Preparing for universityI have chronic hip pain and use crutches to get around, it came out of nowhere when I was preparing for uni. It meant that I had to go back and relook at my university choices and how my experience might look on crutches and as a disabled student. This is something that you can do at an open day or applicant day. These events are great opportunities to look at the university from the perspective of you and your disability and ask any questions to staff and current students. Before arriving at Leeds Beckett, I spoke to the disability services team who were able to explain to me the type of support available and how to get it. Another thing I did was contact accommodation to ask for arrangements to be put in place, such as a comfortable desk chair and a lower floor flat. There are also accessible flats available if this is something you would need. They do try and reserve these rooms but the quicker you enquire the better. I personally didn’t do much to prepare because I thought I would be walking independently again before I started uni. However, if you can prepare earlier it’s so much easier and less stressful. I also didn’t think that there would be much support available, after my experiences with my own sixth form and I am glad I was wrong.
My experience at university
Once I arrived at uni, I decided to put other support available into place. However, I was nervous to do so because I didn’t want to seem different from anyone else. The easiest part was my accommodation as I had already emailed them about the arrangements for a chair and a lower level flat. I was placed in one with a single flight of stairs down to it which worked great for me and in my first week I was brought a new desk chair. I stayed in halls throughout the whole of my time at university and so I was placed in the same flat and the same chair was left for me, which made things so much easier. I registered with the uni’s disability service and disabled student allowance a few weeks in by emailing them and arranging an assessment. The assessment takes a few hours, but they try to make you as comfortable as possible. I chose to have mine done at the university so that I could register for the uni services at the same time. I was appointed an advisor with the university who I could email if I ever needed anything. I was also shown the university programs and was given a reasonable adjustment plan which meant that I was entitled to assignment extensions. The extensions are easy to access. I would just email the course admin to ask for a form, fill it out saying the assignment details and that I have a reasonable adjustment plan and sent it back. Within a few days I would hear if I had been granted an extension of up to 10 working days. I also found lectures to be really understanding if you need to miss lectures or seminars due to your disability. All you need to do is email them to explain and let them know.
The one thing that I thought would be the hardest was making friends as I lost friends during sixth form due to my disability, with people not believing me. However, that was not the case at university. Making friends turned out to be easy as everyone is new and has worries and fears about making friends too. The friends I have made have been very understanding and helpful and are always making sure we do things that I can manage too. Joining societies and sports is also a great way to kickstart making friends.
In terms of getting around Leeds, I found this really easy as there is a great bus system in the city. The one thing I wish I had known was that you can apply for a disabled bus pass online which if approved gives you free bus travel across the country for most of the day. I have found having this to be extremely helpful as I am not often unable to walk to places like my friends can and so the pass has been a very big money saver for me.
I am grateful for my experience at Leeds Beckett
Overall, I have found that being a disabled student at university hasn’t taken anything away from the university experience and has actually made me more comfortable in my disability. Even though coming to uni with a disability was not something I had planned for or wanted, I wouldn’t change it. It gave me some of the best friends possible whom I might not have been as close with otherwise. It has also taught me to be independent. Another key thing it has taught me is that it’s okay to ask for and need support, which is something I don’t think I would personally have done otherwise. Leeds Beckett has been incredibly helpful and supportive in a way not many of my other friends with additional needs at other universities have experienced.
I wouldn’t change anything about my experience as a disabled student and I am so grateful for the friends and opportunities it has given me.