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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students with disabilities share range of campus experiences

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Photo by Pilar Ibarra

The disability resources building sign posted outside the Disability Resource Center office in room 122 in the Student Services Building. 

About 2,800 current students at Texas A&M share the same commonality: they possess some form of disability.
Like how these students’ disabilities differ from each other, so do their on-campus experiences and range of struggles. For some students, getting to class is the most difficult part of their day. For others, it’s finding genuine relationships.
Psychology freshman Uxia Gago was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, or EDS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS and Dysautonomia, a dysfunction of the nerves that regulate involuntary body functions. Given her health conditions, Gago uses a wheelchair.
The first of Gago’s problems started when her disability coordinator left, which she said was seemingly out of the blue. She was originally given the department head coordinator for her major, but has since been put under the director of all disability services, who she said has been difficult for her to work with.
“She has so much on her plate,” Gago said.
Only last week, Gago had an A&M bus driver yell at her for “just being on the bus.” Gago said she assumes she was an inconvenience to the bus driver. She filed a complaint and transportation services changed the driver’s route. However, the fear of inconveniencing or angering a bus driver is still there.
“They had to calm her down,” Gago said about her bus driver.
Gago said her transportation trouble doesn’t end with angry bus drivers. Gago uses a transportation service called Paratransit, which is for people with disabilities that cannot use the “fixed” bus route, according to the Paratransit website. Some difficulties Gago has experienced with Paratransit are a lack of response, sporadic cooperation and inconsistent pickup times.
“[Paratransit] waits for 10 minutes and if you don’t get picked up, they leave,” Gago said. “Sometimes they get there 10 minutes early, so I’ll go out 10 minutes early. I’ve had to wait 20 minutes for them. So that’s 30 minutes out in the sun, which can cause me to pass out.”
Even taking a test, an anxiety-inducing time for most students, becomes a more strenuous task. Gago said she went to the testing center and was placed in a room too small for her and her wheelchair to fit. Gago made it into the room and attempted to take her test when she realized there was a problem with her test and needed assistance. She tried to get out of the testing room, but she was trapped inside because there wasn’t enough space in the room for the door to open.
“I was banging on the door to get out because they put me in a room that was too small,” Gago said. “I started packing my things, and my headrest popped off [her wheelchair], and I just started sobbing.”
Another difficult experience Gago said she had was when participated in a research study on campus. Gago said the professor said she had counted her absent from the study because she didn’t stand up for attendance.
“I looked at her for a second like, ‘You’re kidding,’” Gago said.
Gago makes an extraordinary effort to make her own situation better, but said the ineffective resources on campus make her struggle to do so.
“I go to [Counseling & Psychological Services] and try calling a counselor there,” Gago said. “I have been asking since the first week I got here, ‘Is there a disability support group?’ They said there isn’t one.”
Though Gago said the support group used to exist on A&M campus, that is no longer the case. Gago said she is struggling to find a way to set up her own support group.
“Why does it have to be a disabled person that has to set that up?” Gago said.
Gago said because of the lack of resources for students like her, it can be very difficult to make friends. Gago said she wants to talk with someone that understands what she goes through, and without a support group on campus for students with disabilities, it makes feeling understood extremely difficult.
“I don’t know any other disabled students … It’s been really hard making friends, I’m an extrovert [in] an introvert body,” Gago said.“We just need people like us because we just feel like we’re aliens.Nobody understands their situations when we’re talking about all of the things … There’s no one else that gets it. It’s just like we feel alone in it.”
Business freshman Corbin Fanning was born with muscular dystrophy. When Fanning was younger, he was able to walk, run and play sports, but recently has needed to use a wheelchair. Fanning is able to drive using a wheelchair accessible car, so he does not uses services like Paratransit.
Fanning said Disability Services have been useful and beneficial when accommodating his conditions on campus.
“They’re super accommodating in working how to figure this stuff out,” Fanning said. “ Working with disability services has been super easy. They’re super helpful.”
Fanning said Disability Services are able to direct him to resources he needs and are pretty timely. All Fanning said all he has to do is email someone at Disability Services and explain why he needs something fixed or changed, and they can direct him to someone who can help.
Though Fanning does experience difficulties getting around campus, he said he struggles more with creating relationships than physically maneuvering.
“People get nervous with you being in a wheelchair,” Fanning said. “I don’t like when someone puts me on a pedestal, I can tell. It makes me feel like ‘Oh you’re doing this because you feel bad for me not because you want to be good friends with me.’”

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