Archer’s Challenge pushes for disability awareness

Paul Cobler

Archer’s Challenge, a week-long city-wide event organized by undeclared sophomore Archer Hadley, rolled onto campus yesterday.

The event challenged participants to spend the day in a wheelchair and raised money for Rosedale, a special needs school in Austin, Hadley said.

“The challenge is to have them spend a period of their day, or their whole day, in a manual wheelchair to experience the challenges that somebody like me experiences in the chair on a day to day basis,” Hadley said.

Hadley, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, founded the event as a senior at Austin High School after he was locked outside in the rain because the school lacked automatic doors. 

The event raised $90,000 the first year and has since then expanded into a city-wide program that has raised more than $142,000 for electronic doors at five Austin high schools, according to a press release.

“I literally got stuck out in the rain, got soaking wet, and that was the final straw for me,” Hadley said. “I went home to my mom and asked her what we could do, and here we are.”

UT President Gregory Fenves attended the wheelchair distribution Tuesday morning and said Hadley has demonstrated great leadership by organizing the event.

“That’s part of the education here — students learn how to be leaders,” Fenves said. “Archer has certainly demonstrated that in his motivation and his organizational skills and his leadership skills by putting this whole day together.” 

Hadley said he still faces new challenges while navigating around UT’s campus as a student.

“There are lots of accessibility challenges around campus,” Hadley said. “Our number one goal is increasing the accessibility signage around campus and [making] sure it is easy for students like me and other folks in chairs to know where to go to use the button and all that jazz.”

Fenves said the University can improve by making campus more accessible to students with mobility challenges.

“We want our campus to be open and accessible for all students, and every student to feel that they have a place at the University of Texas to get an education and be successful, and that includes students of limited mobility,” Fenves said. “This is a great way of educating our students about the issues of accessibility and where we need to improve as a University.”

Psychology senior Arun Sethi said Hadley’s message motivated him to participate in the event. 

“Archer came and spoke at our spirit group meeting, Absolute Texas, and it made me realize how difficult it must be sometimes being in his position,” Sethi said. “The more I think about it the more I realize that it’s still not an easy campus to get around, so I just want to see what it’s like and help as much as I can once I get a good firsthand experience.”