By Tithi Mayani
Editor’s Note: This article does not mean in any way to bring down the school. There are several wheelchair accessible classrooms, and we are fortunate enough to have had an elevator installed within the last decade. This is meant to be an eye opener that even seemingly accessible buildings will have some flaws that able-bodied people won’t always notice when designing it. MDHS has always supported students with disabilities and has been home to multiple students in wheelchairs over the years. MDHS is continuing to improve to be an environment that is supportive of all of its students. Keep calm and Mustang on!
~ Maija Shea
As part of the Health and Wellness SHSM at Milton District High School, I was tasked with spending a day in a wheelchair to be better able to relate to people who live with physical restrictions. I was not allowed to move my legs anywhere. I had to keep my feet resting on the foot pedals at all times. Through this experience, I learned many amazing things about school and life that I never knew before about accessibility, the overlooked struggles of living in a wheelchair, and the amount of support that this school has for everyone!
- The elevator is slow (and cramped). So slow, in fact, that when my friend and I were taking a ride inside of it, we momentarily believed that it was stuck! Of course, this was obviously not the case, but it did cause both of us to be late for our classes. If there are ever two people in wheelchairs that need to use the elevator at one, they can kiss their perfect attendance goodbye, because there is no way that both of them will make it to class on time. But hey, at least we have an elevator!
- The blue doors placed between hallways are very inconvenient. They are a pain to open while in a wheelchair, which is why I made sure that a friend was always with me.
- Not standing for “O Canada” is a very strange feeling. After always rising for the national anthem at school for 12 years straight, this was the first time I remained seated while everyone around me stood to sing the national anthem. I almost felt as if I was doing something illegal…
- Getting to your seat between rows of desks is a pain. This was especially true for the science labs, where the rows are placed very close together, and the stools are sticking out. As well, the science lab counters are way too high to actually use while sitting on a wheelchair. Getting there is not even as hard as positioning yourself at the desk. Because of the wheelchair, I couldn’t tuck my legs in beneath the desk as I normally would. Because of this, I had to constantly lean forward to use the desk. After about two minutes, I gave up on using the desk and decided to use my clipboard instead.
- The sinks in classrooms such as the science labs and room 209 are unreachable. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to get both hands under the tap to wash my hands without using my feet. Don’t even get me started on reaching the paper towel dispenser!
- Sitting in a chair for six and a half hours can make your butt hurt. After not moving my legs at all for so long, my tailbone hurt, my butt got numb, and my upper leg muscles became stiff. Overall, a very uncomfortable feeling.
- People don’t look down when walking in a hallway. Trying to get from class to class, I was forced to manoeuvre through the crowded hallways using a wheelchair. It was inevitable that I would eventually bump into a couple of people. What I didn’t expect is for people to walk right into me. I think this is because people are used to looking up or at their eye level for people to manoeuvre around. Because no-one looked down to where I was, people didn’t know where they were heading until it was too late.
- The students and staff at MD are super supportive. Seriously, I’m not even joking. It was almost unbelievable how willing people were to drive me places, hold doors open for me, help me reach for things, and move things out of my way. The support I received really made the experience bearable, and even enjoyable!