As a college student, most all of the responsibility falls to you to seek out support when you need it. What I've learned is that the professors, faculty, and students are all willing to lend a hand whenever you ask for it.
Grinnell professors really get to know you and are responsive to your needs as a student with a disability, both physically and academically. I have never had a professor be anything but incredibly willing to work with my classroom needs, such as use of the testing room or a Livescribe smart pen for note-taking. However, it is my responsibility to discuss accommodations with my professors at the beginning of each semester, and to tell them when I need accommodations.
What I really appreciate is how responsive professors are to making the classroom experience easy and accessible. Some have moved classes from inaccessible rooms to accessible locations.
Since I park my scooter outside the door and walk into the classroom, I have had professors offer to carry my backpack or offer an arm if I need help to balance. I have noticed that by the second week of classes each semester, the students always take over this role, often without being asked. In one of my classes, I always took the seat nearest the door, since it was easiest for me to get to. Once, I arrived to class to find that seat taken; the available seats were at the other end of room. My professor simply asked my classmate if he would give up his chair for me, to which he responded, "Absolutely!" and did it without complaint. For the rest of the semester, the students made sure that chair remained available to me.
This attitude is shared by other member of the faculty and staff. From facilities management to the dining hall, I never worry that I won't be able to get assistance I need. Facilities management works to clear paths to class in the wintertime. The dining hall staff puts food on my tray and carries it. They have gotten so good over the years that they often can predict what time I will come to the dining hall and what I will eat based on that day's menu!
It never fails to amaze me how helpful and observant Grinnell students are. Going into campus buildings, people walking several feet ahead of me will always hit the automatic door button so that the door is open before I get there. Once, while going to class on my scooter, my keys fell from my lap into a snow bank. A student saw me struggling to pick them up, picked them up, and wiped the snow off them before he gave them back to me. Another time, a mechanical error with my scooter caused the battery to die without warning. A group of three students switched the scooter from drive mode to manual and proceeded to push me what was the probably the equivalent of three blocks' distance to my dorm. I was so grateful, but felt bad about the physical strain of having to push the heavy scooter plus me. They told me to stop apologizing; they would do this anytime. I did not even know them personally. They even pushed me into my dorm room, and I had to convince them multiple times that everything was now all right before they would leave. Never before Grinnell have I encountered a community like this. As a testament to this, when I pass the students who helped with my scooter on campus after that, we always acknowledge each other and wave.
With inclement weather common in Iowa, the health center has an accessible van that is available to drive you to class if the weather is particularly bad. It is helpful to speak with facilities management at the start of every semester to outline the routes you use most during the semester. They mark these routes on a map and give them priority when clearing a heavy snowfall. Arrangements can be made to have food delivered to you if you are unable to get to the dining hall during blizzard conditions —rare but it has happened.
Your wheelchair can still get stuck in snow banks, but I've found students are willing to help. If the situation is dire —if your chair breaks or malfunctions — campus security can be called to assist.
These resources are always there and willing to help you if you need it, but you have to be the one to seek it out. You have to tell them exactly what you need.
I have countless stories that I could share about how supportive the Grinnell community is. I am proud to be a part of this community because of how we help and care for one another.