My Struggles with Wheelchair Accessibility on Campus

Grace Dow

As a freshman student who has a neuromuscular condition called Cerebral Palsy, when I began looking at colleges, wheelchair accessibility was important to me. Westfield State was very wheelchair-accessible at first glance and had the appropriate academic supports for me. I was eager to begin my college career. I quickly learned that while most of Westfield’s campus is very wheelchair accessible, certain aspects are not. 

For example, Mod Hall does not have an automatic door opener to enter the building. For most people, this is not something that they give much thought to. For me, this limits my independence. Not having an automatic door opener means that I am more dependent on other people than I already am. In addition, if the automatic door opener or the elevator is broken, then this poses extra challenges. It brings back memories of middle school when my school’s elevator broke down and I had to stay home for days. 

While I know people are usually willing to help me when I need it, I don’t like having to rely on other people. Living with cerebral palsy already makes my life a challenge. Most people take everyday tasks for granted. They aren’t used to having to rely on people to dress them, shower them, and take them to the restroom.  

The main dining hall is another place where I have faced challenges. Cerebral Palsy affects my fine motor skills. This means that I am unable to press the buttons on the drink machine without assistance. Again, this is a situation where I wish I could be more independent. Being in a wheelchair also often means that I have trouble being seen in crowded places on campus. For instance, in the dining hall sometimes the workers do not see me as I sit lower in my wheelchair. 

Westfield State University is a great school. I’ve very much enjoyed my first semester here. If we could have small improvements in accessibility it would be even better.