Saki Shimamura, Full-time Contract Staff, Office for Students with Disabilities
It’s the midday break, and I am pushing a student in a wheelchair to a classroom. There is a long line of people in front of the elevator. A sign by the elevator reads, “Give priority to those in wheelchairs,” but nobody is paying us any mind. “Excuse me,” I say. “Could you please let the student in the wheelchair on first?” Finally everyone notices us, and the line parts to let us through.
At the Disabled Student Services Office we provide disabled students with the support they need to pursue their education, but I wonder if support is all that is needed? Are disabled students able to get the same level of enjoyment and fulfillment out of university life as non-disabled students? I think we need to be a bit more aware, a bit more understanding, and a bit more proactive about helping those around us. If people waiting atelevators would give way without having to be asked, this simple act alone would help lessen the barriers to movement that students in wheelchairs face.
When we hear the word “support,” we often interpret it as meaning “special treatment.” In reality, there is nothing “special” about it. “Support” simply means enabling disabled students have the same access to their environment that their non-disabled peers enjoy. It is only once disabled students receive support that they are on the same level playing field as everyone else. I myself have a hearing impairment, and without support I would not be able to fulfill all my work duties. Once I am provided with the appropriate support and consideration, however, I am able perform on par with everyone else, being productive and giving back to my community.
In a sense, diversity is something we think of as “perfectly ordinary.” My hope is that this “perfectly ordinary” mindset will become the “perfectly ordinary” mindset at Waseda, where a bit more awareness and accommodation can create a vibrant daily campus environment for everyone.