One of the great things about university is that no two days are ever the same, one day you will be working on an assignment, the next day you are shopping for kitchen utensils. Student experiences of university life can be unique and very personal. Universities are also places of education and sharing of knowledge, so here are three insights into life as a disabled student.
Visiting places in advance
As a student, you never want to turn down new opportunities wherever they may arise. As a disabled student, visiting places in advance, whether that be locations of classrooms or venues for society social evenings, is a common occurrence.
This can be for a variety of different reasons, for example wheelchair users may want to check that the space between different furnishings is large enough that a wheelchair will fit through the gap without inconveniencing others or the availability of a wheelchair accessible toilet on certain areas of campus.
Different disabilities will have their own accessibility requirements, that may not be related to the physical layout of the space itself. Some individuals may like visiting places in advance to investigate the availability of a quiet space to go to in the event of sensory overload. This appears very monotonous, but actually it can be a reassuring exercise, knowing that you can enjoy and participate in events or classes and have planned for various situations that can occur.
Exploring campus and the surrounding areas will seem a natural part of student life for most students, particularly in their first year. Being a disabled student, you become accustomed to exploring areas of campus or the city which others will rarely have to use, if at all.
This has its advantages though, for example, when occasionally the “accessible route” is slightly faster than other routes because of the lack of foot traffic or the way in which it was designed is flatter and easier to walk on. Of course during these explorations of “accessible routes”, you may get lost, but equally you could find a picturesque spot for some studying.
Asking for assistance
Asking for assistance with daily tasks is a common occurrence for disabled students. This is okay. The form of assistance which is required can vary significantly, from removing chairs so that you can position your wheelchair or asking for directions to the nearest lift so that you can take a rest from walking long distances.
Whilst this may appear repetitive, it does have some hidden benefits. You can often meet new people who then become friends during your time at university. You may also become more confident when speaking in lectures or seminars, because the idea of approaching or conversing with strangers to ask questions or seek advice is something you have been doing for a significant length of time.
Universities are fundamentally places of education, hopefully these insights into life as a disabled student on campus can provide a basis for learning more about accessibility and inclusion, creating a better university experience for all.
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