When I lived in tech internship housing for the summer, I had a small “celebration” with friends when I realized that I had avoided locking myself out of my room for the entire summer. This was particularly impressive because I had struggled with locking myself out of my dorm when I lived on campus, and while the issue had improved as I discovered different strategies to avoid this problem, I was thrilled to have never locked myself out of my internship housing. Here are my tips on how to handle being locked out of a dorm, and how I would answer the question “what if I lock myself out of my dorm?”
Two ways I’ve been locked out of my dorm
I’ve definitely locked myself out of my dorm more than twice, and even locked myself out twice in one day. But for purposes of this post, I’ll be sharing two different circumstances that lead to me locking myself out of my dorm.
Story 1- Taking out the trash without my cane
About once a year, I lock myself out of my dorm room when I’m walking down the hall to take out the trash. Since I don’t take my blindness cane with me when I take out the trash, I tend to get very nervous when I lock myself out without my cane. At least I’ve never had a hall bathroom and locked myself out of my dorm after taking a shower.
Story 2- Grabbing donuts with my cane
I had gone outside of my dorm building to grab some donuts from a friend when I realized that I had forgotten my key on my desk. The two bright sides to this situation are that I had my blindness cane in one hand and a tasty donut in the other one, but neither of those things can get me into my room.
Other ways I’ve locked myself out
I originally was just going to include these two stories, but my friend suggested I include some of the other funny ways I have locked myself out of my dorm:
- While getting ready to see a show at the performing arts center with my brother, who was visiting at the time- he had no idea my door automatically locked, and my shoes were inside
- Rushing to get out the door to breakfast- my dorm key also swipes me into the dining hall
- Going outside to meet a friend
- Grabbing a card that sort of looked like my room key, but that actually wasn’t
- Another story with my brother, but this time he was now a student- he called me to ask for help in retrieving a towed car
- Dropping my key inside my dorm right before I close the door
- Seven Places I Don’t Take My Blindness Cane
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
- Dorms and Campus Housing: College O&M
- Performing Arts Centers and Low Vision: College O&M
- Tips For Siblings Going To The Same College
Walking to the neighborhood desk
The dorms on my college campus are organized into groups called neighborhoods, and each neighborhood has a central desk that students can go to if they lock themselves out of their dorm. I made sure this was one of the first places I learned to walk to when I started using a blindness cane, because I didn’t want to worry about asking for help or getting lost. I practiced the route a few times so that if I had to navigate there without my cane, I could do so. If I have my cane like I did in Story 2, it’s easy for me to walk there alone.
In situations like Story 1, I frequently don’t have my cell phone with me (since I was only expecting to walk about ten feet), so I have to be very careful when walking to ensure I don’t hit any obstacles. I also ask someone at the neighborhood desk to walk me back to my dorm room if possible so I can use them as a human guide.
- Campus Addresses Every Student Should Know: College O&M
- Smartphone Apps For Orientation and Mobility
- How To Be An Effective Human Guide For People With Vision Loss
Calling the desk for help
Sometimes, Story 1 will take place at night or when I am unable to walk outside without my cane, so I will call the neighborhood desk and ask them to come let me in. I explain that I am legally blind and use a blindness cane which I don’t currently have with me, though my friend said the neighborhood desk also came to unlock their door when they locked themselves out after a shower.
If the neighborhood desk does come down to let you in, be prepared to wait. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they are very busy and likely need to find someone who can come help. The last time this happened, the resident director for my building came to let me in after about twenty minutes.
How to not get locked out of your dorm
Here are some of my tips for making sure you don’t get locked out of your dorm:
Put your key on a lanyard
I would keep my dorm key inside a cool lanyard I bought, and bring the lanyard everywhere on campus. This wasn’t one of the freshman orientation lanyards, but a black and gold one I got at an accessories store. The lanyard hangs next to my door.
Have it next to your cane
I keep my key next to my blindness cane, which I will automatically reach for before I leave to go somewhere. Other alternatives include having it near your phone or other important item.
Take it before evacuating
If the fire alarm starts going off, make sure that you grab your key to get back in your dorm and don’t lock yourself out. Many students forget to do this and end up having to walk to the neighborhood desk after a fire drill.
If the power goes out, you might be temporarily locked out of your dorm. In cases like this, you should monitor the campus alert system or talk to staff members for further instructions.
Don’t try to make a copy of your key
I know that having a copy of your key can be very helpful, but most colleges don’t let students make copies of dorm keys for security reasons. Likewise, they won’t issue copies of keys to your parents or anyone other than the people that live in your assigned space. However, keys can be replaced if they truly are lost, with replacement fees ranging from $10 to $75, depending on the type of key.
- Twelve Blindness Cane Storage Solutions
- What To Pack When Evacuating A Dorm
- How To Set Up Emergency Alerts For On-Campus Students
- Dealing With Dorm Fire Alarms: College O&M
- Power Outages and Low Vision
More tips on how to handle being locked out of a dorm
- There is an urban legend at my college that students can type in their student ID number on their dorm’s keypad to unlock the door, but this is not true.
- For students living in emergency or transitional housing, a neighborhood desk staff member may have to accompany the student to unlock their dorm- I wrote more about this in Tips For Living In Transitional/Emergency Housing In College
- Want to make your dorm key easier to use? Check out Adapting Keys For Vision Loss