The Attack of the Chair Desks.

Seeing as it’s the end of September, I’m a little bit late with this post, but hey! It’s still September! The month of back to school! The month where the masses, with their brand new binders and pens and notebooks, reluctantly start waking up early and dragging their overtired but willing-to-learn asses to school for another semester.

The first day of classes are never easy for anyone. It’s always a big adjustment. Figuring out where to park, figuring out which building each class is in, silently critiquing your professors, scoping out your classmates to see if there’s anyone friendly looking. Just sitting through four to five professors going through their class syllabus alone should count as a test grade!

But for the fat girl (or fat people at all!) there’s another issue. Those horrible. Menacing. Unforgiving. Chair desks. I have nightmares about these things. The thought of them makes me cringe.

You see, for most schools, it’s the easiest way to cram a ton of seats into a small room. You don’t have to worry about keeping the desks separate from the chairs, they’re small and unobtrusive, you can fit many of them into a small space. How convenient!

Until, of course, someone with an ass like mine walks in. Then it quickly becomes a game of ‘Let’s see which classroom will have seats that fit Amber this semester’.

I find it humorous in the worst sort of way, that at the end of every class syllabus at my school, there’s a note about accommodating disabilities, and if you have any problems that you think would prevent you from learning, to please contact ‘*name of person*’ at ‘*phone extension*’. There’s some kind of facade about equal opportunity learning, and yet bam! One size fits all desks.

I cannot fit into the majority of these desks. My belly simply won’t allow for it. In far too many classes, I’ve had no choice. I have to squeeze myself in, looking obviously uncomfortable, to the point where I have to restrict my breathing and my ass is hanging halfway off the seat. It’s not pleasant, and frankly, it’s embarrassing. What makes it worse is that I’m left handed, and the desks are ALWAYS right handed desks. I’m fairly comfortable with my size, but, although I’ve accepted that there are certain places that I just won’t fit, I really hate that my classes have to be one of those places. It’s nearly impossible to learn to my full capacity when during the entire class, my belly is aching from being squished, and I’m getting sharp pains in my butt from having to rest all my weight on one side of my body. In a very real way, it impairs my education.

I know that the obvious thing to do is to call up whoever handles the accommodations for disabilities, and make them fix the problem. But there’s a few reasons that I’m hesitant at the least to do this.

  • Doing this would perpetuate the stigma that fat is a disability. It’s not. Desks are made to fit people, people are not meant to fit desks. There should be a wide range of desks in every classroom. I’ve seen people who are too small to fit into these desks as well. I’m sure they feel just as uncomfortable in class as I do.
  • Being that fat isn’t a disability, my request could easily be denied. Yes, the law protects disabled students, but since I’m not disabled, I run the risk of being laughed out of the office, with the message of ‘lose some weight fatty’.  OOGAH BOOGAH BY HELPING YOU WE’D BE PROMOTING OBESITY!
  • I’ve heard too many horror stories. Both online and off, I’ve heard of fat people who’ve had to stand during classes (how are you supposed to take notes?!) fat people who’ve been forced to drop the class since they couldn’t fit in the seats, fat people who got the smug looks and the comments and the ridicule. Frankly, it’s scared me out of saying anything.
  • I’m embarrassed. Yes, me, the vision of self-esteem. I hate to even admit this. But to me, somehow it’s admitting defeat in a way I can’t even really describe.

To my particular school’s credit, this semester they’ve added one free-standing desk/chair to each of the classrooms of the building I have 3 out of 4 of my on-campus classes in. And so far, I’ve managed to snag this one desk/chair combo every time. But what happens if I come in late and someone else already took it? Why is there only one? There should be at least three, in my ever so humble opinion.

At some point, I’m going to have to pluck up the courage to bring this problem to my school’s attention. It’s one of those situations where if no one complains, it’s obviously not going to change. It’s just a matter of. . .getting there.

Suggestions on how to approach this would be most helpful!

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19 Responses to The Attack of the Chair Desks.

  1. Amanda says:

    I don’t know about other schools, but I’ve noticed that at my university, every new classroom in our new Humanities building has been built with extra large, roomy desks for most seats, and a few tiny desks off in the corner for “extras”. Even their auditorium seats are adjustable in the new building (they slide out a couple of feet!). It is an amazing change from their older classrooms in other buildings, which have the tiny chairdesks with one “handicap accessible” desk in the room that is a separate table and chair right up front. Which is great that they are thinking about it, but sometimes larger people are embarrassed to sit in the “handicap desk”, and also, there is only ONE and sometimes that’s not enough when there are several people (really tall people, fat people, a wheelchair user, etc.) who could use it. But I really have been impressed with the new classroom building (it’s where most of my classes are, yay), and am glad that they are taking these things into consideration with their new buildings.

  2. Vito says:

    Im not sure. I think fat may be a disability. Well, your size anyway. Society dictates what a disability is. Can you run? Climb? There may be something to be said about uniform-sized/shaped desks, as obviously it would be preferrable to have one that caters for obese folk. However, these would be deemed special desks. A la special toilets/doors/ramps etc. If you dont want to view yourself as disabled, do something about it. Or are you saying that losing weight is impossible for you?

    • Hannah says:

      I just cannot get behind this comment. My university has a variety of desk sizes and they are not deemed “special” desks, no one even mentions them, they just choose the desk that best suits them. Just because someone is fat does not make them disabled, and people should not have to alter themselves in order to attend university.

      • Vito says:

        Someone being fat doesnt necessarily mean they are disabled. Someone who is so fat, that it limits their role in society, could perhaps be deemed disabled. Also, what is so alien about altering yourself to attend a university? Alot of people have to. Fortunate ones do not.
        Don’t EXPECT society to cater for your needs, no matter how basic they seem to be. Genuinely, whatever about looking good, fashionable or being size-activist, if there is something infringing on your quality of life or oppurtunities, you’d be a wise person to change that aspect of you. Whatever about social norms blah blah i’m unique and beautiful, GREAT. Don’t expect anyone to help you if you don’t even want to help yourself.
        Btw, fat people can and will fit into those desks. If you are an overweight person who does not, chances are, you’re health (yeah, this old “cliché”) is probably in danger. What more reason do you need to change than that?

    • Adipose Activist says:

      Vito, you pretty much lost me the moment you implied that people who are ‘unhealthy’, (and I use that term loosely, considering it’s you and not I who are assuming that obese people are unhealthy) don’t deserve the right to be comfortable in a classroom when they’re trying to further their education. Wow. Just–wow.

      • Vito says:

        Here love, I was saying that if you can’t fit into a standard desk, your weight probably affecting your health in a negative way. Don’t get so defensive. I’d imagine I’m right in assuming you’d be healthier if you were one maybe two hundred pounds lighter. Problem?

        • Ashley Hill says:

          So if your color dictates you not fitting I to a certain majority of society then you are wrong and don’t deserve human rights? Vito, did you know weight is genetic? The fact that you believe that bigger people can “do something’s about it” just shows how much you buy into the stereotype. Do some research. New studies are coming out that link weight to genetics. And even if it wasn’t, the fact remains that people should be treated like people, not second class citizens just because of any physical trait that varies from the “norm.” Oh, and I am bigger and I do yoga, eat a balanced diet, “work out,” do all I can’t to take care of myself, and am still big. Check out my blog and look at the difference between me and my bro and sis as a baby. It really is genetic. Educate yourself, find out for yourself, just don’t believe the things people spew out to you about weight.

  3. Heidi says:

    God, I understand. I dropped out of school for this very reason and am restricting myself to online classes for the time being.

  4. Ása says:

    Those chairs suck so much! I’d never seen those before coming to the US, just walking past those in a room full of students, carrying bags and luggage is bloody nearly impossible they snag on every table. I was not comfortable in those and I had to sit in the left-handed ones a couple of times, not fun.
    They really are trying to say they want accessibility. Doesn’t sound like they offer that without you pursuing it further. What if you were pregnant? There’s no way a pregnant lady would get comfy in those, don’t be embarrassed, and DON’T ever let this stop your education!!! I’m proud of you taking up school now, I did too at a ripe old age and I don’t regret it one bit! 😀

  5. Crystal says:

    First, Vito CLEARLY must be new here.
    Second, maybe you could write an anonymous letter explaining your concerns (both with respect to the seats and with respect to why you’ve been hesitant to say anything with an identity attached).
    Third, I too hated wondering whether I was going to fit seats at school. I didn’t have those types of desks, but we had auditorium seating with the desks that flipped up onto your lap. My stomach was always too big for it to flip down onto my lap comfortably. I would simply take notes with my book resting on my thigh. But when it came time for exams, it really sucked.

  6. Sara says:

    Wow am I so ignorant and self-centered that I thought I was the only uncomfortable one in class?? You just amaze me, looking at you, it’s obvious you weren’t comfortable, but you were just going about your day like, “yup, these fucking chairs don’t face me”. Whereas I was complaining and miserable the rest of the day, even though I have a little more room than you. I will absolutely bring this up to a few people I know that work at the school, but if you decide to go full-force with it, let me know.. 100 lbs or 1000 lbs, a person is a person and has a right to an education!!

  7. bumble says:

    1. Disability is a social construct and, currently in the U.S. court system, morbid obesity is included within that construction. If I were you, I would be grateful to have the kind of legal protection. And, honestly, I’m surprised that you bristle at the disability label to begin. I would think that you would want to own it in a neophyte crip-pride disability rights sort of way.

    2. As I said above, obesity is is a disability according to the EEOC and the ADAAA. I’m sure the disability office would be well aware of this. Considering they’re people trained to be sensitive about this shit, it is highly unlikely that you will be “laughed out of the office.” And, anyway, it seems like it’s an issue they’re aware of since there are desks available in all but one of your classrooms.

    • Adipose Activist says:

      ‘I would think that you would want to own it in a neophyte crip-pride disability rights sort of way’

      what the hell?

      And also, doctors are trained to be ‘sensitive’ to the needs of their patients, but that doesn’t stop them from telling most every patient who’s even a bit overweight (over WHAT weight?) to start losing weight. Just because someone’s TRAINED to be sensitive doesn’t mean they will be.

  8. pooperson says:

    She’s not asking for a ramp or a special toilet, she’s asking for a comfortable place to sit while she’s in class. I’m not sure why you brought up weight loss as that wasn’t the topic here. Also, Amber’s said in a previous post that she IS working towards being a size 18, and while that’s awesome, that fact is super irrelevant to what we were talking about.
    keep up buddy.

  9. As a guy who is walking around at about 330-340 pounds, I can safely say I hated those desks while I was finishing my education these past years. As someone that is 6’7″ and 330-340 pounds, I didn’t stand a chance of fitting in those desks even if I were somehow 100 pounds lighter or more. The funny thing is, the only folks in my classes that didn’t complain were those on the smaller side of average. Thankfully the classes that had these horrible creations for desks also seemed to have at least one or two group-work tables with real chairs. Some of the lecture halls that installed the massive row tables with swivel seats attached to arms also installed benches and chairs at the back. Honestly, stuffing as many seats into a classroom as you can will never be good even if they enlarged them because there is a limit to the number of students effectively learning per class. I did give up my “real chair” seats for those lovely ladies who needed them too.

  10. Alicia says:

    It’s gotten to the point where I do not attend lectures at uni because of the fear of the uncomfortably small chairs or the judging looks as I squash my fat ass into one of the chairs. It’s probably impacting upon my education but I am not going to be uncomfortable for hours at a time, in a class that I’m paying 20K a year to attend.

  11. Soz says:

    OMG, dealing with this at my university right now; only one of my classes has NO alternative seating – but what’s worse is that these chair desks are from the 1960s, even smaller than the one you pictured! I love the subject matter in the class, so I can’t drop – by the way, I’m a size 18/237 lbs. The desk is firmly against my stomach, so, while not painful when sitting up, IMPOSSIBLE to lean forward even a little for tests, notes, etc. I’ve compensated by putting my book bag on top of the desk and notebook on top of that, but how am I going to take a test? I’m so frustrated I could cry.

  12. Erika says:

    I really hate those chair desks, there simply isn’t enough desk either, my notebook wont even fit, those desk/chairs clearly weren’t designed for comfort or practicality. I’m left handed and pretty much all of them are right handed but they’re shoved so close together you pretty much have to brush up against the person sitting next to you to get in and out of your seat. And for me I like being close to the desk but for me it leaves me with this awkward gap unless I sit towards the front of the seat, but it hits at my chest then but if I sit back my seat don’t even touch the ground. I swear whoever made this was just trying to make everyone miserable.
    Also at the “disability” label, who honestly wants to be called disabled, it says something is wrong with them, even if it just means they’re different. I have ADD therefore I’m disabled, I have a disability… no it means I get distracted easily, and have trouble focusing. I’m not disabled, I’m not unable to do things, I just have trouble focusing, like the kid who has trouble with math. It doesn’t mean I’m “disabled”. So I totally get not wanting that label but if you need to, this is how I look at it, we don’t fit the “perfect” cookie-cutter mold therefore we are “disabled” it just means we aren’t a cookie cutter and while I wouldn’t shout it out to the world because yeah it’s still a disheartening label, I say we take the accommodations if we need to. I haven’t, but I really need to. We shouldn’t have to ask for basic things but we do and that is the unfortunate reality.

  13. Lacy says:

    im about to graduate from high school and should be attending college in about 5 months. I worked hard to graduate i am ready for my furture and not really going through that
    “im going to miss high school and can i really do this?” stage like my peers the only thing standing in my way is these damn chairs. I am so afraid i could just cry when i think about it. I am so scared that i dont even want to start school yet i want to take a semester off and lose the weight. i have have trouble with these desk before and like others have stated i have missed important assembly’s or speechs because of my embrassment. Anyway these desk are a BIG PROBLEM! It can really pose a threat to education even though that may seem silly. Something needs to be done. but i can really use some advice on what i should do since i have to go and take a placement test in 2 weeks and i might have to experience the humiliation of the wooded desks.

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