So, as you’d know if you read the About Page, I was born with a disability and have been in a wheelchair for several years now. There’s no escaping it, Disability is a part of my life. Hell, it’s part of my identity as a person. As you’d expect it brings its own set of challenges. As real as these challenges are I am largely unaware of them on a day-to-day basis. That’s due in part to the exact nature of how my disability affects me, the people I surround myself with, and the way that I manage my life. Some environments though, help to exacerbate the harder-to-avoid challenges. University, as fun and exciting as it is, can often become an environment where ‘the differences’ become a little clearer.
High school, for me, was an environment where disability played a part, yes, but was largely unaffected by it since I went to the school where my father was teaching for several decades and the school themselves were willing to be highly adaptable to the various needs required as I got older. University, however, was a different monster for me altogether. At the University of Cape Town, by contrast, I was an unknown in a way that, for the first 18 years of my life I was wholly unaware of.
If, for some or other reason, I encountered a problem at High School all I had to do was pick up the phone and get ahold of my father who would help to fix the problem that same day or, alternatively, approach any of the academic and/or support staff (a majority of which I had known for most of my life) and they too would help. That in-depth, personal support structure I had grown up with faded away when I moved to UCT. Sure, there were support structures in place but not the same as what I had become accustomed to.
As daunting as you’d expect this pivotal transition in my life to be, without all the added problems that disability would automatically bring to the party, I’m beyond glad that this happened. Why? It taught me to become that more self-sufficient and to further realise that I am capable of handling my own problems – even in an environment where I am a stranger. That freedom that University grants a person, that undeniable sense of a new beginning, the opportunity to prove that you are becoming more and more the person you want to be is the basis of this entire blog.
Personally, I love what I’m doing in Varsity. I love the people, the setting, the classes, and the innumerable ideas that float around campus on any given day. That’s not to say that my time at UCT has been a walk in the park. I’ve come across several problems with UCT on the disability front alone: I’ve had a security guard try to tell me that my Service Dog is not allowed on campus because she is “a dangerous weapon until its teeth have been extracted”; key lifts around the campus break down several times (two of which I was stuck in myself); and misunderstandings by university staff about the use of disabled parking bays to name a few.
Either way, University is just one of the many adventures life has to offer and I intend on enjoying it while it lasts, using it as a springboard into other adventures further down the line and living life. Yes, I have a disability but why should that stop me?