Second-year student Malachi Reddick, who was recently injured in a skateboarding accident and now requires a wheelchair to navigate campus, is beginning to understand the challenges people who are physically disabled encounter on a daily basis.
“It’s definitely helped me see a new perspective on the different challenges people encounter every day,” Reddick said.
Reddick tried to grind a rail on his skateboard by the library at the University of New Brunswick in early September. The trick went wrong, and Reddick ended up sprawled on the pavement with pain in his legs, wrists and arms.
An ambulance ride to the Fredericton hospital confirmed Reddick didn’t break any bones, but he sprained both his ankles, his right wrist and bruised some ribs. The doctors said he would have to remain in a wheelchair for four to eight weeks.
Reddick said getting to classes and other places on campus in a wheelchair has been a struggle. He lives in at Holy Cross House, placing him at the top of St. Thomas University’s small hillside campus with many stairs.
The accessible route he travels to get to upper from lower campus involves wheeling up a ramp to the level of George Martin Hall, going past Vanier Hall and crossing the parking lot into the entrance to Kinsella Auditorium. Reddick must then take an elevator up to the ground level to access his residence or Brian Mulroney Hall.
He described the parking lot portion as “dangerous.”
“I’m not comfortable with it,” Reddick said.
He occasionally makes his way to upper campus via an unfficial route: taking the elevator up to the top floor of George Martin Hall and exiting through the back of the Great Hall.
The trek between upper and lower campus classes can take upwards of 15 to 20 minutes, Reddick said.
“If I had to use a wheelchair for my permanent daily life, I would hate it here,” he said.
Matthew LeBlanc, the STU Students’ Union vice-president administration, said he met with Dave Dunbar, the university’s head of facilities, last week to see how a student in a wheelchair might make it around campus.
“There’s a few people with accessibility issues, and I was thinking how if I was in that situation, how would I maneuver this campus,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc and Dunbar did a walk through of the designated route through Margaret Norrie McCain Hall, which LeBlanc said he was “pretty satisfied” with. He said he is content with the current situation, unless he hears concerns from students down the road.
LeBlanc said it is important to note the designated route through McCain Hall exists because alternative routes can become inaccessible due to snow in the winter.
Reddick said he thinks campus accessibility at STU is “above average” given the challenges that the location presents. He said he had received a tremendous amount of support from accessibility services for dealing with his wheelchair and financial services for managing medical costs.
People have been very helpful, particularly Aramark employees, by holding doors and taking small actions to help, Reddick said.
But the challenges of getting around campus have been interfering with his medical care as he recovers from his injuries.
He recently had a medical appointment at UNB, which required him to pick up his wheelchair and carry it up set of stairs in order to make it there efficiently.
Those who have seen Reddick around campus recently have been surprised to see that he is without his wheelchair. Despite doctor recommendations that he remain in it three additional weeks, navigation has prompted him to walk and deal with the pain.
Reddick would like to see the installation of an additional wheelchair access ramp for the hillside by Harrington Hall. This would allow for travel between upper and lower campus without entering buildings to use elevators.
“The challenges of navigating the STU campus are getting in the way of my healthcare, it’s 100 per cent true,” Reddick said.