Welcome to my Navigating College Campuses series, where I talk about all of the different ways I use Orientation and Mobility (O&M) techniques and my blindness cane as a student with low vision at my large public university. After spending four years living on my college campus, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating in several different conditions and situations and am so excited to share my tips and tricks with other students and future students. Today, I will be sharing my experiences with campus security and tips for interacting with campus security offers as a student who uses a blindness cane.
Is campus security the same as the police?
Depends on what college you go to. At my college, the campus security/campus police are part of the city police system, though their jurisdiction is restricted to campus property. That said, if you get arrested by campus security, the arrest will be on your permanent record and is equivalent of getting arrested by county/city police.
In addition to campus security, my college also has a student police program where undergraduate students can provide services to students such as security escorts, or they do other tasks with officers such as drive around campus or respond to certain calls alongside the police- for example, I had someone from the student police program accompany the police officer that came to help when I passed out in an academic building bathroom from appendicitis.
Examples of reasons I have called campus security
In the last five years I have attended my college, I have called campus security for a variety of reasons, and much more often than the average college student. Some of these reasons include:
- Needing a security escort to get back from the dining hall late at night
- Requesting a medical assist after a professor passed out in class, as well as when a suitemate passed out
- Asking for a security escort after I got vertigo when walking to my dorm
- Requesting a welfare check for a friend I had not heard from in 36 hours, as well as when I suspected my friend was having a medical emergency
- Calling an ambulance, since campus dispatch connects to 911
- Asking for a security escort when I got trapped outside in a lightning storm
- When I was taken by ambulance from campus and needed to get back to campus and pick up my backpack
- Reporting a friend missing after their cell phone was found in a ditch (they were found unharmed, thankfully)
- How To Handle Medical Emergencies In A Dorm
- Blindness Canes And Pouring Rain: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Nighttime: Navigating College Campuses
Should I introduce myself to campus security before I need them?
Since I ended up in the back of a campus security car (which in this case was a police car) on my first day of living on campus after getting horribly lost, I didn’t have to think about introducing myself to the police or reaching out in advance. My advice is that students with vision loss should not introduce themselves to campus security in advance, but they should make sure that they familiarize themselves with campus security information. This can include:
- Saving the campus security phone number in their phone
- Filling out forms provided by the school such as emergency contact information and student missing person forms
- Creating an emergency medical profile on their smartphone
- Learning where campus alert systems such as the blue light system are located
- Signing up for campus alert systems
Requesting a security escort
One of the most popular services that college campus security provides is a security escort, which allows students to request a student officer or other officer to escort them back to their dorm or another location at any time of the day or night. While these escorts are not a substitute for a human guide or class transportation, they are helpful for people who may not feel comfortable walking alone at night or who otherwise do not feel well.
At my college, students can request a security escort by calling campus security, also known as campus dispatch, and requesting for a security escort from building A to building B. When I first started attending my college, I would mention that I used a blindness cane and that I would need to either ride in a car or have one of the officers serve as a human guide as I have trouble seeing my surroundings- as I became more well-known on campus, I stopped having to mention this. It typically takes fifteen minutes or less for a security escort to show up, and they are not permitted to enter student dorms.
- How Do People With Visual Impairments Use Human Guides?
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
What if I have to give a statement to campus security?
In some cases, students who are filing a report or who witnessed an event will be asked to give a statement to campus security. While there are many cases where I can provide meaningful information, there are definitely times where I did not see anything that was going on or that I can’t say things with certainty. In these cases, it’s helpful to write or say something like this:
- “I have low vision/I am blind and use a blindness cane, and as a result I did not see anything that was going on.”
- “I do not have any usable vision so cannot confirm what the person was wearing.”
- “I have vision loss that keeps me from reading standard-sized print and can’t comment on this.”
Other tips for dealing with campus security as a blindness cane user
- If campus security is responding to a situation, don’t be afraid to ask officers what their names are, especially if there are multiple officers
- Practice locating the blue light towers during orientation and mobility lessons
- Check if your college has a campus security app, as these apps may have additional features
- Learn to recognize campus landmarks such as a statue or student center to help with orienting yourself to surroundings
- Calling campus dispatch may be faster than calling 911 if the campus security office is part of the local police jurisdiction