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Wheelchair Simulation

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Eating Ice Cream in a Social Context

Playing Catch as a Recreational Activity

Wheelchair Simulation
Mickaela Nebel

Transporting Myself Outdoors

Indoors at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center

I certify that this assignment is my own work. I have not plagiarized any of its contents, nor
have I collaborated with other students in the writing of this paper. Mickaela Nebel

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During the wheelchair simulation, I spent one hour involved in a recreational activity, one
hour at home, and two hours in a public area. In the Inclusive Leisure Services text, Dattilo
explains that negative attitudes are the number one barrier for people who have a disability
(Dattilo, 2012, pg. 42-55 ). This experience has improved my attitude and respect for those who
have a disability. When I pushed myself in the wheelchair for the first time, I realized that the
simulation was going to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I started by wheeling myself to
the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, where my friend met me to assist me throughout the rest of the
simulation. We then made our way to the Berkey Creamery where we stayed for an hour. After
we finished our ice cream, we went to Old Main to enjoy the warm temperature for thirty
minutes. We then went to Sheetz downtown to eat supper for thirty minutes and then went to the
Tau Phi Delta fraternity to play catch as a recreational activity for an hour. When we finished
playing catch with a baseball and frisbee, we made our way to our apartment and spent the last
hour relaxing from a tiring afternoon.
Environmental Barriers
In RPTM 277, we learned that an architectural barrier is a man-made barrier, and an
ecological barrier is a natural barrier (Dattilo, 2012, pg.155-156 ). During the simulation I
encountered many more architectural barriers than ecological barriers. These architectural
barriers included bumps on sidewalks, no automatic doors, stairs instead of ramps, and lack of
accessible curbs. In the first hour of the simulation, I hit a bump in the sidewalk, and I marked
this as my first waypoint. When I finally made it to the Berkey Creamery, I realized that the side
door is not an automatic door. I was lucky enough to have a nice gentleman open the door for me
to let me in, and I realized that without him I would have had to wheel myself to the front door in
order to get in. On my way to Old Main, I noticed that there is no ramp on the side; instead, there

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are steps. This made me realize how different my life would be if I were actually in a wheelchair.
If I were in a wheelchair, I would have to change my route and take the long way to get to my
destination. The last waypoint I marked was off-campus when my friend was pushing me along
the sidewalk. She tried to push me from the road to the sidewalk, but the curb did not have
enough of a cut, and the wheelchair stopped while I continued to go. I also realized that my
apartment is not accessible, and I would not be able to live there if I was actually in a wheelchair.
I had to stand up and carry my chair up the stairs in order to get to my apartment. I found this
very frustrating, and I began to understand what seems to be such a small barrier for me can be a
larger barrier to someone in a wheelchair.
I experienced fewer ecological barriers during the simulation. The weather was sunny and
clear throughout the simulation. However, I never realized how many hills I walk during my
typical day. The hill between College Avenue and Beaver Avenue to get to my apartment made
me realize the lack of upper body strength I have and the assistance I needed from my friend. I
did not mark any ecological barriers on the GPS because I felt that they were not fixable. If I
were actually in a wheelchair, I would move to an apartment on campus to avoid the extra hills.
Social Reactions
There were many different reactions and interactions I encountered during the wheelchair
simulation. The first reaction I experienced was with my friend who offered to assist me for the
four hours that I spent in the wheelchair. When she came to meet me at the Pasquerilla Spiritual
Center, she immediately offered me help. Although I clearly needed her help because of my sore
arms, I did not know how to take her offerings. I felt as though she assumed I needed the help
rather than assuming I was able to take care of myself. I know that she was being nice by
offering to push me, but I wanted to prove to her that I could do it myself.

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The last two direct interactions I had were with two men at Sheetz. As I entered Sheetz
with my friend, we discussed where we would sit. A nice young man overheard our conversation
and offered his seat because it seemed to be the easiest for me to access in my wheelchair. His
kindness put a smile on my face, but I politely declined his offer. When leaving Sheetz, another
nice man held the door open for me but ended up being in my way. He said that he was trying to
be helpful and didn't mean to be more in the way. I laughed and appreciated his help as he told
my friend and I to enjoy the rest of our days.
While wheeling around campus, I felt a lot of stares. Some people stared because they
wanted to know why I was in the wheelchair, while others stared because they wanted to help me
out. I think that the people who looked wanted to look longer but felt that they should not look at
me. I also think that people wanted to help, but they did not know how to go about it. I could
easily tell that offending me was an issue on their mind. It has been proven by Simonsick,
Kasper, and Phillips that having a disability and social interaction are negatively correlated,
meaning as the level of disability increases, the level of social interaction decreases. I could
easily see that while participating in the simulation; however, I believe that this decrease in
interaction is due to lack of knowledge in how to interact rather than not wanting to interact
(Simonsick et al., 1998).
Ethical Considerations
I know that I am not fully understanding of what it is like to have a disability that I would
need a wheelchair. However, I do believe that I am more aware of the barriers and interactions
that regular wheelchair users experience from day to day. If I were ever in a situation during the
simulation that I could not wheel myself out of, I had the ability to stand up and help myself, but
that is unrealistic. To avoid any ethical issues, I tried my hardest to stay seated in the wheelchair
until no one was watching. A person who regularly uses a wheelchair might think that the

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simulation is unrealistic and does not compare to their typical day in a wheelchair. They may also
think that the wheelchair simulation is not accurate because students have the ability to stand
when needed. I think that a person who uses a wheelchair on a regular basis would want the
simulation to have more rules, such as standing is not permitted for the four hours of the
On the other hand, I am sure that people who regularly use a wheelchair would appreciate
what the people who are involved in the simulation are doing for them. G. Thomas Behler, Jr., a
blind man, explains the importance of simulations and how effective they are in teaching
students. Marking waypoints is benefitting the people who regularly use wheelchairs by
increasing their accessibility around campus. I also think that a person with a disability might
approve of the simulation because it increases awareness of people who use wheelchairs. With
this awareness, students learn how to approach a person with a disability and how to assist them
without offending them. I believe that the simulation is a very effective way of introducing the
barriers that they face every day (Behler, 1993).
Professional Implications
After graduation, I have the goals of becoming a Recreational Therapist. A Recreational
Therapist is someone who assists people in hospitals or nursing homes in being involved in
recreational activities. This simulation was extremely helpful in teaching me how to treat people
with disabilities. Being a Recreational Therapist, I will be working with people with a disability,
and because of this simulation I believe that I will better understand how to approach them and
assist them in recreation without fear of offending them.
A specific example of a Recreational Therapist's job is teaching a person in a wheelchair
to hunt for deer. Although climbing up into a tree stand may be out of the question, I now know
that wheeling into the woods is not out of the question. With a paved path into the woods, a

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person in a wheelchair would easily be able to navigate into the woods in order to hunt. Just
because a person is in a wheelchair does not mean that he or she cannot be involved in
recreational activities. After being a part of this simulation, I will offer assistance when needed,
but I will be more open-minded and let my clients be independent before assuming they need
The wheelchair simulation and the Inclusive Leisure Services textbook has taught me that
a person with a disability does not want to be treated any differently than we want to be treated.
They deserve to be given the opportunity to be independent while being involved with other
people. Just because they may need assistance from time to time does not mean that they should
be taken away the right to be involved in recreation. Even if it seems like a bit of a stretch to
include a person in a wheelchair, I believe there is always a way for them to be included
(Dattilo, 2012, pg. 30-33).
Advocacy Implications
One way that students my age could improve the lives of people who regularly use a
wheelchair is by participating in this simulation. The marking of waypoints was not only an eyeopener for me and the other students who participated in the simulation, but it also is a way to
make certain barriers known. This simulation increases awareness to students who do not
regularly use a wheelchair, which also leads to a better outlook on those who do use a
Wheelchair simulations should be required for college students before graduation. By
participating in a four hour wheelchair simulation, all students will be given the opportunity to
experience a very small version of the difficulty of having a disability. Although the simulation
does not fully depict what it is like to have a disability, increasing awareness would benefit those
who do and those who do not use a wheelchair on a regular basis. Students could continue to be

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required to mark waypoints and write about them so that these barriers can be fixed. Students
could also be required to go to certain locations during the simulation so that different locations
and their barriers are being targeted.
Students who already use a wheelchair regularly could be required to carry a GPS with
them for the four hours so that they can mark waypoints that they typically encounter. They
would be required to write a paper that involves architectural, ecological, and social barriers that
are presented in their everyday life.
In an article about disability simulations, Burgstahler and Doe talk about how disability
simulations often result in negative feelings. With that information, it is hard to determine
whether or not that is advantageous or not. Having negative feelings after completing the
simulation may result in changed attitudes, which could potentially make students treat those
with a disability in a more positive way (Burghstahler et al, 2004).
Overall I found the simulation to be very beneficial in increasing my awareness of
wheelchairs. I learned a lot about social interactions and barriers from spending four hours in the
wheelchair alone. The wheelchair simulation is an experience that I will carry with me
throughout the my future career. From this experience, I will begin to spread awareness and
promote inclusion for people with disabilities. I will make an effort to decrease any
psychological barriers discussed in the Inclusive Leisure Services text that limit a person with a
disability's willingness to participate, which include helplessness, unresponsive environments,
and negative feedback. I have gained an improved attitude from this experience, and I hope that I
can spread that to my friends and colleagues (Dattilo, 2012, pg. 105-112).

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Behler, G. T. (1993). Disability Simulations as a Teaching Tool: Some Ethical Issues and
Implications. Journal on Postsecondary Education and Disability. 10(2), 1-7.
Burgstahler, S., Doe, T. (2004). Disability-related Simulations: If, When, and How to Use Them
in Professional Development. Review of Disability Studies. 1(2), 4-17.
Dattilo, J. (2012). Inclusive Leisure Services (3rd ed.). State College, PA: Venture.
Simonsick, E. M., Kasper, J. D., Phillips, C. L. (1998). Physical Disability and Social
Interaction: Factors Associated with Low Social Contact and Home Confinement in
Disabled Older Women (The Women's Health and Aging Study). Journal of
Gerontology: Social Sciences. 53B (4), S211-S217.