Freshers week is some of the most fun that you will have as a disabled student. For maybe the first time in your life, you’re free! Awesome right? Time to go crazy!
But speaking from messy experience – freshers can bring set of brand new challenges as a disabled student to add to the already loaded plate of being student. But luckily for you – I’m here to share my experience and hopefully help you out a little.
Getting Around During Freshers
I’ve written a lot about transport on this site before but getting your transport right can be crucial to independence. If you are living in a city that has Uber, then I would really recommend that you use them. The Uber app has features built into to help you if you have a sensory impairment and Uber Assist is there for wheelchair users. Read more about Uber here. You can check if Uber is your city here.
If you cannot use Uber in your city – then it is going to be important for you to strike up a good relationship with the a local taxi firm. Even if you drive – you are still going to need a good taxi firm to get you home from those wild freshers nights.
The law regarding taxi’s and disabled passengers:
You cannot be charged more for being a disabled passenger.
You do not need to book a disabled accessible car (if your wheelchair can go in the boot).
If a driver is rude or makes inappropriate comments – report them to the local council.
Any driver does not have the right to refuse you if you can get in and out of the car. That is the law so be confident about your rights.
Getting Around During Freshers
During Freshers, you’re going to be going to a lot of places that you have never been before and planning those trips can be a challenge. My best advice is plan, plan and plan. I find that apps like Google Maps are useful for stopping my Cerebral Palsy quirk of going left when I should go right. Read the full blog here.
Also, if you know that you are going to a specific Freshers party, go scout the location beforehand so that you know the route.
Your Freshers Day Bag
I’m going to rewrite the Day Bag post into this one but go have a read of it. A good Day Bag can make all the difference to your independence during freshers.
In The Club
Go have a look at my post on pub crawls and The Wheelchair Lad’s Guide To Pulling. They both have loads of great tips for how to navigate pubs and clubs during your freshers. There is one thing that I want to add in though – and that is about disclosure.
I’ve heard quite a few people talk about whether or not to tell people about their impairment. My top tip here is to always disclosure – even to new people. Why? Because you might be the first disabled person that your new freshers friends have ever met. Disclosing about the subtleties of your conditions not only broadens their horizons but also helps them to help you.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. I’m partially sighted but you would never know it to look at me – I only wear glasses and it is my peripheral vision that mostly affected. This means that often when I’m in a bar – I need you to be right in my line of sight to see you. I can easily lose you, not see you or seem like I am ignoring you.
Telling my freshers friends about my sight and how it affects me is the only way that they can understand me. Always disclose.
Only just a few short years ago disabled students were at a severe disadvantage when they sought a higher education. Some campuses were literally inaccessible to those unable to get around easily and other schools made small efforts to do such things as building a ramp in key buildings but oddly, it always seemed as though there was that one building that wasn’t accessible and that was the one where a non-ambulatory student wished to take a class. Today, even though legislation has passed requiring all public buildings to have disabled access points, sometimes those are no longer needed. Here is how technology has impacted disabled students.
Alternatives to On-Campus Degree Programs
Perhaps one of the biggest advances in technology has been the Internet. Now students who are unable to get around and are bound to a wheelchair can still get a degree as easily as those who can study on campus. For example, anyone wishing to study for a public health degree online can do everything from registration to graduation and everything in between from their very own home. While it is nice to get out and socialize with others in your peer group, if getting around presents a problem and can take focus away from your studies, learning from home may be the best solution. Socialize other times but study from home – the perfect solution.
Technology for the Visually Impaired
Some students have issues with their sight from slight visual impairment to total blindness. Now there are a multitude of apps that read texts for the student so they can study and also those that have text to speech capabilities so the student can turn in ‘written’ assignments with the assistance of programs like Dragon and Google’s text-to-speech for androids. It isn’t as easy as completing a paper for those that have full use of their eyes, but technology has made it possible for anyone to get a degree no matter the level of their impairment.
Technology for the Hearing Impaired
Those who have some level of hearing impairment are not always served well with hearing aids and devices. Often there are echoes and faulty reception that hinder a student from hearing what professors are saying. That student wishing to get a masters in public health online can simply read the words on the screen of his or her computer, making it possible to complete a degree program much easier than at any time in the past.
Life is not perfect when you are disabled but thanks to technology it has become easier to live a quality of life that was previously unavailable for anyone with moderate to severe disabilities. Now you can study to become the director of a Public Health clinic or to be a forensic biologist working for the CDC. With such tools as text-to-speech apps, Dragon Naturally Speaking and online public health degree programs the sky is the limit. With virtual reality on the horizon, even greater things are in store for disabled students and that isn’t very far in the future. What will tomorrow offer those with disabilities? With advances in technology, it is anyone’s guess but sure to be a giant step forward.