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Walk a mile in my cast

BY GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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It happened as fast as heels come off chicks returning home after bar close. I was up, then I was down, grasping my foot, gasping for air. When something's broken, the feeling is explicit. So when the University of Iowa ER doctor sent me home with nothing but an ace bandage and a few Tylenol, I was, at the very least, confused. My previously precious, petite toes now looked like breakfast sausages. My size-5 Keds weren't equipped to hold this newly inflated foot.

This doctor was only the first of my worries, foreshadowing my coming tribulations with a broken foot. Thankfully, my trials will be short-lived; three months on crutches is child's play compared to a lifetime in a wheelchair. I was in a whole new game now, filled with walkers and plastic bags for bathing. The experience is an eye opener, a daily assessment of my generation and their attitude toward those less able.

Have you ever pressed the handicap button at the main entrance of the IMU? The Biology Building? Don't bother — they don't work. Ever wobbled through Phillips Hall's entrance using your shoulder to open the door? I can inform you, most entrances on campus require this same lean and push.

Picture yourself heading to the library. Now make your feet crutches, and tell me, how do you conquer that hill? Take the Pentacrest route, you say? While the incline is less severe, cement stairs make me shiver. Tumbling down the lecture-room stairs in the Chemistry Building deters that decision.

I like sitting in the front — I'm easily distracted and the professor's looming presence keeps me more focused on the lecture than on my iPhone. Manipulating my way down the stairs with one hand on the railing and the other on my crutches was no easy task. So when I fell, I wasn't surprised, but I was surprised by the lack of reaction from the students around me — no helping hand, no frightened gasp, not even a "Are you OK?" A glass of cold water thrown on my face while I'm sleeping, an "Ah-Hah" moment: I can no longer live my life with the same expectations as before. The top row will have to do.

I'm lucky; I can drive. Hop in my car and head to the English-Philosophy Building. Gosh, handicap passes are so convenient, some prime parking to a top-rate entrance in this English haven. Crutch on over to the door, handicap button working? Check. Access the doorway. I'm stuck. A flight up and a flight down, 10 stairs staring at me, testing my balance, patience, and upper-thigh strength. I jump up, one, two, three — s*** I'm exhausted. My backpack's bouncing, my pants are falling and eyes are burning through my skin. But I can do it. I'm dually lucky. I happened to have run a marathon mere days before this incident; hopping stairs is something I'm capable of.

Screen a movie at the library. Exchange your ID for a DVD and headphones. Can you carry those things while crutching? No, I didn't think so. Does the library employee think to help me? Obviously not. I'm standing at the exit of Van Allen, and no one is opening my door. Why is everyone so oblivious to the handicap? Someone needs to help me.

The underclass. The 1 percent. The very few handicap students on campus, hear my cry. Looking as uncool as I do is punishment enough — at the very least, hold the door for me, please.

Can we make all doors electronic? No, probably not. Rid of all stairs? I'm not expecting that, either. But we can make sure the electronic doors that we do have, work. And we can become aware of our surroundings and help a classmate in need, hold open the door. Simply accomplishing the task of educating yourself on handicap problems is a movement. Don't worry, I'm a new member, too; it's hard to see what you take for granted before it's been taken away.

So I need you to look down at your feet. Feel your toes squirm in the confines of your shoe, and say to yourself: Feet, I love you and value you, thank you for all that you do.

Allie Solomon is a senior English major at the University of Iowa.


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