WOW. What a crummy person I am. I am finishing my second year here at JMU and not once did the thought of me being privileged as an able bodied student cross my mind. Well, until now.
In 2015, ODS reported that roughly 3% of the students at JMU are registered as having a disability, either visible or invisible. However, Matt Trybuss, the former Assistant Director of JMU’s Office of Disability Services, states that the real number was closer to 10%. This could be because of the stigma placed around being disabled, but this number has most likely grown since then.
I have to repeat myself because WOW. That number seems small, but that’s over 2,000 students. After having an intense conversation with some friends about how much of a struggle it is for some students just to get around campus, I can’t walk into a building without thinking “I wonder how someone in a wheel chair would get around all these stairs” or walk down the quad without getting mad at all the quad bricks that have been stolen. That silly quad brick tradition has gotten so bad that Tim Miller, the new Vice President of Student Affairs, took it upon himself to send out a mass email saying something along the lines of, “If you must take a quad brick, I left a stack outside Miller.” I mean come on, people! We have blind students and students in wheel chairs who have to pull a Mission Impossible every time they travel from Wilson to Harrison. It should not be this hard to get to class.
There are so many things that I never used to think about, like having braille on all the signs in buildings in case of a fire or emergency, having automatic doors for all the building entrances, or there being disabled parking close to all the classrooms. And I don’t blame you if you haven’t either, because I’ve never been in a situation that forced me to think about the struggle. I don’t mean to sound ignorant. I am truly saddened by the fact that I was never exposed to this kind of thinking and was not considerate enough to think of these issues, but I am educating myself now and I think it’s important for you guys reading to do the same.
These students are here for the same reason I am, to get an education. And being able to get to class safely should be a right, not a luxury.