We are in September, how did that happen? I cannot believe how many months I was opening up my blogs with a countdown to finishing university and now I’ve been finished for 3 and a half months. I guess time flies when you are job hunting.
Anyway seen as it’s September I thought I’d write a post for those disabled students/students with disabilities embarking on their university journey and more predominately those studying healthcare as that’s one I know a thing or two about.
Embarking on your university journey as a disabled student is nerve-racking and there’s probably little I can say that will get rid of the nerves as first day jitters are normal and are a good thing. Yet, I hope this helps to make things seem a little less scary.
Don’t be afraid to network before the course starts.
I am quite active on social media (you’d never know) and was able to access the online fresher’s groups and connect with people on my course. I’m so glad I did this as I already knew a few people on the course which meant that I had people to hang out with during freshers week and talk to outside of the working week about the course so far. I know a lot has changed since then and it’s harder to hang out than it was especially if your classes are online but just connecting through online communities helps. Hold a virtual coffee and chat to get to know everyone. Again I know it’s harder when you’ve not met people but our virtual coffee and chats over the past 18 months on the course has been so helpful.
Reminder, you know your needs best…
The start of the course can be quite heavy with disability-related forms and meetings especially on a course with placements due to our old friend red tape. Remember, you know yourself better than anyone else! Yes, it is hard disclosing your needs and making decisions about what placements may be best when you have so little to go on but do what’s rights for you and if you feel like you don’t have enough knowledge to make a decision say. When I started university I didn’t know what challenges may arise I remember saying “It’s a case of crossing that bridge when we come to it.” so many times. Yet, some hurdles are predictable so if you feel the need to say something, say it!
Finally… Being Honest About My Needs on Placement
Applying the PEOP Model to Placement as a Disabled Occupational Therapy Student
Reflecting on Past and Considering Future Placement Experiences as a Disabled Occupational Therapy Student
Make yourself known with people on campus.
Okay, so I’m not saying go and shout your name from the rooftops and create a sign saying disabled person coming through but go and explore. I went everywhere on campus in my wheelchair for the most of my first semester and when I needed help I asked for help which paid off as daunting as it was. Then on the days where I only needed to be in one building and would just walk in people recognised me without my chair which helped.
For example, when I went to the library in my wheelchair the staff would automatically open the check-in because it was easier than swiping my card and when I was walking they recognised me still and would just do it without any hassle given. I know my disability is visible and yes people may have just assumed I needed help rather than recognising me as the girl in the wheelchair that asked for help which is a whole other subject. But if you’re an ambulatory wheelchair user like me and just nipping into the library to return a bag of heavy books and your cards in your purse at the bottom of your bag this really works in your favour.
Find out what buildings are accessible and what are not.
Explore all the buildings, wherever I had a gap during my first few weeks I would go and check out all the buildings with a friend. I know COVID restrictions may stop this but if you’re on campus a lot, go and explore if you can. Check out the lifts, do it all- then this helps you gauge timings.
I mostly didn’t leave early from back-to-back lectures and this was my choice as I felt more comfortable being with a group of friends on the busy roads. But when I did leave early it was mostly due to the buildings not being accessible or the accessible route adding on 5 minutes to the journey rather than the distance itself.
The power of reflection!
If you come here a lot you’ll know that I’m a big reflector- reflecting on any healthcare course is an essential disability or not. I know when you’ve had a rubbish week at university or on placement the last thing you want to do is relive it by writing it all down or doing a voice note. But, it is worth it. I’ve unpicked many things about my needs in practice by reflecting even unintentionally when I didn’t think it was going to be a disability-related reflection. This has helped so much and through this, I’ve altered my learning agreements which have made a big difference and made my university experience that bit easier. For example from reflecting I altered my learning agreement to use text-to-speech on placement and I had far fewer communication barriers.
I’m going to stop here because I could go on forever. So here are a few more related posts below that I have written whilst studying:
I hope this has been useful, good luck to those embarking on their university journeys!
Please let me know what you’re studying in the comments!
Thank you for reading,