We’ve all heard the old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” I thought for a while that must refer to the devastating feeling of breaking up with your first boyfriend or accidentally spending the entirety of your first paycheck, but after I fractured my L1 vertebrae, I gained a much different perspective. This March, a third of Hope’s campus had the pleasure of seeing me tumble off the stage at Dance Marathon. I was taken to the hospital, where I was given a painkiller that could’ve knocked out a horse, told to not carry anything over a pound, put on bed rest for a week and, to top it all off, prescribed a back brace I would need to wear 24/7 for the next two months. In an instant, things I’d taken for granted like walking up stairs, climbing into bed, getting to the bathroom and putting on clothes were now impossible tasks. I felt helpless. No college student wants to use a walker to move around or ask their mom to help them put on pajamas.
But in the blink of an eye, that was my reality. I knew returning to Hope would be a challenge. I couldn’t live in Dykstra anymore because the stairs of the entrance prevented me from getting to my room. I couldn’t hoist myself into bed at night. I couldn’t use communitystyle bathrooms because here weren’t handicap stalls. I couldn’t walk through the Pine Grove because the uphill sidewalks were agony for my back. My backpack was replaced with a pull-behind suitcase. Life unexpectedly became more about adapting and overcoming. Hope’s Disability and Accessibility Resources (DAR) helped me find an accessible home on campus. I was moved into Cook Hall, but I quickly learned life was still not going to be a walk in the park. To get to Cook, there were no handicap ramps to get off the street. The closest exit to my accessible room was downstairs. There weren’t enough accessible rooms on campus for the students who needed them, so I was placed with a roommate.
As I trekked across campus, I quickly learned of the magnitude of accessibility problems facing Hope. The handicap buttons in Bultman Student Center are on the wrong side of the door. The sidewalks are uneven and incredibly dangerous when icy. The handicap button to get into the chapel doesn’t work. These problems quickly mounted up, and I became increasingly aware of the daily struggles Hope students with accessibility needs face. Many students don’t realize how difficult everyday tasks can be when you have limitations. The conversation on how to make Hope more accessible for all its students is one rarely discussed. I want the community to shine a light on its own accessibility shortcomings and make sure Hope can be a home for everyone, not just those of us who don’t need accessible accommodations. I want to urge you to not take for granted any part of your healthy, moving body and to use your strengths to advocate for the inclusion of people of all abilities here at Hope. Together, we can start a conversation that’s sure to spark change in the Hope community and the world alike.