One of the biggest challenges for students in a chair or who use canes is the inability to carry the things around that students always seem to need; room keys, student ID, wallet, phone, etc. So here are my tips and tricks for making sure you have everything you need!
- I always keep my wallet and phone in the pouch underneath my chair. I also have another bag of more feminine necessities, like chapstick, feminine needs, extra pens for class and my prescription pain pills* for when I’m on the go. This pouch can hold anything that I need during the day and it’s incredibly useful for carrying the things that anyone needs when they’re moving around on campus. Behind the pouch (that’s not clearly visible) is another little bag that holds all my catheters*.
- Attached to my wheelchair is a climbing belay hook that I clip my keys onto. This way I don’t have to rummage through my pouch for keys, but instead they’re always readily available. You can also clip your student ID and keys onto a lanyard around your neck for easy access.
- I took a regular watch and strapped it around one of the arms of my wheelchair so that whenever I look down, I can always find out what time it is. It could be easier to simply wear a watch, but I found that I was always forgetting it. So instead, it’s attached to my chair (or this could be used on a cane as well), so that I’m always seeing how late to class I really am.
- My school backpack that I attach to the back of my chair. In every backpack that I carry on my chair I always include the following; extra catheters*, a few extra pain pills*, pens or pencils and my class schedule. I do this for several reasons- I never want to be without catheters or pain pills and with my injury comes a little memory loss, so trying to remember the room number of each class can sometimes be a little daunting. My backpacks are small because I’m fortunate enough to be able to just use an iPad for all my classes. I can take notes on my iPad while recording my lectures, have access to emailing throughout the day and look at all my textbooks (which were converted to PDF for me by Student Disability Services Assistive Technology Department!). Instead of an iPad, however, this is the backpack to be used to carry textbooks, notebooks and anything else you need for class. Be careful about the weight of the backpack– it can’t be heavier than the chair or else it makes getting over the cobblestones of USC a little harder!
Except for the backpack, this is what I carry in my chair at all times, whether I’m going to a meeting, going to class, going out to eat with friends, or any of the numerous things you’ll find yourself doing at college. I want to be prepared for any situation at all times, so I found this format for my chair lets me keep everything I need at close hand while also not being cumbersome. Instead of a chair, though, that has pouches and hooks, all of these items can be placed in a pouch in any backpack to be worn while walking with crutches as well. This is where you can modify your needs to your equipment- when you put your chair or canes or backpack together, try to think of different situations you find yourself in at home and what things you need for those situations that you already have. Then take those items that you use at home and turn them into a travel item- try to equip yourself with anything you might need so that when you close your door in the morning, you feel ready to face the day.
The Thomas Cooper Library also rents out temporary lockers (majority of campuses will rent out lockers at the library or gym to keep emergency supplies or ask the Student Health Clinic) if you would like to put together a bag to keep on campus in case of emergencies. I keep a small backpack with a change of clothes, extra catheters*, medicine* and an emergency contact information card. When renting the lockers, tell them that you need to keep an emergency kit there for your disability so they know to let you keep your belongings there for the semester instead of their usual renting time period of 24 hours.
* catheters and pain medicine are both prescription items specific to my spinal cord injury and may not be applicable to every person’s situation