to answer that question honestly and I did.  I told them I would be happy to buy all the material if they could build me a new deck to replace the one that I’d had for over 30 years !

Well, they were delighted and in March the weather man promised a few warm and clear days and they went to work.  In the picture you see the three of them in action.  That’s my oldest son on the far right, my middle son (in the white hat) under the window and my son-in-law on the left.

Working together they managed to finish the job in three days (although I can’t stain it for 6 months because the wood needs to “cure” first !).  But I couldn’t be happier …

railing2

 

…it’s like having my old deck back but with a very important change …I now have a substantial railing and that is critical for me.

I actually spent years without a railing and I remember the many times that I slipped on ice or wet leaves.  It’s a wonder that I didn’t break something or fall off the deck !

So, if you have a deck without a railing think hard about adding one onto it.  There are so many options to choose from and your kids will rest easier knowing that you’ll be safe in any weather.

It’s the little things …

EZ key turner…like this EZ Key Turner that, although very small and inexpensive, greatly   improve the quality of my life.

I can’t tell you how many times I would put that darn house key in the lock and then have to struggle to open the door.  It was very frustrating.  But now with the key turner I find that I have the additional leverage that I need to open the door with ease.  I don’t know how they designed their product to do this but I don’t really care.  All I know is that it works!

There’s nothing complicated about the turners.  You simply snap them over a standard key and you’re set to go.  The EZ Key Turners come two to a pack and in differing bright colors that make it easy to identify which key to use…in my case,  the house key (red) or the post office box key (yellow) .

The other thing that I love is the fact that my two keys with the turners attached don’t get lost in my purse !  No matter how careful I was to put them in the same little pocket I always seemed to lose them among all the rest of the stuff that accumulated there.  Now that’s a thing of the past.

This may seem like a silly little item but I love it.  I guess that’s one of the perks of aging …it doesn’t take much to make me happy !

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