Students experience life in a wheelchair during Disability Awareness Week event


Lyn Bryant

Sam Mereness, junior in mechanical engineering, tries out a wheelchair with some of his friends at the “Step Into My World” event, part of Disability Awareness Week. The event included discussions on the challenges people with disabilities face, and gave non-disabled persons a chance to see what it is like living various disabilities. Photo: Lyn Bryant/Iowa State Daily

Logan Olson

Not being able to move quickly through a crowd or see what is directly in front of you are examples of daily struggles that people with physical disabilities have to face. 

This past week was Disability Awareness Week at Iowa State. 

In collaboration with campus partners, Student Disability Resources and the Alliance for Disability Awareness sponsored events across campus. One of the main events, Step Into My World, took place on Tuesday and Thursday. 

On Tuesday, students, faculty and staff could participate in simulations of daily activities of people with mobility challenges. This event took place at the Union Drive Marketplace. 

“One student was able to use a wheelchair and gain the experiences from the simulation,” said Steve Moats, director of disability resources. 

Moats said each student had to move through the crowded dining hall and just try to get their food as normal and find a seat. 

“The typical reaction is how difficult it is to navigate through a busy cafeteria and just being able to also keep their food and drinks safe was very difficult,” Moats said. 

On Thursday, the event was in Eaton Hall, which allowed more students to participate in the simulations. 

The room was set up with different scenarios. One was maneuvering a wheelchair to pick items on the ground up. 

Korey Kollasch, graduate in higher education, chose this task. 

Kollasch’s reaction to the task was on “how hard it actually was to steer the wheelchair and to get in to certain positions, to do what you want to do, to go where you want to go.” 

“It was a struggle to hold my back pack on the chair while just moving around in the wheelchair,” Kollasch said. 

Mariah Dougherty, freshman in dietetics, brought up the issues that she feels would be a problem after doing some of the simulations. 

“There are so many stairs everywhere, that I could see how it could inconvenience people with mobility challenges to get around, especially the older buildings,” Dougherty said. 

The difficulty of having mobility challenges is something that Nicole Eagin, freshman in food science, also felt when wheeling around. 

“You think in your head, ‘Oh this is just easy, I can just roll around,’ but it’s actually a lot more complex, and a lot harder then that,” Eagin said. 

Dougherty said she is happy this is something where people can come together and learn about this. 

Moats said the overall goal of this is awareness. 

“Hopefully this event will have some positive implications, whether that be holding a door for somebody or pushing a chair in for chair users, that seems like a simple thing but it really can make an impact,” Moats said.