It can be daunting for any young disabled person starting university, but it doesn’t have to be. There is plenty of help and support out there to ensure you make the most of your university experience. Below are a few top tips based on my own time studying at university
1. Consider living in university accommodation This will give you the best opportunities to make friends (remember to check if the accommodation is catered or non-catered!)
2. View your room in advance If you do decide to live in university accommodation, try to view your room before you move in to ensure it has the necessary adaptations to suit your needs. I lived in accommodation at Newcastle University whilst completing my degree and after having a look at the adaptations I had at home, the university was able to implement the same adaptations at my university accommodation.
3. Meet some of the staff advance. Meeting your lecturers beforehand is a good way of ensuring they are aware of your needs and that the necessary support is in place to enable you to achieve your full potential.
4. Get to know your student wellbeing or disability support team. These people will be really valuable in helping you with any issues you encounter at university.
5. Arrive early Try to get to your lectures and seminars early in case you have to wait for a lift to get to where you need to go and to ensure you have a good place in lecture theatres/seminar rooms. There is certainly nothing worse than having to try to sneak in quietly into a lecture or seminar that has already begun – something that can be especially difficult for a wheelchair user!
6. Room changes Find out about what measures the university has in place to inform you of room changes or cancellations for lecturers/seminars. If they are no measures in place, ask if these can be put in place.
7. Get to know the campus Try to learn various routes to different parts of the campus in case you cannot use the route you may usually take.
8. Ask for help You don’t have to do it alone. There will be difficult times, it is just about recognising them yourself before you are overwhelmed.
9. Find out what you are entitled to As a disabled student you can get various pieces of equipment to put you on the same level as other students for completing university work. For example, you can access speech recognition software if you find typing difficult. If you qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowance you can have a DSA Needs Assessment to decide on the support/equipment you will need to help you complete your university course.
10. Make the most of the opportunities you are presented with, but most importantly – ENJOY IT!