Archive for September, 2016

My Wheelchair Experience around MIT

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

They say that you never know what an experience is like until you have experienced it yourself.  That could not be anymore true in the context of people with disabilities.  Two weeks ago, I was tasked with navigating around MIT in a wheelchair, and as someone who relies on his legs everyday to get to class, this experience could not be any more surreal.

As my brain began to comprehend that I could not use my legs, my other senses became significantly heightened.  Even the slightest bump in a sidewalk would freak me out.  Never had the sidewalks around MIT’s campus seemed so jagged and uneven.  On several occasions, my wheels got caught in the crevices, and I could not move, which was even more nerve-wracking considering that one such instance was in the middle of an intersection!

Ramps were a rather unexpected obstacle.  I had always assumed that ramps were a useful mechanism to make buildings more accessible to people with wheelchairs.  However, I did not fully appreciate the physical effort required to ascend these ramps.  The inclines were sometimes too steep, and I had no choice but to pull myself up awkwardly by the rail, which was even more exhausting for my already tired arms.

Although there were many frustrating physical obstacles, the shining point was the people.  Nobody seemed to treat me differently because of my wheelchair, and many were quick to assist when needed.  One even became quite distraught when she saw how much I was struggling.  Nevertheless, while MIT has such a supportive community for people with disabilities, my experience impressed upon me how much work is still needed before MIT is fully accessible to those with wheelchairs, and I hope my experience and that of others will impel greater action to mitigate this situation.