More than one standard of health

‘Hamline Healthy’ and Physical Activity week overlooks disabled students

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

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Hamline had a Physical Activity week a couple of weeks ago to promote physical activity. Unfortunately, it had its bits of ableism.

Before I begin, I have to give credit where credit is due. Peer Wellness Education, which organized the week, is doing a great job helping students be more healthy, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and even sexually. College is stressful enough without the burden of taking care of our health and thankfully, Peer Ed is here to help us. So, it makes perfect sense to have Peer Ed sponsor a week dedicated to Hamline students being healthy.

The week mainly focused on physical health and exercise which is super helpful for us students. We often neglect our physical health in the hustle and bustle of juggling classes, work, clubs and friends. The problem is that the week’s message  took a very simplistic approach to health  condensing it to “exercise equals healthy.”

While exercise is healthy, Peer Ed overlooked how complex the human body is and in turn, promoted an ableist way of thinking of exercise. I don’t believe they meant to be ableist, but that doesn’t excuse it.

One of the major problems I saw was a sign that said, “If you’re walking to class, you’re Hamline Healthy.”

While walking is extremely healthy and has been scientifically proven to decrease stress and depression, the ableism of this comment is unbelievable. I am the only student that uses a wheelchair on campus. I am able to walk but due to my Cerebral Palsy, I  get tired very easily. If I walk too far, my whole body hurts and I feel as though I might start having trouble breathing.

There have been times where I have wanted to throw myself on the floor after walking a long way and just take a three hour nap right there. I always feel dehydrated, in pain and just straight up exhausted. If I had to walk around campus, I would make the educated guess that it would hinder my health rather than help it. My mom and I actually spent the majority of my senior year of high school getting me an electric chair that folds up so we can easily get it in the car and I can be independent around campus.

It would be easy to chalk this up to a simple oversight, but I feel as though it would be unfair to me to write the saying off as one. As an organization dedicated to the wellbeing of Hamline students, I would expect Peer Ed to not overlook something as simple as the students (or student) who uses a wheelchair to get to class. Taking care of your needs is different when you have a physical disability which is rarely ever talked about in our mainstream culture.

Yes, disabled people also need exercise, but in different ways. I have been to the Hamline weight room twice and there is only one machine I can safely use without any assistance. If I were to go to the gym and that machine would have already been taken, I would either have to wait until they leave if I have time to or leave if I don’t.

As a disabled person, I am used to chalking up straight up ableist comments to a mistake or a misunderstanding, but I’ve realized that it’s toxic to do that to myself. The disabled community and I deserve better. We deserve to be seen as equals and have our needs be met.

There have been times where I have wanted to throw myself on the floor after walking a long way and just take a three-hour nap right there.”

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