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BW student raises wheelchair lifestyle awareness

Greenberg demonstrating how to open a non-handicap accessible doorWalking is a gift that the majority of people take for granted, but students in one sociology class at Baldwin Wallace University had an eye-opening experience thanks to education major Melanie Greenberg '20.

Greenberg, who has been in a wheelchair since she was young due to an accident, decided that her final project for professor Elizabeth Ross' sociology class would be the perfect opportunity to help her peers and professor get an insight on her life.

The Experiment

To conduct an accessibility challenge, Greenberg contacted Youth Challenge, an organization that brings together young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers who inspire each other through adapted sports, recreation and social growth activities. They provided five wheelchairs to the class for a day. She divided the class up into groups of five to rotate using the wheelchairs. For each group, Greenberg drew up a route around campus with several stops along the way.

The routes made evident that sidewalks around BW include cracks, bumps and inconsistencies in the concrete. Students who walk would normally go over these bumps with little to no thought, but in a wheelchair, they presented big problems.

student in wheelchair struggling to go over bump in sidewalkIn addition to the bumpy rides, most of the buildings around campus only have one handicap entrance. This makes it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get into buildings and make it to class on time. Some of the buildings have handicap entrances in hidden spots that you would never see if you didn't ask someone where it was.

A simple 10-minute walk from one class to another is a near 30-minute expedition for a student in a wheelchair with the additional obstacles of snow, passing students and cars.

Lessons Learned

Student conducting wheelchair experimentOne of the biggest student takeaways from the experiment was that moving in a wheelchair takes a lot of upper body strength. To cover the assigned routes, groups had to rotate each person in the wheelchair at least twice because the effort was so tiring for their arms and hands. Afterward, Greenberg's peers commended her for her immense strength.

Greenberg has had to alter her life in order to accommodate her disability, but she is now confident and comfortable saying it is a part of who she is.

People who have the ability to walk can never truly understand the struggles of living day-to-day life in a wheelchair. Yet, Greenberg's social experiment helped everyone get to know and respect how her life works just a little bit better than they did beforehand.

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