First Floor Fanatic

Hey again interwebs,

I’m fairly bad at predicting what I’m going to want to write about. Actually I think my brain rebels against it. Every time I’ve said I’m going to write about something, I’ve turned around and gone to pretty much the opposite of that topic. I don’t know what’s up with that. Consider this my apology for doing it yet again.

Today what I want to talk about is accessibility. Accessibility is a really big deal, and I think a lot of people are really used to buildings being accessible in the US. Probably because that’s how it should be? Yeah, that. I’m fairly used to seeing ramps and elevators. It’s a good thing.

Wesleyan doesn’t seem to agree. Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights (WSDR) founder Allegra just emailed our listserv asking for thoughts on Wesleyan’s accreditation self-study in regards to disability, and here are my thoughts.

In the accreditation self-study, Wesleyan says “Limited funding, steep topography, and numerous historic buildings challenged the University’s ability to satisfy accessibility needs without compromising the historic character of the campus.”

I love Wes and everything, but I didn’t realize our semi-shitty classroom buildings were so “historic” that we couldn’t possibly add a couple ramps and elevators without “compromising” them. And ya know, those works of art that are the Foss dorms probably couldn’t be contaminated with wheelchair access either. I think it wouldn’t be a big deal. I think the more honest answer is the “limited funding,” since it’s becoming less and less of a secret that Wes is a bit strapped for cash (need-blind? What?).

I decided to do a little bit of lazy “research” and found that 25 of Wesleyan’s buildings are listed as “first floor access only” (sometimes worded differently than that) on their disability accessibility map page thingy. And not every building is even listed. Including my house, where not even the first floor is accessible. That’s not awesome, Wesleyan. First floors are usually not all there is to a building. Classes aren’t always on first floors, our friends’ dorm rooms aren’t always on the first floor, that art show we want to see or lecture we want to hear isn’t always on the first floor. This is a little bizarre.

I’m not affected by this right now in that I’m not in a wheelchair.* In fact, I’m pretty sure that no current Wesleyan student is wheelchair-bound. I don’t really think that’s a coincidence. I think that if you’re a student looking at colleges and you’re in a wheelchair and you come to Wesleyan, you’re probably going to look around and realize it’s not the place for you. And that means we’re losing people who could be awesome members of our community.

I don’t know if other colleges do it better, to be honest. But I do know that Wesleyan is an awesome place that I love a lot, and I wish the community could hold itself to a high standard of accessibility and acceptance of disability. (Kinda like we do for the LGBTQ community, do many colleges have this going on? Didn’t think so) And let everyone get to WestCo wine and cheese.

 

*but the cool thing about MS is that I could be in a wheelchair at any moment (plot twist!), and if so, I like to think that I’d be able to stay at (and still love) Wesleyan

Thoughts On Home and Magic

Home and Magic are two things that I maybe didn’t fully believe in until after the past two days.

Home is a thing that’s hard for me to define. There are places that feel like home and can be clearly defined that way: my family’s house in Gettysburg, for sure. It is the address I put for “permanent address” on forms, it is the place where I can stay up until 4 AM and walk around in my underwear without worrying. It is where my parents, brothers, and pets live, it is where I spend my breaks from school. Having just left it, I do feel homesick. Especially for my mommy, who writes such nice blog posts about my messy room.

But it’s in a town that’s not home. I’m going to awkwardly quote Bowling for Soup now:

I hope this song finds you well.
And I hope that you’re doin’ fuckin’ swell.
I hope that you’re back up if you’ve ever been down.
And I hope that you got the fuck out of our hometown.

I try not to refer to Gettysburg as my hometown, although it is a town which my home is in.

But then, my parents’ house isn’t my only home. I was very much reminded of that today.

Being back in Provincetown is surreal. I walk around town and everything seems less colorful than I remembered it. Smaller than I remembered it. The problem with being a child in a place and then leaving is you have this image of all streets as wide, all flags as bright. FAWC, where my dad used to be director, seemed familiar but not quite right. There was the place a cat scratched me (I was just trying to be friends!), the little house on the quad where we lived, the newly renovated offices that used to have swinging doors that I would skip through. Memories of silent auctions and days spent sitting under wooden staircases, telling myself stories.

Commercial Street was also strange. I found the coffee place where my mom would buy me muffins and scones (lemon poppyseed was my favorite, I think), but it was closed for the off-season. I found two places that sold salt-water taffy, and, wanting to buy some for myself and my brothers, I was torn. They were across the street from each other, I could remember being in both stores. Which one was better? Did I have a preference, ten years ago? I chose the one whose door was hanging open, it seemed more welcoming, but I instantly regretted it. It felt touristy and fake, the other one, out the window, looked more family-owned and homey. I was shamed, a tourist in a town that had once been home. I bought taffy and left, annoyed.

 

But then. Magic! My dad and I went over to Pat‘s house before going out to dinner with her. Everything was exactly as I had remembered it. Pat’s house is unchanged, but also organic and living. Her new dog, a wolf mix (70% wolf, Pat thinks) barked at me and I remembered that I was a stranger and that things were new, I guess, even if everything seemed perfectly congruent to my memories.

Pat’s old dog, Atisha, had been my peer as a child. We were the under-table dwellers, those who played with tennis balls, the shorter-than-everyone twosome. I had hung out with her in a den of pillows and sheepskin under a table, that den was still there. It looked impossibly small. Paintings, some by Pat and some by others, covered the walls. Plants grew everywhere. Outside, we could see the beach.

 

I can say “I never lived there, it is not my home.” But I was alive there, and it felt like home, so maybe that’s not true. I have no concept of how much time I actually spent there, if the way I feel about the house as a place is reasonable or deserved. If I am just one of many children who feels that they grew there, though maybe not up. Maybe just better.

Home for me is also a weird concept I guess because of the whole long distance relationship thing. A part of my home is always with Ari (oh hey) even though we’ve never lived in the same place. Teenage love is very self-centered, though I just told my dad that compared to other teenagers, Ari seems about 50 years old. In a good way. I have an old-person’s disease (so people tell me) so I guess we’re both secretly elderly.

Next year my home will be a little less torn. Ari got into Wesleyan. Real tears of joy happened on my end (Dad was very amused). I guess that’s a little magic too. I’m not the “tears of joy” type (usually).

I’m really happy right now.

PS: sorry about the pictures of Pat’s house. It was a terrible moment when I realized that I was in one of the most magical places in the world and only had my cell phone as a camera. Atisha’s grave is the first picture, the rest are inside Pat’s house.