Sean Uses Assistive Technology to Get Around a Large Campus

Student in a wheelchair uses a laptop during class.

Sean Uses Assistive Technology to Get Around a Large Campus

Hi, my name is Sean, and I grew up in Renton, Washington. It's a city about a half hour southeast of Seattle, and is a nice blend of city and country. I am currently a freshman considering the Informatics major at the University of Washington (UW). How I got here, though, is the real story.

In the summer following my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to participate in a college-preparation program called DO-IT on the UW campus. I learned about careers, academic programs, disability accommodations, and leadership. I was introduced to accessible web design through a series of classes. It was awesome. However, leading up to this summer camp, mobility was a huge concern. I have Becker Muscular Dystrophy, and although I was mobile enough to walk around my high school building, I had neither the endurance nor the strength to get around a college campus. Although apprehensive, I knew I needed to try out a manual chair. Fortunately, there was usually somebody around to push me up the hill, and sometimes I would grab onto a friend's power wheelchair for a handy tow.

I was nervous about returning to my high school. I wondered what people would think about me or what stereotypes they would have. Since people were used to me walking, this would be a huge change for them. I did have to explain over and over, but slowly my wheelchair faded into the background. I completed my senior year using my manual chair.

The prospect of college was looming overhead. I had originally wanted to go to a small school so I could easily get around. I thought I had my heart set on a small school. Over time, this changed. I realized that getting around on a large campus was not all that stressful. Sure, hills were hard, but using my wheelchair was a whole lot easier than walking up the hills. I decided I would look into obtaining a motorized wheelchair. After all, I wasn't always going to be surrounded by people who would voluntarily push me or provide a tow up a hill. My new electric chair has made it easier to get around, and allows me to be focus on my studies.

I have been a part of the AccessComputing electronic mentoring community and regularly interact with AccessComputing staff. It is nice to have people around that can give me information about computing majors. I have always been a tinkerer, exploring technology- computers in particular. In high school I learned some basic HTML skills, worked with Computer Aided Design, and took some introductory programming classes. My interest in technology and accessible technology has blossomed. I even made time for a Web Accessibility training, which I really enjoyed. I am hoping to do a technical internship through AccessComputing at some point in my academic career.