So far, we’ve been thinking about accessibility for disabilities as they are commonly understood, and we have expanded this to consider other populations such as the elderly, people with strollers, and those with temporary disabilities. Imagine accessibility and design for someone such as Miserando. What barriers may exist in your specific selected buildings or in general? What needs may chronically ill people have that you and/or your group have not considered yet? You do not have to be super specific, as you likely have not researched this, but use Miserando’s account of her daily life, and other knowledge you may have (if any), as a starting point. If you are at a loss for what barriers may exist, use this free write as a time to pose questions about accessibility and accommodations for chronic illness. You may also make connections to the Andrade & Ely reading on accessibility and spatial orientation.
In “The Spoon Theory,” Miserando explains life as a person with chronic illness. When her best friend asks her about what it feels to be sick with Lupus, Miserado is initially surprised: she thought her friend knew what there is to know about Lupus. But when her friend pursues asking about what it is like to go through life with Lupus, she spontaneously develops the “spoon theory.” She explains that most people start their day with a lot of energy and have a lot of control over their lives, but sick people often feel that they have a limited amount of effort and are not in control. To convey this point, Miserado grabs a handful of spoons and places them in her friend’s hands. She asks her friend to list off her daily tasks and takes spoons away one by one as her friend talks about things that require effort. The realness of holding the spoons and feeling them be taken away helps her friend understand how people with chronic illness live each day with a limited amount of energy and are always conscious of their illness.
I was touched by “The Spoon Theory”: Miserando’s story reminded me of the daily struggle of one of my family members who had a short term disability. The piece made me think about how buildings on campus can be more accessible for people with chronic or mental illnesses to help them feel as comfortable as possible. One of our buildings that struck me as being uncomfortable is the Physics building: the stairwell and hallways on the west side of the building are confined and narrow: between classes, they become jammed with people, forcing students to squeeze past one another. As a person without chronic illness, this experience is already unpleasant; for people with claustrophobia or limited mobility, I can only imagine how dreadful it must be to maneuver through that part of the building. I think open spaces are much more inviting and accessible. Another one of our buildings, the Lawson computer science building does a great job of this. It has wide hallways with tall ceilings and students always have plenty of space to move around. Other accessibility issues for people with chronic illness include heavy doors and elevators/restrooms that are difficult to reach from building entrances. When it comes to accessibility, it is important to do things in the best interest of people, not to comply with laws.