As part of our ongoing series of articles for Disability History Month showcasing the stories and experiences of students at Kent, first year student Gabby writes about how her move to uni has been impacted by her disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Scoliosis and Anxiety:
‘The move to university is an exciting time and like many freshers, I was equal parts daunted and excited when I thought about starting this new independent chapter of my life. Aside from worrying about what mugs and duvet sets I wanted to bring, my disabilities brought extra logistical challenges.
‘I had to make sure my halls were wheelchair friendly, I had to make sure that I could access the kitchen facilities, I had to recruit PAs [Personal Assistants] and make sure they could make the adjustment to university alongside me and most importantly I had to consider the social side of university and how I would manage my fatigue and stamina as part of my work-life balance.
‘I have loved my university experience so far, but it’s certainly not been an easy adjustment. My biggest advice is to take advantage of the new support networks around you. If you are eligible for DSA [Disabled Students’ Allowance] or an ILP [Inclusive Learning Plan], make sure you are receiving the support you are entitled to, if you have mental health issues, make sure you have regular check ins, whether it’s with the on-campus support team, or with an external service. Most importantly, make sure you keep in touch with family and friends. If you have a disability, it’s more than likely you are closer with your family than most. This is nothing to be ashamed of or shy away from. I felt like I failed university when I made the decision to go home every weekend rather than live on-campus full-time, but the positive change for me has been incredible.
‘Ultimately, as cliché as it is, university is what you make of it and when you have a disability it might not be the “typical university experience”, but all that truly matters is doing what’s best for you in your particular circumstances.’
You can visit the exhibition Disability History at Kent: Our Stories, in the Marlowe Building Foyer from 24 November until 16 December. For more events and activities taking place during Disability History Month (DHM) at Kent on our campuses and online, visit Kent’s DHM webpage.
Did you know that Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) advisers can help students set up the support they need at any time during their studies? Check out this guide on Seeking Support from SSW for more information.
Follow #DHMKent22 and #InclusiveKent on social media for the latest, and if you would like to contribute your experience and perspective to conversations, podcasts or articles on this theme during the month, please email StudentServicesWeb@kent.ac.uk.
Written by Gabby, first year student, and Joshua Stevens, Student Services, 28.11.22