As a college student currently using a manual wheelchair because of what we believe is extremely rare subtype of dystonia, which has a neuro-autoimmune component called stiff person syndrome that has contorted my feet into unnatural postures, I have been pretty spoiled by my fellow college students. You see, I am not used to being wheelchair bound, I am still learning to set my pride aside and ask for help when I need it. Even after two and a half months in my wheelchair, the reality of needing mobility assistance hasn't hit me yet. I have some outstanding peers always ready to lend a helping hand.
I am always amazed that people are offering to push me up the hills or hold or open the doors so I can safely get up the sometimes icy ramp and into the building. While a lot of this may seem like plain old-fashioned manners, not everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand.
On one particular evening, I was trying to get to my night class. The roads were very icy and slush covered. As hard as I tried, I could not get "Zip" (my wheelchair) across the street. I tried and tried, but I couldn't get traction on the ice and slush. My wheels just kept spinning out. I was stuck, but not for long. After seeing my situation, a young college student jumped off her bike, darted across the street, and asked if I needed help. She pushed me across the road and up on to the safety of the sidewalk. I thanked her repeatedly for being so proactive in helping me. She simply shrugged and said it was the least she could do, before going to retrieve her bike from the other side of the street
Everyone on my campus is pretty amazingly accommodating. Occasionally, there will be a rude individual or two blocking the handicap accessible ramp when I need it or I'll get a cruel greeting of "Hey Handicap!" Such is life and that part will never change. I don’t spend time dwelling on it. They aren’t worth my time and energy,
Having people exceptional students, faculty, and staff ready to help me when I need it most is very comforting. It is helping me accept my new reality. I am accepting myself for who I am, but having my peers be just as accepting makes this transition much easier.
To all the college students that open the door for me, hold the door open for me, helped me cross the treacherous ice covered streets, and offer to push me up the hills, thank you for going the extra mile. While some of this is just common courtesy, I want to thank you for doing it with a smile. It takes a special bunch of people to do that and the world could use some more of these extraordinary people.