August 15, 2017
As a full-time college student who uses a wheelchair, there are things I did that were beneficial in my first year. There are also things I didn’t do that I WISH someone told me about before I started college. To avoid the hassle I went through, I have put together a short list of tips for individuals who use wheelchairs (or power chairs) that are starting their freshman year.
Now let’s get rolling!
- Take a trip, or “run-through”, to everywhere you will be on campus for the next few months!
These should include, but not limited to, your classrooms, dorm, laundry room, gym, and the cafeteria. You might be wondering why, or you might not. In case you are wondering, it will be a great way to check for accessibility. You are an individual with a disability, right? That’s why you’re reading this, right? So you should already know how accessibility checks work. Now, just do that with all of the places on your campus. Make your life easier and find out before your first day. Be prepared.
- Sign up with the Office of Accommodations!
It won’t hurt and the college will have an idea of what to expect as you arrive to this amazing new place where you will be spending a lot of time, and maybe even calling home, for the next few months. Many people who have disabilities forget to sign up, or feel embarrassed to sign up with the Office of Accommodations. DON’T BE! First off, the information is presented as confidential and look at it like this — if you don’t speak up, they will never know. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW ABOUT YOU AND YOUR NEEDS. I’ll say you’re welcome now, because you will thank me later.
- Get involved!
Meet new people! Get to know your classmates, room-mates, dorm-mates and team. Join some clubs. Friends are always nice to have in college. Don’t limit and exclude yourself by choice. Every opportunity you have to network, make your mark, or meet some peers, take it. REMEMBER, you all go to school for the same reasons, already something you have in common with everyone else! YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENT. Plus no one really cares about whether you are in a wheelchair or not once you get to college. You are among intelligent and educated individuals — typically they are not the bad guys, so yeah, don’t be nervous!
- Become familiar with transportation to and from class based on the weather conditions!
Snow and rain can be your worst nightmare. It’s good to ask either the security department or Office of Accommodations what you should do in the event that bad weather conditions negatively affects your travel to and from your classes. See what options are available.
- Lastly, don’t be nervous and have fun!
Enjoy yourself. You only get to go to college once. Don’t waste your experience because you might be nervous. Break out of that shell and have the time of your life. You definitely will. GOOD LUCK!
Henry Viscardi School Class of 2016
Mariah graduated salutatorian from the Henry Viscardi School in 2016 and currently attends Marist College, where she is active in Student Government and majors in Communications. She aims to use her experiences as a young person with a disability to empower others.