Winter Blues

Anyone who relies on the use of a wheelchair will tell you – winter sucks. I woke up this morning, my first day back at school after the holidays, to the first significant snowfall of the season. I should be happy that we’ve made it to January without ANY snow; I should be less bitter. Well, I’m not.

Thank God the snow was soft and fluffy. My power chair actually did a decent job of cutting a path at eight fifteen in the morning, before anything had been cleared. When I tried to back up though, I was quite literally spinning my wheels. Driving through the snow is not for the indecisive.

It kept snowing all day. I pulled the instructor of my afternoon class aside and explained that if it kept up, I might have to leave early – lest I find myself unable to move through all of the accumulation. He looked at me and said “Well, I’m going to be doing such-and-such in the second half of the class and you really shouldn’t miss it. It’s important you know.”

Really? I had no idea that being in class involved you imparting knowledge that I should probably be present to learn. I should add that I warned all my instructors back in September that inclement weather might force me to leave arrive late or leave early. They were all very understanding – when it was thirty degrees outside and we were all wearing shorts. I was doing the mature, responsible thing by telling my instructor that the weather might force me to leave early so I didn’t get stuck and stranded in the snow and he gives me a subtle guilt trip. Not cool.

I promised him that unless it was absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t leave and I didn’t. I can understand being told what I would be missing if I left and I would understand him saying, “I really hope you don’t have to leave.” It’s the guilt trip about how leaving would be a really bad idea, but okay, play it by ear. Seriously? Why is that even necessary? I’m not ten and faking a stomach flu to avoid going to school. I was struck with the overwhelming urge to default to ask him how he would handle the situation if it were him, but I suppressed it.

He seemed very surprised that I hadn’t made special arrangements for a ride; I had to explain that if I were relying on wheelchair transit rather than taking the regular bus, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to school at all that day.

It is highly probable that this entire thing irks me more than it should; it could have been much worse. But I still do find it rather astounding.

I am very much missing my undergraduate days, where my professors were extremely understanding, enough so that if this situation were ever to happen there, there would be no subtle dig about the important things that I really shouldn’t miss. If this situation were to happen at my undergraduate university, my instructors and I would arrange a time to meet and go over the missed material, or they would email me with the important information. No fuss, no muss. Not at all undercut with guilt.

You know what else I miss about my undergraduate university? The entire campus and all of its buildings are connected by five kilometers of underground tunnels. I lived on campus for my entire degree, so the weather was NEVER an impediment to my attendance. I went to university in Ottawa, where the winters are decidedly worse than Toronto. Even in the rare event that weather was extreme enough for classes to actually be cancelled, I was still on campus all the time. I miss those days so very much. I’m now on my third post-secondary degree at a third institution, but I am a Carleton Raven through and through. That campus –and the fantastic tunnels, full of hand painted murals- will always feel like home.

Layla Guse Salah
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DT Network

Tags: accessibility