New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

First of all dear readers, on behalf of Access2Learn, I’d like to start by wishing you all a very Happy New Year! May it be a year full of opportunities, good fortune and successes for all of you.

New Years Eve Fireworks in London

Of course, the beginning of the new calendar is an opportunity in itself – once you get over the bad case of January Blues that no doubt many of you are suffering from as we struggle back into our work/study routines, the New Year is as good a time as any to commit to changes we wish to make in our lives. Our New Year’s Resolutions often include losing weight, learning to drive, perhaps quitting smoking, procrastinating less on those all-important assignments … or doing that one thing that you’ve always wanted to try but fear to attempt, such as doing a placement, joining/creating a society/sports team, trying to lead a more active social life … the list goes on and on.

The trouble is, dear readers, that these New Year’s Resolutions are often very difficult to keep to. It’s not impossible, by any means, but one’s strength of will is soon tempted from its course by the siren’s songs – it’s all too easy to cave to our desires for those foods we know we shouldn’t eat or just to plug in the games console and forget our commitment to joining a gym or working harder. It doesn’t mean we’re weak – but even the strongest individuals only have so much willpower, especially when we have to work or study regularly.

Sean Bean explaining the difficulties of New Years Resolutions

But perhaps that’s exactly the problem – most of us try to accomplish these things on our own and inevitably, our willpower depletes. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone reading this, but in my case, my own worst enemy is myself. My anxiety and fear of failure, rejection, embarrassment … all these things mean that I constantly get in my own way when it comes time to make all the changes I want to make – and as previously stated, I only have so much willpower, same as anyone else. I admit, already some of my New Year’s Resolutions are in jeopardy.

So this year, I want to propose another New Year’s Resolution … one that will not only require less of your vital willpower, but in my experience will also give you a boost in accomplishing what you want to accomplish. My suggesting is simple; to make use of the support available to you.

The Samaritans

Now hold on, I know what you might be thinking: ‘seriously? That’s the big suggestion?’ Hear me out. A group effort is far more effective than an individual effort. You know what they say, ‘many hands make light work’. You don’t have to do all these things yourself. There is support in place to help you cope with study, work or even if you just need to talk to someone about your problems. Even just talking to someone is a great way to put things into perspective and get the emotional weight off your mind, freeing you to devote more energy to your goals.

If you are experiencing fear, doubt, anxiety or depression – or even if you just want a neutral perspective – the Samaritans are a great place to start. As a student and a graduate I have turned to them many times for a sympathetic ear and a judgement-free conversation about my troubles, which I have always found tremendously relieving. If you are a current student, it is also highly likely that your university can provide you with on-site counselling sessions, which I can again vouch for from experience … in my final year of university, which as you know is also dissertation year, I also took it upon myself to run for Disabled Students Representative and create the Disabled Students Society, both of which took a tremendous effort, on top of the effort of making it through uni. As you can imagine, this took a serious toll on my mental health and without counselling, I doubt I’d have made it very far through the year with a total mental collapse.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention support available through Disabled Students Allowances! If you meet the definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010, meaning you have a physical or mental condition that will significantly affect your ability to carry out daily tasks for longer than 12 months, you may be eligible to apply for DSA and receive (on a needs dependant basis) a support bundle which could include a new laptop complete with specialist software, a printer/scanner, 1-2-1 support mentoring and a general allowance to put to things such as travel or printer consumables! Also, forgive the shameless self-marketing, dear readers, but also if you happen to book an assessment with Access2Learn, you’ll be able to chat to the Student Consultant team whenever you like about any needs you might have!

Access2Learn DSA

Now that the self-promo is done, you might be wondering, dear readers, why on Earth I feel I have to tell you something so simple. I mean it’s obvious that a group effort is more effective than an individual effort right? Again, I ask that you bear with me. Let’s be honest … asking for help is hard, especially if you happen to be a male I daresay. Appearing weak, admitting vulnerability or a lack of independence … everything a guy is not allowed to do by society’s definitions right? Though I suppose no-one would like that feeling, male or female … the point is, ladies and gents, asking for help is hard, but if you can get over the hurdle of simply picking up the phone or sending an email, you’ll be taking not just a first step, but a huge leap towards getting yourself ready to make your desires for the New Year a reality!

Thanks for reading our blog, and may 2018 be your year!

 

Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017 #positivedyslexia2017

Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017 #positivedyslexia2017

Keep Calm and Support Dyslexia

For millions of people up and down the country, dear reader, this is a very important week. In fact, according to the British Dyslexia Association, somewhere between 6 and 7 million people across the UK have the condition which this week is dedicated to raising awareness for. That’s an awful lot of people, isn’t it? About a tenth of the population is affected by Dyslexia, and many more may yet be undiagnosed. Furthermore, according to the Equality in Higher Education statistical report for 2015/16, of the total of 89,695 university students that declared a disability, almost half of those students had a specific learning disability, Dyslexia included.

Given that statistic, it should be pretty much redundant to say how important Dyslexia Awareness Week is for our country, though I could not overstate its importance if I tried.

Given that I am Autistic and have no personal experience of Dyslexia, perhaps it isn’t for me to tell you what Dyslexia is and what it feels like. However, despite the advancement of time and the prevalence of the condition, dyslexic people still face a lot of negativity due to misconceptions in conventional wisdom. For example, because of the most famous problems caused by Dyslexia in areas such as reading and writing, many students with Dyslexia will tell you sad stories about struggling in school, working hours on pieces of homework only to get an abysmal grade, finding it impossible to participate in activities like reading with the class or to write notes at the same speed as everyone else. Worse still, because of these things, they tell stories of ridicule and bullying by their classmates and being yelled at by teachers who eventually denounce them as stupid and/or lazy.

Dr Rudolf Berlin, who introduced Dyslexia as a medical condition in 1887

How can this be, dear reader? It is almost the end of the year 2017, and at least a tenth of our population has Dyslexia, so why oh why Delilah are we still hearing these stories? As early as 1887, Dyslexia was introduced as a medical condition by opthalmologist Dr Rudolf Berlin. Since then, understanding of it has developed from ‘congenital word blindness’ into the complex, multi-layered condition we know today. Yet still, provisions and education for people with dyslexia is not what it should be, and the term ‘Dyslexia’ has too many stigmas attached to it.

Here’s a name all of you should be familiar with: Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, the mind behind the theory of relativity, and he whose name is synonymous with ‘genius’, boasting perhaps the highest IQ in history. Did you happen to know, dear reader, that by most accounts, Einstein was Dyslexic? That’s right, arguably the greatest mind in all of history belonged to someone with Dyslexia. Wait, there’s more – how about Steven Spielberg, Mohammad Ali or Richard Branson? Yep, they all have dyslexia too! Tell me, were any of those men lazy or stupid?

In my own experience, having worked with and supported many people with Dyslexia throughout my university career and in my current job, I have witnessed first hand just what students and friends with Dyslexia can accomplish. During my time as the Disabled Students Representative, I had the good fortune to meet at least four wonderful people with dyslexia, all of whom took part in my Disabled Students Society and helped me keep it afloat, attending meetings, putting forward ideas and making great contributions to the fledgling society. All of these students faced a great deal of academic hardship because of the problems presented by having Dyslexia compounded by the sheer volume of work; this was alongside the personal problems and depression that two of them were already going through. And yet, not only did all of them take it upon themselves to help me run the Society, but at least two of them graduated with a 1st Class, and have been the object of my secret envy ever since, as I just happened to miss that mark by 2%! Another graduated with a strong 2:1, and the other graduated with a 2:2 – an incredible result considering her personal problems at the time.

What does this tell you, dear reader? That Dyslexic people are stupid? Lazy? Without talent? No – it says the exact opposite. Why should we take this week seriously, and give Dyslexia awareness its due? Well, a) the obvious answer is people with Dyslexia by default deserve the same opportunities as anyone else – but b), the point this blog is trying to make – just look at the potential of those with Dyslexia. There are the names like Einstein, Mohammad Ali and others whose name will endure throughout history, and then there are the people that you meet everyday who have so much potential within them. Often, looking back, I wonder if my friends succeeded to the extent they did because rather than despite their condition; after all, children and adults with Dyslexia often show immense creativity and possess a unique set of cognitive skill in place of their ability to read text. Given this, when people with Dyslexia insist that they are not disabled, its quite hard to argue.

But my point, good readers? There is so much potential out there, little geniuses that go to school and are condemned and discarded for their inability to decipher text. Too many who could have been the next Einstein or Steve Jobs drop out of school early. As Einstein argues, ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life thinking it is stupid’. Perhaps it’s time to recognise Dyslexia in the classroom, take away the unfair measuring stick that is text, and introduce them to the creative talent they possess. And perhaps on this years Dyslexia Awareness Week, we can open more eyes to this truth.

You can find out lots more information about Dyslexia Awareness Week by visiting:

http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/fundraising/dyslexia-awareness-week

#positivedyslexia2017

Game of Thrones: Disability representation in George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece

Game of Thrones: Disability representation in George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece

House Access2Learn

Before I start with this blog, I just want to say that I will try to keep it as spoiler free as possible! On a personal note, I never thought I would be happy to hear the words “Winter is here”!

I know what you’re thinking dear readers – why on Earth is a company like Access2Learn, who supports disabled students at university through Disabled Students Allowances, publishing a blog about Game of Thrones? Well, like the sigil of House Mormont, please bear with us – ok, I’m sorry, that was the worst pun ever.

The Sigil of House Mormont

But my point? There are two reasons to write a blog about George R.R. Martin’s epic creation. One – Martin’s depiction of characters who would by today’s standards be classed as disabled, especially when they interact with the infamously vicious and ableist society depicted in Game of Thrones, are portrayed in incredible fashion when, far from being pushed to the side and forgotten or just there for comic relief as is the unfortunate norm for such characters, they are portrayed as tough, intelligent and adaptive, able to command a huge presence within Westeros and Essos. The second reason – well, I just love Game of Thrones!

Perhaps the most immediately obvious portrayal of disability in Game of Thrones, as well as being my favourite character in the entire series, is Tyrion Lannister – otherwise known as ‘Imp’, ‘Half-man’ and various other insults pertaining to his dwarfism. Yet despite being some 2 feet shorter than most other of the main characters in Westeros (3 if you count ‘The Mountain’ – maybe even 4 if you’ve read the books!), Tyrion casts one of the largest shadows over the fictional world of Game of Thrones, not only surviving against all odds, but thriving, becoming one of the most powerful characters in Westeros and Essos.

Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage

Unfortunately, Tyrion is treated with neglect, scorn and at times even hatred by members of his family, especially by his father, Tywin, who attempts more than once in the show to have his son killed, by ordering him to lead barbarian tribes into battle, making him responsible for the defence of King’s Landing and then sentencing him to death for a crime he didn’t commit – and why? Simple – Tyrion is a dwarf. During an incredible scene at his trial, when the hatred between Tyrion and his father boils over, Tyrion responds to his father’s demands that he confess to his imagined crimes with “I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime! I’m guilty … of being a dwarf!”

This is only one example of the relentless discrimination that a dwarf faces in the brutal and ableist society of Westeros/Essos. Tyrion is constantly looked down upon, insulted and tormented by his peers; including his sister Cersei, his cousin Lancel (who comes to regret it, more on that later), and many others. As a dwarf, he is seen as being beneath notice or reward, an illegitimate being. As he famously remarks to Jon Snow in Season One, who faces his own discrimination on account of being a ‘bastard’ and therefore unable to claim lands and also treated like an illegitimate being, “All Dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes”.

However, despite the overwhelming prejudice a dwarf faces in Westeros, it doesn’t stop Tyrion from playing the Game of Thrones like a champion. For far from being portrayed in the typical way that a dwarf would be in most films/TV shows, Tyrion is shown to have great charisma, vast intelligence and lightening quick wit, all of which he uses to gain allies, outmanoeuvre his enemies and gain power within Westeros. Tyrion manages to outmanoeuvre Queen Cersei by removing her lackeys from the Game, gain the allegiance of the sellsword Bronn, talk his way out of certain death in the Vale and at the hands of the Hill Tribes, orchestrate the successful defense of King’s Landing and climb the ladder of power almost to the peak on two occasions, becoming Hand of the King/Queen at various stages in the film series. Despite being the shortest player in the Game of Thrones, Tyrion is one of the biggest winners – and easily one of the most beloved characters.

Hodor, carrying Bran Stark

Then there’s characters such as Hodor, the “sweet giant”, the seven-foot tall servant to the Starks who can only utter one word; his name, “Hodor”. While one’s first impression of such a man might be underwhelming, given the unfortunate tendency to judge a person’s intellect by their capacity to speak, Hodor quickly establishes himself as one of the most beloved characters in the series as he tends to Bran Stark, who is left paralysed from the waist down after a tragic fall early in the series. Initially, Bran is distraught by his injury and the realisation that’d he’ll never walk again, and remarks to his brother Robb that he’d rather die than live as ‘a cripple’, much to Robb’s sadness. However, it is not long before he discovers he can still ride on horseback (with a little help from Tyrion), and eventually he discovers within himself the magical powers of a warg and the power of ‘Greensight’.

Perhaps it is poetic justice that the man that caused the fall that crippled Bran, the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister, is himself left handicapped when his hand is cut off (in events that I won’t spoil). Jaime, who was once hailed as one of the finest fighters in Westeros, is convinced that losing his sword-hand is the end of his fighting days, remarking that ‘the Kingslayer can’t even slay a pidgeon’ – an ironic similarity to Bran, whom he crippled. However, also like Bran, Jaime’s loss of his hand turns out to be crucial to his character development, and he transitions from one of the most despised characters to a fan-favourite.

As you can see, there are many examples of disability in Game of Thrones. Many of them are inflicted by injury, such as Bran and Jaime, others by trauma like Hodor. Few known characters in the Game of Thrones world are born with disabilities, such as Tyrion, whose dwarfism was obvious all his life. All of these characters face hostility in the excessive ableism of the Game of Thrones world, where power is the name of the game. But all of these characters demonstrate tremendous power in various ways; Tyrion by his charisma and intelligence, Hodor by his incredible physical strength, Bran with his magic and Jaime by his strength of will and resolve to learn to fight with his other hand, even if it means getting slapped about at first by a certain sellsword.

Some of the many faces of Game of Thrones

Truth be told, all of these characters demonstrate incredible resolve and strength within the unforgiving world of Game of Thrones. The phenomenal storytelling, character development and intrigue that George R.R. Martin creates aside for just a moment, the fact that characters who by modern standards would qualify as disabled are portrayed in such a positive fashion; largely independent, deep, strong characters who aren’t just there to make people laugh, nor are they shunted aside in favour of those who would by conventional wisdom fit the ‘normal’ bill.

Now that Winter Has Come at last in the form of the long awaited 7th season, we at Access2learn thought it appropriate to share this blog celebrating the enlightened, empowering fashion with which disabilities are portrayed in Martin’s masterpiece.

It’s a shame there is no DSA in Game of Thrones … although mind you, if there was, we’d probably end up going the way of Ned Stark before long … you know what, never mind!

Just remember, dear readers … NO SPOILERS!

 

Autistic Pride Day: Why I’m proud to be Autistic

Autistic Pride Day: Why I’m proud to be Autistic

Did you know dear reader, June 18th is a very special day for us Autistic people and our families – a special event celebrated around the world, from Brazil, to London to Israel – a day dedicated to celebrating neurodiversity and the unique identity, abilities and culture of autistic people; Autistic Pride Day!

Autistic pride logo

Being autistic myself, I can tell you that Autism is a double-edged sword. Although it certainly does have benefits, practical and personal, to deny that it is a disability would be dismissive of the problems that many Autistic people face. In my own case, there are things that I wish to do that I struggle greatly with. Take social encounters for example – despite making great advances in my life, especially my time at uni, I still struggle terribly when it comes to meeting new people, and still usually make an awful first impression. I can barely hold a conversation, even on subjects I know quite well, and I can’t do small talk to save my life. When a situation arises, I find it very difficult to explain my side of the argument. Had it not been for my DSA-funded mentors at university, I would not have lasted even a week, academic talent or not.

But none of these things mean I am not proud to be autistic; no, far from it. Despite the difficulties my Autism has presented me with, it is the same Autism that has given me the mental capacity, the tools and the mindset needed to cope with the environment that was university. Moreover, it has without question played the most vital role in developing me into the man I am. And I am very, very proud of the man I have become.

To give you more details about the practical benefits of being Autistic, although we only have few interests and hobbies, our interest is often so intense that we can become exceptionally talented within our certain hobbies and attain a vast amount of knowledge about certain subjects. Although my pre-university education grades were woeful (not so much my fault, thank you very much), one thing I always excelled at was writing. Any written work I did was always to standard, but when it was for a subject I particularly enjoyed, for example History, the resulting piece of work was the envy of almost all my classmates, both before and during university. Of course, my Autistic brain was also highly analytical when it was engaged as strongly as it was at university (otherwisemaybe not so much …), which was a tremendous asset when I was researching whatever particular topic I may be writing about, gathering and reviewing evidence, comparing it with a certain hypothesis and coming to a conclusion. At the end of those fine years at university, I graduated with flying colours, just barely missing a first class.

Tom and the Disability Team at DMU

Having also developed a passion for supporting disability welfare in general, I volunteered with many charities, including Havens Hospices, the Samaritans and my personal favourite – Autism Anglia. I worked tirelessly for these charities to conduct interviews, edit videos and write blogs. I wrote the way only a motivated autistic history graduate could, and I enjoyed it. Of course I’ve already told you dear readers about my time as Disabled Student Representative at De Montfort University and founding the Disabled Students’ Society. Two more examples of what someone with Autism can achieve when they put their mind to it. Now, as a Student Consultant with Access2Learn, I get out of bed every morning ready to start work, help other students like me, write blogs, make videos and do a job that means a great deal to me. It can be very hard work, now that A2L supports hundreds of students up and down the country, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. In a stark contrast from when I’m doing boring house chores, or when I was working in my previous job washing dishes in a pub, my motivation was just barely above non-existent.

My autistic brain also helps me perform exceptionally at my hobbies – admittedly mostly video games. An autistic friend of mine, Peter, is a human encyclopaedia of films, having a detailed knowledge of just about every film ever made and everyone who took part in it. Another of my autistic friends, Nathaniel, can talk forever about political issues, history, QI and knows every single detail about Game of Thrones. Finally, there’s Michael, who is currently taking his passion for History with him to London to do a Master’s and maybe even teach it one day. All three of these friends of mine I met at university, where we all did exceptionally well, with Peter even achieving a First Class.

Finally, on a personal level, growing up with Autism has without doubt played the biggest role in developing me into the man I am now. Contrary to what most conventional of autism would have you believe about us being unempathetic, I believe that my experience with Autism has made me more empathetic. I am polite and friendly to everyone I deal with. I detest any form of bullying. I relate to the students I support and can put myself in their position. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be very good at my job as a Student Consultant if I wasn’t empathetic. At the risk of sounding boastful, I am also very strong of mind and character. As a child with autism who was bullied almost to suicide, as sadly many autistic children are – but as someone who refused to give in and demanded something out of life before I went to my grave, I developed an iron will and a sense of character strong as steel. Whether that is necessarily related to Autism as a condition is academic, but as I said before; many autistic people go through Hell at school on account of who they are.

I suppose when it comes down to it, in order for an autistic person to achieve their full potential and demonstrate the full brilliance of the

Albert Einstein – rumoured to have been autistic

autistic brain, we need to be engaged with something that means something to us. A child with Autism can appear to be completely switched off to the world around him/her when at school or out with the parents, but think of Derek Paravicini, who mastered the piano at the age of 2, or Jacob Barnett, who at 14 years old had an IQ even higher than Albert Einstein and was studying a Master’s degree in Quantum Physics. It is rumoured that Einstein himself had Autism, as did Michelangelo. Einstein for one didn’t speak his first words until the age of 4 years old, yet is considered one of the cleverest men to have ever lived. As for myself – when it comes to small talk or any kind of Maths – or something else I find equally boring – I’m totally hopeless. But give me an essay to write on the relationship between nationalism, racism and violence in History, or a blog about autism or being a student, or even sit me down to play Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor … and you’ll see the true power of an autistic brain as I wrack up a first class grade or a hit streak of 650.

Why am I proud to be Autistic? Although we can be difficult to engage, in social, academic and work terms, when we are engaged in something our drive is like a freight train and our insight and knowledge on the subject at hand can be so deep that by comparison the Marianna Trench looks like a kiddie pool. When Hans Asperger conducted the study around 1944 that elevated understanding of Autism to new levels, he referred to the autistic children he worked with as ‘little professors’ for their ability to talk about their favourite subject in incredible detail, especially for children of that age. Moreover, every single Autistic person is different, always offering a different perspective and a unique talent and personality which shines through when they’re truly engaged. Although various stereotypes exist about Autism, the truth is we are like snowflakes; no two are ever alike.

I am proud to be Autistic because of the sheer volume of potential that I have within me, as does every single soul with Autism. It is my hope to see a system of education and work in place that realises this unique talent instead of squandering it. I am proud to be Autistic because we were made to stand out, to make great contributions to things we care about and subjects we enjoy. I’m proud to share the same condition as such great names as Albert Einstein, Mozart, Temple Grandin and by some accounts Abraham Lincoln and Andy Warhol. I’m proud to be Autistic because, quite frankly, without us … the world would be dreadfully boring ?

 

Why every university needs a Disability Society

Why every university needs a Disability Society

Why every university needs a Disability Society

 

Of all the accomplishments that I have to write about on my CV, dear readers, there isn’t a single one I am prouder to talk about than being the founder and first chairman of the Disabled Student’s Society of De Montfort University, a community of friendship and support where all disabled students could feel welcome and meet others like themselves. I kid you not, this even includes my degree itself – although I feel extremely fortunate to have studied at such a supportive environment as DMU, I felt as though I had contributed something that was potentially very valuable to disabled student welfare, a cause that I came to feel deeply passionate about as a result of my time at DMU.

Saints and Scroungers aired on BBC 1

The idea came to me in 2013 during my second year, a year so wonderful for me that I would do just about anything to relive it. That year, after I was interviewed by the BBC and my story of success at university appeared on Saints and Scroungers, and soon after that when I received the honour of being the winner of the Student Choice Award for ‘outstanding achievements’, I was encouraged to run for the position of Disabled Students’ Representative. Despite being honoured by the encouragement, I began to ask myself “what could I bring to the table if I were elected?”. I asked myself this question as a disabled student myself – what were my biggest needs? What general issues needed to be addressed? Most importantly, given the other two, what solutions could I bring to the table?

Well, the answer to my first question – and possibly the second, if you can interpret it that way – was the fact that despite the support already in place at my university, the fantastic disability support team and of course my mentors arranged through DSA – despite all that, I still felt somewhat alone … and lonely. See, I was looking at the aforementioned questions solely as a student with autism, and I know very well that I can hardly speak for all kinds of disabilities, but I did think it was a fairly safe bet that most if not all students with a condition similar to my own always felt frustrated when they couldn’t make others see why they have certain difficulties and felt that almost nobody understood them, which in turn left them feeling lonely. Maybe I was completely wrong about this, but no matter what condition/disability you have; autism, dyslexia, anxiety, depression; all of the above, at least in my experience, have certain difficulties and pains unique to them, but a common theme is the frustration and loneliness of not being understood. Either way, whether I was right or not, I had my answer to question one at least, and as said earlier, possibly for question two as well, by way of touching upon a general issue common to all disabilities/conditions.

Thus, in my manifesto I pledged to create a Disabled Students’ Society, and this turned out to be the thing that won me the election (spoilers: I won the election and became the Disabled Student’s Rep!). That doesn’t really do it justice I know – as I said it was one of the most important accomplishments in my life, but this blog is specifically about the Society and its purpose. I promised students a community where they could meet people in the same boat, so to speak: a group where everyone understood that everyone had their own problems and could seek help and friendship among other students with similar problems. It also served two other purposes; 1) in this way, I could get to meet and be accountable by the students I was to represent, and 2) we could campaign together to increase awareness and raise money for each disability and associated charities. Sadly, because I was now into my 3rd and final year, I wasn’t able to dedicate the amount of time that I wished to the Society, but it did accomplish the thing that I’d most wanted it to; providing disabled students with a place to find friendship and support, which was by far the major thing, and I’m pleased to say that the Disablity Society outlived my time at the university.

So, at last, we arrive to the subject under which this blog is titled; why every university ought to consider having a student’s society like the Disability Society, and why I believe it would be a valuable extension to the support available to students with special needs. Of course, not all ‘disabled’ students feel comfortable with the term ‘disabled’, plus I certainly wouldn’t want

Tom and the DMU Disability Team

to make students with mental health conditions feel unwelcome over a technicality, so it doesn’t need to share a name. However, if all universities had a society similar to mine, it would give students with special needs the opportunity to meet others in the same boat and find friendship and mutual support amongst each other. A society like this would also be good for representation of disabilities and mental health conditions; an important issue indeed as both remain under-represented and somewhat isolated. However, a society made up of these students, represented by a committee and their Student Union’s Representative will be able to voice their needs as a collective to the university, and by holding public events, the community as well. By bringing the creativity of several students with special needs together, and they can produce all kinds of ways to increase the profile of special needs, both in and out of education.

Although I was too into my final year to really give the society the attention it deserved, if the society’s committee can dedicate the time needed and if the university itself encourages the growth of the society, I believe there is a vast amount of potential to do good that can be realised. In the way that a tree will grow and bear fruit if it is watered (I know that’s leaving out a good few details, but unfortunately I know nothing about botany L), encouraging the growth of a society built around the idea of providing support and friendship for students with special needs, I submit to you that such students will feel more comfortable and less alone within the university setting, which naturally will lead to greater success and fewer falling by the wayside. Although disabled students have made their mark in recent decades, in my humble opinion stemming from my own experience there is great potential left untapped. Although the idea for a Disability Society was not exactly revolutionary, I firmly believe that it would enable us to take a big step forward in disabled student welfare.

I hope I have at least shown you, dear reader, why I consider this my most important contribution to my old university, and hope to see similar societies emerging in the future.

 

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