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accessibility : I deal in hope

I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Bio Before the KSC/UNK campus was accessible

Recently my oldest grandson and I exchanged emails. I asked him if he would be able to attend his college courses in person this fall or still have to attend online. He answered that he would be able to physically attend classes, but he preferred online.

I told him I hadn’t had such choices which led to some interesting stories. He wanted to hear them and that got me remembering. Back in the early 1970s my parents were looking for a college for me to attend. At the time, my father had no church so we were free to move any place with a suitable college, one with a journalistic program and one where I could get around on campus. (I had one year at a community college all on flat ground.)

Getting around to classes was no small thing as I was in a wheelchair I couldn’t even wheel myself, though I could peddle a bit with my feet. Also, there were no ADA laws making it clear that colleges and businesses needed to accommodate those with disabilities.

After visiting what was then KSC (UNK), we were told they would help me get to my classes. Obviously no one really considered what this meant. Nevertheless, my parents, my younger brother Paul and I moved to Kearney, which felt like home right away. (My older sister was married and lived in Kansas.)

After we settled in Kearney, my pastor father was once more called to serve a church—this one in Canada. Since we all loved Kearney and dad would soon retire, Mom and Dad decided only Dad would the church, while the rest of us stayed here in Kearney. That created an interesting problem since my mother did not drive, leaving my high school brother as our only driver.

He took me to college my first day and got me to my first class. Somehow, I did get from class to class that day. At the end of the day the person wheeling my chair left me outside a building that is no longer on campus. I wore a warm cape, but the the skies were threatening and mist threatened to become rain.

Paul was supposed to pick me up, but he didn’t. I tried to turn around. I saw he and two friends entering a building too far away to hear if I called. Obviously they were looking for me. I was getting cold, praying and wondering what to do.

A women saw me out of the window and took me back inside. We tried to call my home, but got no one. There were no cell phones. She knew who I was from church and decided to take me home. I was so grateful. On the way home we passed Paul who’d gone home to check if I were there. When I wasn’t, he headed back to the college.

He saw us and, thanks to the kindness of a stranger I was OK. When he got home, Paul added to the story. After unsuccessfully searching, he contacted the security office—campus cops.

He explained the situation. “My sister’s in a wheelchair and I need to find her.”

The officer on duty appeared bored. He glanced at his watch. “I’m going off duty now. If you haven’t found her by morning, let us know.” Thankfully, unlike Campus Security, a stranger cared enough to get me home.

The old administration building consisted of three or four floors with no elevator. When I had classes in the ad building, I’d call my professor and explain I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t do stairs. Most professors assigned young men to wait at the bottom the stairs and carry me up chair and all. Those were some wild rides. These guys were kind and treated me with respect.

The problem came during test time. As soon as someone finished the test they were to leave. No one thought—including the teacher—how that affected me. It left me at the end of the day stuck on a top floor of the ad building, mostly emptied of teachers, students and almost everyone else.

Paul would never find me, though by then he pretty much knew where I’d usually be for pickup. I had one option—prayer. It was frightening to be stuck with no options.

Suddenly, up the stairs came someone I knew. For some reason, she had business up there that afternoon. She was surprised to see me and shocked at my situation. It didn’t take her long to find some strong arms to carry me back downstairs. I was so grateful!

I can’t say how many times I needed a ride and how thankful I was for the kindness of complete strangers who helped me get around when I “got stuck.”. That was especially true in Winter when sidewalks were cleared with only a narrow path for walking.

I graduated with many good and some scary memories and a heart of gratitude that I would remain in the town that, for the most part, welcomed me—Kearney NE.

© 2020 Carolyn R Scheidies
Published in Kearney Hub 8/31/2020

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