Going away to College - Tips for the physically disabled

This past week I wrote about my transition into independence and moving into my first dorm room. The post was published here on Thriving and I hope you got to check it out!

During that time period I remember scouring the internet for advice on dorm-living for the physically disabled. I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed with the results of my findings. While I told the story about the transition I didn't share tips that helped me along that process. With that in mind I figure I'd list a few helpful tips in today's post, so here we go (Note: These tips apply to anyone with a physical disability not just O.I.)

Questions to keep in mind:

  • When it snows is the campus plowed? (If you're able to it might not be a bad idea to visit some campuses during the winter)
  • Are all the dorms and classrooms accessible? If not what does the school do?
  • What hospitals is the school close to? Is there accessible public transportation to these hospitals? Does the school provide accessible transportation to these locations?
  • What is the school's medical emergency procedure? 
  • Where is the Office for Students with Disabilities? What services does this office provide?
  • How do I get in contact with the RA (whoever is in charge of the dorms 24/7) should there be an emergency?
  • What is the fire exit plan when elevators cannot be used? 
  • How can my PCA also have access to the dorm? 
  • Can my textbooks be delivered to my dorm so I don't need to carry them myself?
  • Are the desks and chairs able to accommodate wheelchairs in the classroom?
  • What medical notes/forms are needed in order for me to "register" as a disabled student on campus?
  • Is there a place I can store medical equipment other than in my dorm room? The school health services office? Campus security? 
  • Is there another wheelchair I can use on campus in the event that my own wheelchair breaks down? 
...Those are just a few questions that I remember asking. I am sure that there are plenty more but be sure that you make the time to flush out every possible scenario you can think of! This way you are prepared when visiting campus or meeting with a school administrator. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Helpful things to pack:
  • Spare batteries/chargers: for hearing-aids or wheelchairs etc.
  • Twist-ties: there can be A LOT of wires in your dorm room from all those electronics & gadgets, twist ties are incredibly useful to keep all of them neat and away from your wheels!
  • Spare wheelchair and any screw drivers or allen wrenches in case something needs to be fixed quickly
  • Medical emergency bag: if you needed to be rushed to the hospital what would you absolutely need? Put all of that stuff into a bag that is always ready to go and easily accessible to anyone in your room
  • That claw grabber thingamajigger ... you know what I'm talking about? 
  • Wheelie containers: if possible try to get all of your storage boxes/drawers on wheels. This way it's easier for you to move them around when it comes time to re-organize your room or for you to get things
  • Definitely get a laundry hamper that is on wheels... we all know students love waiting until that basket gets ridiculously heavy before starting laundry!
  • A mini-fridge that's at an appropriate height. Personally I went with the 2x2/3 cubic foot fridge that also came with a mini freezer; I then put this on top of my drawers so I could reach it instead of leaving it on the floor

If my readers think of any other helpful questions or things to pack please be sure to leave suggestions in the comments section. It'd be awesome if this list became a resource for others who were getting ready for dorm life! 

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