Raising Awareness

When I opened the summer North Texan and saw the picture of my journalism professor, Keith Shelton, this brought back a flood of memories. With the encouragement of my wife, Rosemary, I had returned to college at age 31 after several years' work experience and four years in the U.S. Air Force. I enjoyed writing and photography and studied in the photojournalism sequence. Smith 'Smitty' Kiker, who was the head of the photo lab, assigned a "picture" page for the student newspaper.

My bank of inspiration was empty until I observed a male student carrying his tray. He wore a prosthesis where his hand had been. This sight triggered many questions: "How does he cope?" "What challenges does he face?" "What's a typical day for him?" I was not able to talk with this student, but I realized that I had my idea for the picture page. I interviewed four students with disabilities, and my idea changed from a picture page to a feature story.

It was shocking to watch a student in a wheelchair get a "running start" to bounce up the steps to the Administration Building. A student who was blind showed me how her guide dog kept her from being injured by bike racks or by trash bins placed on posts at her head level.

When I turned in my copy and photos, Smitty shook my hand, smiled and said, "This is the first time our newspaper has run a story like this."

After the two-part story appeared, I was able to take a photo of a ramp being cut into one of the street curbs. Later, I was amazed to see a bike rack bolted to concrete in the middle of the passageway of the Student Union Building. I took a photo; it was printed the next day. I smiled the next time I walked in the same area. The bike rack had been moved next to the building, away from foot traffic.

Thomas Hart ('76)
Lomita, Calif.