When it came to getting items for my college dorm and day-to-day life, it was easier and less time consuming to order items online and have them mailed directly to my college mailbox. However, while I was able to get packages at my front door while living at home, I had to walk to the college mailroom to pick up packages when I was living in a dorm, which could be a daunting task for someone with low vision or chronic illness. Today I will be sharing my tips for navigating college mailrooms with low vision and getting packages in an easy and accessible way.
About my college mailroom
When I first started attending my college, the mailroom consisted of several rows of student mailboxes, each labeled with a number. Students had their own key to open the mailbox and could retrieve their own letters, envelopes, or very small packages. If a student had a package, they would get an email alert and would pick up their item(s) from the mailroom window by showing staff their ID and confirmation email.
After a year, the mailroom was redone to accommodate students receiving packages. Now, students would receive an email whenever they received a package and be given a locker number and code to type in so that they could retrieve the package on their own. Letters and mail could be retrieved by going to the mailroom window and showing staff their student ID- no email alert was sent out if there was new mail, the student was expected to check this on their own.
Disability accommodations available for the mailroom
While Disability Services accommodations are primarily used for classroom accommodations, students can talk to their college’s mail services coordinator or mailroom about additional disability accommodations they can put in place. Some examples of accommodations include:
- Not putting packages on the top/bottom level of the package lockers
- Permission to pick up packages at the mailroom window
- Authorizing someone else to pick up mail/packages (more on this in a minute)
- Assistance with typing in package codes
- Adding Braille or tactile labels to a student mailbox
Before the start of my freshman year, I sent an email to the mail services coordinator listed online and asked if I could have my mailbox in a location that was not on the top or bottom row, since I would have trouble reaching these areas due to my disability. I disclosed that I had a file with Disability Services for low vision and a neurological condition, and they were happy to accommodate this. Once my college switched to the package lockers, I asked that the mailroom refrain from putting items on the top row/bottom row of the lockers and gave my mailbox number, and rarely had any issues with packages being in an area I couldn’t reach.
What about having items mailed to the dorm directly?
As nice as it is to be able to grab packages from a doorstep, this is not an option for students living in on-campus housing for security reasons, and students are not permitted to use their dorm address as their mailing address. All packages and mail must be picked up from the mailroom, though there may be options for having an authorized person bring items directly to the student.
- Why You Should Get A Disability Services File
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- How To Come Up With Sample Accommodations
Picking up packages
Whenever I would get an email alert that a package was available, I would try to go pick it up during normal business hours when there was someone at the mail counter, in case I needed help locating a package locker or typing in the code. After the mailroom added large print numbers to each of the package lockers, I needed assistance less often since it was easy for me to read these numbers or ask a friend for help.
To unlock the package locker, I would have to type in a 4-6 digit code on a small keypad. After using a visual assistance app to figure out the order of the numbers, I could independently type in the numbers on the keypad and take the package out of the locker. Before leaving the mailroom, I would double check that my name and mailbox number were indeed on the package, so I could make sure I got the correct items.
- Visual Assistance Apps: Post Round Up
- How I Use My Phone As Assistive Technology In Class
- 15 Addresses to Memorize in College
Carrying packages back to my dorm
Since I use a blindness cane to go from place to place, I can’t really carry a package with two hands, and there are cases where I need to have both of my hands free. Some of the most common ways I would carry packages back to my dorm include:
- Putting them inside my backpack
- Using a tote bag/reusable bag
- Asking a friend to go with me to the mailroom to carry something
- For larger items, I used a small handcart that I had purchased for my dorm and could push behind me
Since boxes can often be bulky, I would typically remove items from their original box before leaving the mailroom and put them in the box recycling area, a large basket near the entrance/exit. However, if I ordered an item that shipped in its own specific box that the customer must use for returns (i.e shoes), I would keep the item in its original packaging for the walk back to my dorm.
Authorizing another person to pick up packages
When I had to miss school due to an illness or injury, I would send a message to the mail services coordinator asking if I could authorize another person to pick up packages on my behalf when the items were behind the mailroom window. I had to include the authorized person’s name and student ID number, as well as how long I authorized for them to pick up my items (i.e for the two weeks I was gone). Some examples of people I’ve authorized include my resident advisor, my brother who went to the same college as me, and friends who lived near me. Once the package locker system was implemented, I would typically just send the package code to someone so they could go pick it up, but would still contact the mailroom if they had to pick up a large item that was not in a locker (such as when I got a new cane).
Receiving mail in an accessible format
I have difficulty reading small print, so whenever possible I would find ways to make sure that letters and other mail I received was in an accessible format. For example, many banks, city/state organizations, blindness groups, and similar companies allow users to request written correspondence in large print, Braille, or digital/audio formats, and students may be able to choose the same methods for receiving official university mail. Of course, there are also several options for reading mail with assistive technology- I have several posts on this topic linked below!
- Eight Ways To Read Handwritten Cards With Assistive Technology
- Tips For Writing Letters To Visually Impaired Recipients
- Tips For Choosing Greeting Cards For Visually Impaired Recipients
A note on grocery delivery
Many college mailrooms are not set up for grocery delivery services as they do not have refrigerators or other ways to keep food fresh. When I received grocery delivery from local stores, I would write down the delivery address as a Starbucks near my dorm that had an area which cars could easily access. I’d meet the delivery driver outside with my handcart so that I could get my items inside as soon as possible.
Other tips for navigating the college mailroom with low vision
- Make sure to memorize the college mailing address with your full name and mailbox number, as packages that contain incorrect information will be returned
- It may take a few hours for a package to be processed in the mailroom after it is marked as delivered
- Most college mailrooms sell stamps and packaging items so that students can mail letters and packages directly from campus, no post office trip needed
- Make sure that receipts, packing slips, or other return labels are not thrown out with packaging, unless someone is certain they will not be returning something- it’s not fun to root through the trash!
- College mailing addresses are not P.O Boxes- mailbox information should be listed on the second line of an address label. The mailroom website should have instructions on how to address mail.