by Lauren Costello
Here at Oak Crest we are always trying to make people more aware of diversity and disability/ The past few months I had the honor of working closely with The Office of Community Based Learning at Goucher College to further this idea. For students who are looking to become teachers for children with special needs, they are required to take a basic 100 level special education class. But this isn’t just like any 100 level college class….
For one week, these students participated in a simulation where they got to experience what it was like to live life with a disability. I was able to follow three students for a few hours to see how they dealt with remaining in a wheelchair for six hours. Once they left their dorm for the day they could not return until it was time to return their chair. They were encouraged to move from building to building, try going up ramps, experience getting food at the dining hall, and anything else they would do on any given day.
It was very interesting to see how the students handled certain situations. For example, two of the students were unable to open doors on their own and no one offered to help them. It was frustrating for them to see people who were fully capable of helping them just walk right by without giving them a second thought. Another major issue was how the wheelchair would affect them socially. Some of them were worried their friends wouldn’t include them in their daily activities, but others knew their friends would be willing to help the minute they asked.
I really enjoyed working with this team and these students because I was able to learn so much from them. Working at Oak Crest each day I see so many residents who are bound to a wheelchair every minute of every day or even use walkers or scooters to get around. It was very eye opening for those students, and myself, to see how hard it can be for just a short amount of time during the day. My favorite quote of the day came from a student who had extreme difficulty getting into one of the classrooms. She said “I think everyone should have to take this class and experience what life is like in a wheelchair. It was a very eye opening experience and it really made me aware of how hard it is to maneuver around campus…they really need to make this campus wheelchair accessible.”
This program airs on Monday, April 25th at 10AM, 2PM, 7PM, 9PM, and 12AM. You can also view the program the following day at oakcresttv.com.
*Special “Thank You” to the team at Goucher College and resident, Jane Dummer*