Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Purdue Campus Adventure

So the first full day out of the hospital was pretty interesting. When I was in the hospital I got a message from one of the Purdue jobs I had applied for recently. i called the guy back then and told him the situation but I'd try to make it to the interview (just in case, he gave me his cellphone number).

I don't usually get dressed up, and I forgot to get a tie from storage to go with my interview outfit. How much would a tie cost? A lot bleeping more than you'd think! Since I'm pretty tall I figured the best place to go would be the Big&Tall store on 52. The little strip mall it's in has ONE ramp in the middle of the building far from the designated handicapped parking. Fine. But it's been there for a very long time and weathering has turned its edges into a crappy un-ramplike surface. A bit of struggle with the parking lot and the "ramp" and it was into the store... $30 for a tie?! Well there were some clearance ties, but they were all $17 or more. That's way too much for a tie and the guy was nice enough to suggest checking out JCPenny at the mall.

Off to the hated mall (I don't "do" the mall even when I can walk but I figured it would be worthwhile to see how accessible or not it was). The handicapped spaces were placed more for mall access than for JCPenny access, but it wasn't that far to roll across another slightly crappy parking lot (off-road!) and up the not too bad ramp to the sidewalk that went to the JCP doors. The double-doors didn't have a button to automatically open and if I were on my own they would've been bleeping hard to get through. The main thoroughfares were mostly fine (except for the few oblivious people who didn't "see" me in a wheelchair rolling along) but amongst the racks and display tables it was a very tight fit or totally impassable. Eventually we found the ties and there was one that looked pretty good with the shirt I would wear. $6 for a tie is more like it-- but it was the only one in their tie clearance area for that price, the rest were $15-$17 - outrageous!

I got all gussied up without much trouble and it was off to the Physics Building. We'd scouted the area before and there was a little wheelchair sign with an arrow pointing at the ramp area we decided would be the best place to drop me off. I rolled past one set of doors to the main entrance where there was another little wheelchair sign with an arrow pointing back the way I had come. BLEEP! So I rolled back to that first set of doors that I had dismissed only to find that they were access to a big stairwell. There was another little wheelchair sign with an arrow pointing toward the ramp drop-off point. BLEEP! I started to back out to the main sidewalk and there was a female student walking up.

"Can I help you find the entrance?"

"Sure, thanks. I guess it's around the back or something?"

"Let me go around and find it so you won't waste your time searching for it. These signs are pretty misleading."

So Alice was gone for a couple of minutes and when she returned she explained where the entrance with a ramp was on the other side of the building. I had about 10 more minutes before I had to be in the building for the interview. She asked if it would be offensive if she pushed me and I said no but I could make it if she had someplace to get to. I thanked her for her help and she went on her way.

The trip around the building was interesting with two or three other passers-by asking if I needed any help- who knew Purdue folks were so nice. Finally i got to the ramp- an obvious afterthought to the original building design. It was a bit narrow and I'd hate to navigate it when there was snow or rain. The door had a button for automatic opening and I was then confronted with the lift.

There was a small flight of stairs and a monstrous lift with a joystick on the wall to bring it up to the door level. I rolled into the little lift and, because I'm so tall and the leg supports stick out a bit further than the normal wheelchair-bound person, I was slightly jostled while the lift went down because the leg support and the wheels were too close to the front ramp and the back wall. No damage done though.

Before I reached the ground (only 5 feet or so from the door) I saw a female student or staffer going by the doorway to the lift room. "Excuse me, do you know where room 34 is?" I later learned that nobody but the guy I was interviewing with knows the room numbers in the building. The numbers were going lower around the corner and around another corner until she left me to find the way on my own because she was going to the elevator. I finally came to 34 and the door was open. I think they were a little surprised I was in a wheelchair but the interview went well.

The guy who did the interview let me use his phone to call my ride, then he showed me a shortcut to the lift. He pushed me up up the ramp and over to the curb where my ride pulled up.

It was interesting to see the difference in attitudes toward the chair on and off campus. Maybe 60% of the people off-campus ignored or stared at me while only about 20% were like that on-campus. It could've been because Spring Break but I think it's probably like that all the time....

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