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Thursday, March 23, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

People with disabilities — whether permanent or temporary — shouldn’t be an afterthought

UB’s lack of accessibility made my experience more difficult than it needed to be

I can’t say I knew what to expect when I injured my knee. 

I certainly wasn’t prepared for weeks of bed rest and missed class. I wasn’t prepared to start my last semester in bed, with a pack of frozen peas on my knee, wondering how I was going to leave my bed to go to the bathroom. 

As a student, the last thing I should be worrying about is the university’s ability to accommodate me and my injury.

The university should have protocols for injured students, right? After all, anyone can get injured.

Oh, how naive I was.

My left leg was practically immobile the morning after I slipped on ice near South Campus. My pain was unbearable and medicine wasn’t helping.

My parents — my support system — are four hours away, and this was my first time dealing with an injury of this magnitude by myself. My mom was calling me every hour, trying to find ways to help me. On one of those calls, she suggested that I call Student Health Services to ask for crutches.

So I did just that. I called UB’s Student Health Services, who I thought would be my best option at getting help, and asked for a pair of crutches to let them know I am immobile. 

The employee on the other end of the call didn’t ask me about the severity of my injury or even if I was alright. She simply told me that “the only way to get crutches is to schedule a visit with a doctor.” 

I tried again. I was in desperate need of crutches; they were my only hope of leaving my bed.

But she insisted I couldn’t get crutches without an appointment. I wasn’t offered any means of transportation to the office, either. The receptionist did tell me that I could try calling local hospitals for crutches but warned me they would be expensive. 

I felt dejected and angry.

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How could those be my only options? Somehow leave my bed and limp to the Student Health Services building — which is off campusor cough up $100 for crutches? 

Every year, UB students pay a non-negotiable “student health fee” of $439. 

And I can’t even get a pair of crutches when I need them.

After this letdown, I moved on to my next option: Campus Living. I messaged an employee, explained my situation and asked for a wheelchair. 

To my surprise, there wasn’t a single wheelchair in the whole Ellicott Complex.

Not one.

Injuries happen all the time, and over 3,000 students live in the Ellicott Complex. How could the university not have one wheelchair in Ellicott? 

Who makes these policies and protocols? 

This needs to change. People with temporary and permanent injuries and disabilities shouldn’t be an afterthought.

I was angry. I had no option but to accept being bed-bound. Thankfully, someone with Campus Living found a pair of padless, oversized crutches in a supply closet.

It was literally the bare minimum — but I needed to get out of bed somehow.

Student Health Services proved to be completely useless in assisting me with my injury. It was only through the support of my friends that I was able to overcome this experience. I am so thankful that they were willing to help and that some of them have cars because I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

Online ordering was my saving grace. Frozen foods and non-perishables from Walmart and Target became my lifeline.

I am grateful I had this option, but it makes me concerned for students who don’t have that support system.  

What happens to the people who don’t have friends with cars? 

Sure, their friends could pick up on-campus meals for them. But that won’t get them to doctor’s appointments or to class. 

The weight of an injury shouldn’t rest solely on students’ shoulders — the university has many resources, and they should be put to use.

Yearly, we pay $484 for transportation fees. The university should have some sort of ride-share option that delivers necessities for people with disabilities. 

I have taken so much for granted in my daily life. Now, even the smallest things drain me. Following a week of slow healing, I was finally able to crutch my way to the bathroom to take a shower. 

The bathroom is only two doors down from me, but it was the most tiring experience of my life. My only goal for the day was to make it to the handicapped shower stall. 

After hobbling my way to the shower stall, I went to pull out the handicapped chair and it was broken. 

The one thing I was depending on was broken. One of the few handicap-accessible accommodations the university provides couldn’t even be maintained properly. 

The seat was bent at about a 25-degree angle, but I had already made it so far that I just swallowed what little pride I had left and dealt with it.

I sat on my slanted shower chair, furious. After days of setbacks, the one thing I thought I could count on let me down. 

I was devastated, upset and ready to give up.

Thankfully, this is only temporary for me. In a few more weeks, I’ll have healed. 

But some students don’t have the privilege to heal. Some students have permanent disabilities and have to deal with the carelessness of the university on a daily basis. 

The university needs to be held accountable for not providing more accommodations for people with disabilities.

Leaving my room and going to campus on crutches seems so unrealistic to me. 

This campus is not designed for those with disabilities, temporary or permanent. 

How am I going to get to my classes? Crutch a mile to campus?

Or wait in line for the Stampede, with 50 other students and get trampled over?

Life isn’t easy with an injury, and I wish I didn’t have to stress over things the university should have handled.

When will the change start?

Victoria Hill is the senior news editor and can be reached at



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