James Longstaff

I was in a wheelchair at BYU for about a semester at two separate times. For much of the remainder of my time, I was in crutches/ a cane. I don't consider myself disabled because I had major surgery on my leg two times and even when I was in a cane, I could still walk even if it took more time and slightly more pain than the average student.

The biggest challenge in being in a wheelchair/crutches/a cane was how long it took to get around campus. I don't know if the school can change this, but it's worth mentioning how those with impaired movements need to expend an extra amount of energy getting around campus. On the other hand, I found this aspect of University life enjoyable even though I was impaired. One plus to BYU is that unlike most campuses, most of the buildings with classes are fairly close together. Benches and places in between building to sit made things easier on me. I'm so grateful for that.

I was a math major and so I took a lot of classes in the Talmadge building. The elevators in the Talmadge are great. They open wide and stay open for enough time for me to wheel inside. In the summer term I took differential equations and I was healing from a femur replacement. I'm grateful that I was able to sit in the aisle of the class with my huge bandage over my wound. I was also very exhausted during this time because my body was trying to heal from the major surgery. My friends would give me a ride in the morning to my class. I appreciated that the parking lot at the Talmadge was available to just drop me off. I got a ton of support from my professor, the tutors in the math lab, and in the Provo community in general.

I know that the campus road (the one that snakes around the Maeser and faces by the LSB and the JFSB) is often closed during the Fall/Winter semesters to student cars. Since I took that math class in the Talmadge during the summer and since the Talmadge is before that checkpoint, it was really helpful for my friends to drive by and drop me off. I think the campus could improve accessibility by allowing disabled students to be dropped off anywhere along that road. I never had to be dropped off along that road through the fall/winter semester, but if I did, it might be less of a headache.

The elevators in the JKB are annoying. They open and close so quickly! There were times when I pressed on the elevator button and then the doors would close before I could wheel myself in or the elevator would squeeze my chair. I hope that the university can slow those elevators down so that someone can have time to get their body into the elevator.

Sometimes the handicap buttons didn't open! This didn't happen all of the time, but it did happen. I was both in a wheelchair/crutches/cane and able-bodied and I admit that when I was able-bodied I would press the button. Maybe we should include some kind of penalty when you use those buttons, but you don't need them? That is probably why they don't work, people use them when they don't have to. (I can see some situations where able-bodied people could use these buttons like if they are carrying heavy or large items into the library, but otherwise, it shouldn't be for them).

This next anecdote has a difficult solution, but it's still worth noting. I had a tumor in my leg that grew back after removing it the first time. There was this one time that I was in crutches by the Maeser and my crutches slipped on some leaves. I then put weight on my femur and then I cracked my femur. When my femur returned, I slipped on some mud where the grass wasn't growing in the spring and cracked my femur again. I know that it's impossible to remove all leaves, all mud, and all ice on campus, but these incidents show that landscaping makes a difference in keeping students safe on campus. I do not attribute blame for my accidents to the University because there were leaves, snow, or mud on campus.

The angle of the sidewalk just south of the HBLL is also annoying. The sidewalk is uneven and there is a slant to the south. When I want to go straight, it is extra work because you keep going toward the grass. This is just one more thing that adds to the stress of a student. It's small but these things add up. There are a few more places like this on campus.

Although these are many things that could improve, I am glad with the help that I did receive from the accessibility center. I was taking spring and summer classes when I had to get my femur replacement. There was a day that I could get my surgery in between spring and summer term. This was the day of my multi-variable calculus class. Although my professor initially objected to me taking the final a day early (the day of studying for finals), the accessibility center pushed for me to take my final that day. I then recovered from anesthesia during finals week and then returned to take differential equations in the summer term. Although I had to take my pain killers and I was healing from a major leg wound, I got a A- in this class. Honestly, this is one of the things that I am most proud of, and I'm grateful for the accessibility center in making this possible.

I love the LSB. I lived south of campus and I used that building to go to school. Whether I was in a wheelchair, crutches, or a cane, that building made my life easier. The first time I was in a wheelchair, it was halfway through the semester and it was before the LSB was finished. Consequently, I couldn't move to another apartment halfway through the semester and I required people to push be to campus along the sidewalk that was there before the engineering building. I often had to sit at the top of the hill and wait for someone to wheel me down. I'm glad that the LSB made students in wheelchair more able to wheel to school or back home by installing the LSB. If BYU builds another building, maybe consider putting the new building in another location along that hill so that students can easily take the elevator to school instead of wheeling up the big hill themselves.

I wish there was an elevator from the top of the hill by the SWKT and the FOB that goes down to the Smith field house. There is a ramp that looks accessible to electric wheelchairs, but it is too steep for me to go down with my wheel chair. There is the Tanner building, but again because I was already exhausted going everywhere else, I would have liked an elevator instead of that steep outdoor downhill descent.

Because these buildings were not accessible to me and although my left leg had atrophied, I didn't bother working them out. I needed to work my atrophied leg, but the gym was not accessible. I'm just grateful that I wasn't an exercise science major or an employee at legends grill.

While I was taking differential equations and healing from surgery, I also lived on the third story of a building. I climbed that building with a swollen leg, heavy cast, and my crutches for the summer term. My landlords didn't let me move downstairs halfway through the semester. Obviously I couldn't move apartments since my leg was healing.

Thank you for hearing me out. I am not disabled, but I hope that my experience can help give insight into student experiences.