Thesis dreaMS Part 2 – reflections of a slightly mature, disabled PhD student.

Day 1

I’m not going to keep this up, but it was day 1, so here’s some more thoughts.

Last week someone told me that we were going to be good friends because we both have grey hair. It felt so good, not, because one of my neuroses over the summer has been how old I’m going to be compared to everyone else. It’s not that grey, is it? And, am I allowed to be friends with people who don’t have grey hair?!? So confusing. I never understand all of these social friendship rules at high school – clearly, I’m not any further ahead now. (Ahead… geddit?!?)

My brown-ish grey hair

A different neuroses that has literally kept me awake at night, or woken me up, has been that on the first day of classes the buses are going to be overflowing and I’m going to struggle to get to class on time. Every year it seems to be one of those news items – back to school, slow down in school zones, university students complain because already full buses drive past them. On the way to the exchange, I couldn’t see a thing as I have to sit facing backwards. I got off the bus and…

Bus stops at the side of the street with no one waiting

No one. No one at all. Of course, then I started to worry that I was too early or too late! (Side note: I wasn’t)

When I arrive at the university, I have to go inside a building and take an elevator up one floor – people who walk take this big broad flight of stairs outside. I pushed the button to open the door, and as I tried to go through, it started to close on me. I backed up. I presumed I hadn’t hit the button hard enough, so I smacked it one, and the same thing happened! Third time, I just used my wheelchair footplate to bulldoze my way through. First office, opposite these doors? Facilities maintenance! In I went – “hi – you have a door that’s not working properly here. Do you have a frequent visitor card, because I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing a lot of me?” Okay, I didn’t say the second part, but, hey, they will get to know me.

My class is in a newer building on campus, and boy what a difference. The loo is a thing of beauty! No demolition will happen this time! All the doors are too heavy – classrooms and the loo – and the building is too hot, but it’s definitely what I would expect in any usual building, in terms of accessibility. I know you want to see the loo…

Accessible toilet in a huge space

And all this before I even got to class! Such are the trials of a disabled student!

Class was lovely. Just 6 of us students and the instructor. I’m sure I did my first master’s degree before some of them were born, but hey, I bring experience! And, as I had done my homework, I bring words. Lots of words! I explained that I would be needing to record one part of the session each week, when we discuss readings, because taking notes and listening and thinking were all too much for me, and everyone was fine with that. In fact, the other students were interested in having the recordings too! Universal Design in action! If it works for a disabled person it works for everyone!

I stayed awake all class. To be clear, I wasn’t worried about falling asleep from boredom, but the class is 3 hours and ends at noon, and with fatigue like mine it’s really pushing it in terms of my limits. But it was all good. Probably adrenaline as I’ve slept like a log all afternoon.

After leaving class, I went to wait for my lift home. It was definitely busy out there! People! Cars! And, one special little truck that decided to park in the hatched area between two accessible parking stalls. Emails have been sent.

White pick up truck parked in an a hatched area between two accessible parking stalls.

So, there we have it! Day 1 – and in terms of physically attending the university Week 1 – done! I’m getting into the groove of getting there and getting around, and maybe now I can settle down to studying stuff. And good stuff at that.

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Michelle in wheelchair with lightsaber fighting Dart Vader