So you're a Disabled Uni Student.
It's September already- for many disabled students you may be feeling a little anxious about the coming weeks, if your uni is anything like mine- you might not even have your timetable yet!
I didn't used to go home for the summer holidays as I loved being by the sea in the summer but I know lots of people used to be excited to come back after living at home with their parents for weeks. (If you know you know- love you mum, it's just like, once you've lived away, moving back to your childhood home and not knowing what you can eat in the fridge and having to tell them what your plans are for the day right?) University definitely gives you that little bit of freedom, going to uni often isn't about the degree you do and more about the life skills you learn.
With uni, you really do get out what you put into it and the minute you stop turning up, the harder it is to start going again, to catch up with reading, lectures, etc.. The option for online learning is vital for so many disabled students but be cautious not to allow yourself to become isolated. I'm sure I will delve deeper on my uni experience (or lack of) at some point but I spent four years at uni with little care support and wouldn't want anyone else to make the same mistakes I did! If you're a disabled student who may need care or PA support I'd really recommend contacting LiveYou as soon as possible to get the ball rolling into accessing support.
Uni is hard. People don't really talk about the lonely times, the lack of sleep, the housing dramas, and the deadline stress- we just see the photos of the nights out– remember- not every day of uni has to be 'the best days of your life.'
Disabled student or not, most people will struggle with their mental health at some point throughout uni- it's really important to check in with yourself, your friends, and your housemates as they become your little uni family!
Your health is your number 1 priority
Look after yourself
If you don't allow yourself to recover, you'll never catch up!
'Able-bodied' People's illness at uni runs rife - freshers flu and everything in between, so it's really important that if you have a weakened immune system you look after yourself so you don't burn out! Take your meds, eat veg and look after yourself - (Freshers I'll create a blog post on this soon don't worry I got you!)
Ask for help
The only way it is going to work is if you communicate with your lecturers. Don't suffer in silence. Extra time, extensions, different rooms, scribes, notetakers, equipment, software- it is all available - particularly if you are a disabled student in receipt of DSA (Disabled Students Allowance) or with a LSP (Learning Support Plan) but no one can help you if you don't ask.
Put yourself out there
I wish I put myself out there more. Scary but true. I always saw things that said 'join a society' and it made me cringe. I was silly. As a disabled student, I really didn't feel societies were accessible to me- Also other than sports Brighton societies were pretty rubbish (sorry Brighton). As much as I might seem like a pretty confident person now, I'm only really confident when I'm around people I'm comfortable with- or in my comfort zone. Having Tourettes made socialising a bit more difficult but I kinda wish I just owned it from the get-go. If I had any advice for anyone starting uni now I'd say that people love people who are just unapologetically themselves - also from the disability perspective- being comfortable with your disability helps get rid of any people who aren't going to be supportive from the get-go! I could write a whole blog post about just life at uni with a disability so I'll leave this one there for now.
Other Disabled Student Blog Posts:
The first week of uni as a Disabled Uni Student
Everyone gets lost! If you ever get lost- just message someone! I got VERY lost and messaged this random girl on my course and a series of Lauren - events later and now she's my best mate. I promise you if I managed to make friends at uni- you will too!
Allow yourself lots of time to get to places- don't worry it won't be anywhere near as busy as it is in the first few weeks!
The disabled toilet makes a great quiet spot if you're feeling overwhelmed- maybe have a radar key just in case.
Useful things to bring- A radar key, a handheld fan, hidden disability badges or lanyards, mobility aids, sunglasses, fidgets, a water bottle with a hairband or scrunchie on, gum and headphones, AirPods or loop earplugs also really help if you're feeling a little anxious. Don't make yourself worse by hiding your mobility aids! You can make them pretty!
Something I think was really important as a disabled student was my emergency health folder, it contained all my health details and had my families phone numbers- my housemates all knew where it was kept, I also gave different housemates copies of my important health bits for emergencies (which had to be used on a few occasions) Your housemates are just students at the end of the day, so if you have an epi-pen or an allergy, or an emergency medical kit- they need to know to tell emergency medical staff if you aren't able to. This can feel a little worrying at first, but you can soon pick out who feels friendly/ nice - if not if you live in accommodation with security you could always let them know.
Have a list of accessible places to go! Sociability and Accessable are both great resources for this as well as 'Visit' your town if your University city is a tourist destination.
If you're not a wheelchair user but struggle to walk long distances I used to use my PIP money to get a taxi, although more expensive, chances are people may be happy to chip in a few pounds that they might have paid for the bus anyway, if not- it saves you some spoons and means you get to have fun! You don't have to go out every night. The daytime of freshers can be just as fun- shopping going to cafes, exploring the city and campus.
Be proud of how far you've come
What with Covid-19, the world being a bit hectic and I'm sure your own personal health and family struggles, simply attempting university is huge! Be proud of yourself!
It doesn't matter how long it takes you!
I lived with six people in first year, and not one of us completed our original degree within the three-year standard- all for completely different reasons, be that disability, change of course, intermission, placement year or personal circumstances or simply because uni is hard!!
More coming soon:)
Let us know if you have any tips or advice for disabled students Lauren (and Trish x)