Kate Young / Contributing Writer
March is recognized as Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Sophomore Morgan Champion takes time during the month to spread awareness on a condition that has personally affected her.
“I have a kind of CP called spastic diplegic cerebral palsy which basically means that my brain doesn’t normally send the signals to muscles in my legs and my fine motor muscles the right way,” Champion explained, “So basically I have trouble walking. And I have trouble with some fine motor things like buttons and snaps. And then also because of that my tongue doesn’t lay in my mouth the right way, so basically, I have a very slight speech impediment.”
Champion and her twin sister were born prematurely, spending their first few weeks in the hospital. When they finally came home, her parents noticed that while her sister was learning to crawl and walk, Champion wasn’t.
“When I was diagnosed the doctors told my parents not to expect much,” Champion said.
But her parents were not willing to lower their expectations. Her parents refused to let their daughter be defined by her diagnosis.
“I am where I am because of my parents,” she recounted.
Champion also credits her doctor for being instrumental in encouraging her.
“She has cerebral palsy herself, so what was cool about her is when she talks to patients and their families, she’s speaking from her heart and everything that she’s experienced,” Champion said.
She emphasized the strengths of a small Christian campus like Samford University forming a loving community.
“Samford has just been absolutely incredible for me in including me in everything and pushing me to be the best that I can be,” Champion said, “I just really love that about Samford.”
However, there are challenges on campus with wheelchair accessibility. One issue she encounters is the lack of accessible elevators in buildings that she has class in.
Champion recounted, “Since I’m a Samford University Fellow, a lot of my classes are in Brooks, and if you’ve ever been around Brooks you know that there’s no elevator on the front. You have to go around to the back of Brooks, and around the back of Brooks is a really sketchy freight elevator that is not very reliable, and it breaks all the time.”
When asked what she does when the elevator breaks, Champion recalled, “One day when it was pouring down rain, I have some really good friends in the Fellows and they were angels and carried me and my chair up to class that day.”
Another issue for students in wheelchairs is access to the College of Health Sciences building.
“I can’t have classes in CHS,” Champion said, “I just can’t because number one, it’s way too far away. Number two, when I go to Beeson Woods there’s a really convenient lift thing, however, it doesn’t work.”
She also expressed frustration about the design of the admissions building, which can only be accessed through a side door for people in wheelchairs because of the stairs in the front.
“One of the issues that poses is what happens if someone with a physical disability comes for a tour and they come to the front of the admissions building and there’s stairs they’re going to think ‘Well, am I not welcome here?’”
However, Samford has been making recent renovations to improve accessibility on campus. The University Center is now largely accessible. Recent renovations are in large part due to the fundraising of the student organization DREAM, which Champion serves as chaplain for.
“It stands for Disability Rights Education Activism and Mentoring,” Champion explained.
What Champion wants fellow students to recognize is that she is lives life her own way.
“I don’t live my life differently than any other normal person. I just live it my own way and I live it sitting down,” she said.