Wheelchair Exits & Entrances - How I Graduated

You've got to look for the little uni-sex stick figure in the chair to find the golden entrance. Sometimes it's an even better adventure than playing a video game, other times it's like you're playing on the Nintendo Wii: Don't forget to dodge the construction site, avoid breathing in the cigarette smoke, and go backwards down the curb cut! 

Usually these signs point to direct you to the side of the building, around the rear, down a block, or in the case of some public transportation entrances go through the underpass, over the tunnel, into 3 different elevators, and then wait on platform 9 3/4.. wherever they are - wheelchair exits and entrances are rarely upfront and easy to locate. 

Every time I am somewhere new I begin to analyze the situation. Is the place a newer or older building? Is it private or publicly owned? Do many other people who come here use mobility aides? I have had this discussion a fair amount of times with my friends who are not wheelchair users, and it's gotten to the point where they go places and think so how would Sandy get in here? 

But this post isn't about the hassle of accessible entrances or exits, this is about the grand accessible exit I took when I graduated college -- 

Before the ceremony took place I flew down the aisle in my cap and gown, tailored just right to fit my small 3ft. stature. Earlier that morning my friend had helped me pin up some of the ends to keep it from getting caught in my chair's wheels, my cap slipped down my forehead a bit as I sailed down the ramp to take pre-graduation pictures with my family. 
"Hey, so there are stairs going up to the stage how are you getting up to the stage? Or are they going to come down and give you your diploma?" My older brother asked, pointing to the stair cases on both sides.
"Oh I'm not sure yet. I have to go find out right now."
I raced back up the ramp, and mingled some more with friends and professors - looking frantically for whoever was 'in charge' of the ceremony. Surely, they had taken this into consideration?? My college had done a terrific job of making sure my time there was made as accessible as possible, I had become close to the woman who was the Director of the Office for Students with Physical Disabilities and looked in vain for her.

"Sandy! Hey! I'm going to help you get on stage." It was D, now the Director of Community Service but I first knew D as my admissions officer. D had interviewed me when I had first arrived on campus, a timid and very uncertain Senior in High School. 
"What?" I couldn't believe it. Things were all coming in full-circle, the same person who had led me into the college was now going to personally show me out? 
"Come on, just follow me." We went around to the back of the stage. A man was operating a fork-lift like machine and I was instructed to drive onto the platform. The machine raised me to the back of the stage and I was instructed to roll out as my name was called. 

As I was raised onto the rear of the stage I remember thinking this is the best wheelchair exit ever. Here's to me - taking over the world the best way I know how! 

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