» Go to news main

What It's Like, #4

Posted by Communications, Marketing and Creative Services on December 1, 2023 in Community Highlights

What It’s Like provides members of the Dal community with an opportunity to share their first-person perspective on living with a disability. People are welcome to share with their name or anonymously.


Tell us a little about yourself and your role here at Dal. 

I’m a non-academic staff member and live with several invisible (dis)abilities, including neuro-developmental and physical, and some of which are episodic.

What it's like.

I think we’ve all been in a classroom, meeting, or other space when the person teaching or facilitating wanted to work with a non-traditional seating arrangement but was faced (almost always) with tables and chairs arranged in rows, all facing the front. Henceforth I’ll use “teacher” in this metaphor, for simplicity.

So, we’ve either been that teacher, or observed that teacher, moving all the heavy and wheel-locked tables and chairs out of the way and rearranging them to accomplish our/their task. This requires time. This requires additional effort. The teacher either needs to put in extra time, by coming early to move the obstructive furniture, or if unable to get to the room early, needs to use the first part of their class time to move that furniture before they can start teaching.

The first thing the students see, then, is either someone huffing and puffing, sweaty and disheveled, or someone who is in the very midst of trying to get the furniture out of the way.

This is how I can experience my (dis)abilities. Sometimes I have to spend extra time and extra effort just to get rid of certain barriers I encounter (and more time and effort than some folks just to do the work I need to do in the first place). And when I meet or work with some people, this might be the first thing they see me doing; they become aware of my (dis)abilities before anything else. My other option is to keep to myself that I’m encountering barriers and try to navigate them the best I can (which also requires extra time and energy)!


What accessibility changes would have the biggest impact on your experience here at Dal?

Returning to my metaphor, the more students who help get the unnecessary furniture out of the way, the sooner the teacher can do the actual thing that they are good at doing, and to make the actual valuable contributions they have wanted to make from the outset. They don’t want to be observed huffing, puffing, and dishevelled, nor do they want to be observed dragging around furniture. They don’t want to expend valuable extra time and effort before they can even get started, or have to give up parts of what they want to do because of all the unnecessary tables they can’t move from the middle of the room.

For me, I really hope for more “students” who are willing to “move furniture.”  I hope for more allies who don’t experience my (and others’) barriers, to recognize those barriers when they see them, and to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand removing them. I hope for more folks to create spaces where those barriers aren’t there in the first place. I hope for allies who can see that they can contribute to removing barriers faced by other marginalized groups as well. Personally, even collective efforts to become aware of and challenge ableist language, misconceptions, and stigma would make a huge difference for me and so many others!

Will you help move some furniture so we can get down to the work we’re meant to do together? Will you reconsider your spaces and remove barriers beforehand so we can do the work we’re meant to do together? And can we please make sure we don’t put the tables and chairs back the way we found them?


Previously in this series:

You can find all entries collected here.