Students ‘step into the world’ of disabilities


Alexandra Kelly/Iowa State Daily

A line of wheelchairs and canes sit ready for use in the UDCC as part of the ‘Step Into My World’ event put on by the Alliance for Disability Awareness Club and the Student Disability Resource Center. The event was part of Disability Awareness week. 

Morrgan Zmolek

Five minutes is all it takes to change someone’s perspective on the plight of disabled students.

The “Step into My World” event happened Friday outside the Parks Library as one of the last events to close out Disability Awareness Week.

Two workers, Caitlin Trom, a graduate student in student affairs and advisor for the Alliance for Disability Awareness, and Cassie Paterson, the assistive technology program assistant for Student Accessibility Services, ran the event, and they said they both felt this event is a unique opportunity to raise awareness.

There has been a plethora of events at Iowa State through the duration of Disability Awareness Week, such as lectures and educational pieces, but this event gave a more interactive way to broaden understanding of the challenges that disabled students face on a day-to-day basis.

“I think this event is different because it really let us show what students can go through,” Paterson said. “There are students on this campus who fight these battles every single day. I think it brings awareness, too, because if you’ve done it yourself, maybe then the next time you see somebody who’s using a cane you’ll know more of what they’re going through.”

This event provided students with the opportunity to try and navigate through the entry and exit doors of the library using either a white cane and a blindfold or a wheelchair. The goal of the event was to make students aware of the kinds of challenges disabled students go through every day, and it really throws students into what a day may be like with disabilities, according to Paterson.

Matson Kiehne, a junior in agricultural studies, opted for the wheelchair. He struggled some with the hand sensors on the doors aimed at helping disabled students enter easier.

“It was a lot harder than I thought. I couldn’t figure out the hand wave thing right away, but if it would have been busier it would have been really difficult,” Kiehne said.

Each student who participated spoke positively about their experiences, recommending other students to come and take part as well.

Another participant of the event, Simon Ball, a freshman in pre-biological and pre-medical illustration, chose the cane and the blindfold.

“It was very stressful the entire time,” Ball said. “I felt like I was going to run into someone and was really struggling to find the door handle.”

There were, however, an overwhelming number of students who simply walked by. In the first 50 minutes of the event, six students stopped and actually participated in the event, though there were a few more interested who said they were planning on swinging by after classes or tests.

“You’d think people would want to learn more,” Trom said. “It takes five minutes.”

Every participant said they felt like their perspectives and understandings of the challenges faced by disabled students were changed in some way, most of them said they would stop and help if they see someone struggling because they knew how it felt for them.