Books, Binders, Backpacks, and Prison

Life Stories
Friday, June 30, 2023
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  • For Carrie, the first day of school was a time of pure dread and disdain. Not because of her ability to do the work. Because of inaccessibility and her physical limitations. 
  • The struggles went far beyond typing or writing more slowly and struggling with fine motor skills. 
  • School created a year-long brutal punishment which she endured just because of her physical disability. 

Seven times. That's how many times I drove my wheelchair over to my best friend's house last night and knocked on her window. Just to remind her how much I hated the start of the school year. 

By now, she pretty much expected this from me. I did basically the same thing every year. I hated school. Especially the start of the year. 

I was ripped from a life of fun, friends, and fitting in and the next day dropped into a life of exclusion and massive, unnecessary struggling. 

Experience had been a brutal teacher. I knew even before starting the year I would have three strikes against me that would make each school year feel like unjustified punishment. 

I didn't hate these three problems necessarily. I hated how they would change my life for 185 days. Yes, I know hate is a strong word. But, I want to keep my story family-friendly. So, I won't tell you exactly how I really felt. And yes, I knew I would have to put up with school for 185 days. School was such an unpleasant experience every year, on the first day I would start a countdown in my head to the end of the year. 

This ritual may have only lasted for two weeks. But it was nice to think about when I was miserable. 

My three strikes were simple yet devastating to my young mind. 

Strike 1: I typically had a para with me at school. A staff member assigned to help me with the things that were difficult for me to do. But they weren't always so helpful. (We'll talk more about that as the school year unfolds) 

Strike 2: Writing and typing were always difficult for me. Even with my para for help, things just took me longer. I always wound up doing things for homework that other kids finished during class. 

Strike 3: between the para and things taking me longer, I always felt like I didn't fit in. It feels like always having your mom with you at school. Plus, when everything takes longer, you are busy working and trying to avoid unnecessary homework while everyone else is long finished and getting to socialize and connect. 

Unfortunately, the start to this year was classic. We had this pointless project that required us to make a pointless poster about what we did this summer. 

It was projects like this that brought me to a level of internal rage that to this day I have not experienced outside of the classroom. Thankfully, no one could notice it. I was good at keeping everything locked inside. 

This project serves zero purpose, and it was going to take me longer. In fact, I'd probably wind up taking a lot of it home for homework. 

I would just add it to the list of other things I had to do at home that everyone else finished in class. 

These frustrating situations were common. Because working with the para just takes longer and by this point in my life, they were trying to encourage as much independence as possible. That means even though I had a para, they would encourage me to write as much or type as much of my own work as possible. 

It was a lose-lose situation. I still had my mom with me at school. Not to mention, I was still getting the work done more slowly. That meant extra homework for me. 

But at the time, all I knew was suffering through 180 more days just like this one not only sucked, it was unavoidable. Let the torture begin!   

Real World Impact 

  • Barriers to fitting in come in all shapes and sizes. Carrie struggled to fit in thanks to her disability, her para, and not having time to socialize because work took her longer to complete. 
  • Unlike Brian, Carrie not only struggles with her daily life now she feels further disadvantaged due to the high-barrier to access technology in the same way Briand does. 
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