Princeton With a Disability

January 7, 2020
Naomi Hess

Using a wheelchair on a campus that is as old as Princeton causes unique situations that both complicate and enrich my experience at Princeton. Princeton’s Office of Disability Services (ODS) has helped me by making appropriate accommodations that promote accessibility and inclusion.

Through collaborating with ODS and Housing, I ended up with my own room that’s set up for me. My room is so big that there’s plenty of space for my wheelchair, a backup electric wheelchair and a manual wheelchair. I even have my own bathroom that’s almost the same size as the other part of my room! The bathroom has grab bars next to the toilet and a fold-down shower bench. ODS also gave me a remote that automatically opens my door. Sometimes I don’t tell my friends about the remote, and they think my door opens by magic.

While my room is perfect, the rest of the campus does present some challenges. There are some parts of campus that are not wheelchair accessible, such as my friends' dorms with multiple flights of stairs and no elevator. Over time, I’ve had to learn the best routes for me around campus to avoid stairs. However, Princeton has helped me get around many of these barriers. If a class is in a building that isn't accessible, the whole class will be moved just for me. ODS has a giant map for students with physical disabilities where they can draw the paths they take to get to class, and ODS will make sure these paths are cleared first when it snows. All of the buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts, but the campus is small enough that I don’t need to take the buses that often.


Naomi in front of metal tiger statue

I mostly receive physical accommodations like the ones described above, but ODS provides services to students with a wide variety of disabilities. In addition to accommodations, ODS also promotes a community for students with disabilities through the AccessAbility Center or "The Center", a “student gathering space on campus designed for universal access and intended to foster conversation about ability, access and difference,” according to their website. The Center has adjustable height desks, ergonomic computer equipment, a seasonal affective disorder light box and other cool features. The Center also holds various events throughout the year, such as therapy dog study breaks, lunch conversations and massages. It’s truly a place where students of all abilities are welcome.

I encourage prospective students with disabilities to get in touch with ODS. I met with them before I committed to Princeton, and I instantly knew after the meeting that my needs could be met. Feel free to reach out to me as well!