By Karina Martinez-Romo
With all the construction that Duke is undergoing, most of us can’t help but complain about the long alternative routes getting to places, such as from Edens to the Bryan Center. I myself am guilty of doing this, but at the end of the day, I am not the one most affected by it. In fact, why should I or anyone else perfectly physically able feel the need to be accommodated? Those whose voices most matter in terms of accessibility are those with disabilities and it is our duty to spread cognizance about the daily issues they often endure and become instruments of change for this cause.
If you think the walk to the Bryan Center is long, think again. Try taking the route behind the chapel that is not only longer, but often secluded of people as well. Because of this, friends with disabilities frequently experience isolation from the rest of the student body. Additionally, with the winter season coming in, most of us choose the quickest and easiest path to Perkins- so we take the mulch path. The last thing you want is have to increase the time that you are in the cold, but for many of my friends they don’t have the luxury of option. The only path for them is yet again, often the longer and more isolated one. Sometimes, there isn’t even a path! Perhaps you are passionate about French or Italian. Next time you pass by the Languages building or are going in for a class, I want you to remember that for many on campus, they are deprived of the option of taking a course there due to the lack of accessibility.
These are only a few of the experiences many of my friends must endure. I will admit that for me, rainy days are the worst. I don’t like walking in the rain long distances. It can be frustrating when the weather seems to be burdening you. But what about those with motorized scooters or wheel chairs? Sometimes the Duke Vans may not arrive on time and consequently you are late to class. It has happened before that the motorized scooter my friend uses has suddenly stopped functioning on her in this kind of weather. It is not that simple for her to walk back to her dorm carrying all of her books, laptop and other belongings. She physically needs the aid of others to do things like these that others do effortlessly. For that reason, she often has to plan her days, her class schedules, and the activities she goes to around accessibly.
Another thing I will say is that yes, we often take things for granted. It’s a part of human nature. However, one thing that I’ve learned through my time at Duke, and simply put: stop taking things for granted. Take a moment and realize that what you assume to be the truth is not the case for everybody. Be sensible about the situations of others, such as friends with disabilities. Put yourself in their shoes. By becoming aware of the issues they go through, you can then advocate for change. Their circumstances can be like one-way tickets in the sense that they are often forced to literally go only one way.