I used my wheelchair for the first time at uni today, and I learnt a lot of things, some of which I expected, some of which I didn’t. Here are some of the highlights.
9:35am – I remember why I haven’t tried to use a wheelchair at UQ until now. I emerge from the blissful cool of my car to the 30 degree heat, and fact the facts. There are stairs everywhere. Having parked in the disabled parking, I have two options: I can go 100m to my right to a ramp into the building next to the building I want to go into, or I can go 100m to my left, to a ramp which leads to a set of stairs into the building I want to go into. These big life decisions are the complex dilemmas that I always dreamed of facing when I went to university.
9:45am – I still haven’t made it to the top of the ramp. It is my Everest. The heat is making me dizzy. My arms feel like they might be about to fall off. A groundskeeper has paused under the shade of a tree to watch me with a mixture of confusion and concern.
9:50am – I have made it into the air-conditioning. I’m still not actually in the building I want to be in, but that’s a minor detail. I might just sleep here for a while. Just a few years. Nope, turns out I’ve parked myself in front of a supplies closet and the person trying to access it is too scared or nice to ask me to move, so is just awkwardly shifting from foot to foot as if they need the bathroom. Turns out my arms are still attached and capable of rolling me to the next building over.
9:52am – A lot of people stare. By which I mean most people stare. Wheeling down the hall kind of felt like walking down a catwalk in fashion week (my outfit was pretty stunning after all). Unlike fashion week, I was allowed to smile. I’m happy to report that about 90% of them would return my smile once I noticed them staring.
10:30am – UQ really likes to have faulty lifts (see earlier shenanigans). The poor librarian’s face was a picture of terror as I rolled away from the blocked off lift towards him, because he already knew what I was going to ask. It’s okay. In this particular instance there was another maintenance lift that I could use. The problems would arise if I wanted to access the other tower, which didn’t have a lift available.
10:45am – It turns out I can do a wheelie. It was unintentional. It was terrifying. I am a little surprised I didn’t fall out the back of my chair, and I have no idea how to repeat the exercise. But I did a wheelie. I don’t know that I ever want to experience that surprising am I about to fall heels over head again.
11:45am – Original doors as an architectural feature suck. It’s not just that the wood is chipped by age and the thousands of students who have crashing into it over the years. These doors are difficult with crutches, but they’re impossible with a chair. My favourite architectural decision is where they put wheelchair accessible bathrooms behind these doors.
12pm – I love smooth marble tiles. Carpet is exhausting. Grass is difficult. I don’t even want to talk about pebbles. Tiles are glorious. And going down ramps is nirvana. I’m so close to the air-conditioning of my car and then the delightful pre-made lunch I have waiting for me at home, followed by a nice long nap.
12:45pm – Beeeeeeeddddddd.