Your first week as a disabled student is not going to make or break your university, but getting it right can help no end.
So what sort of things should you try and do in your first week?
Find Your Way Around The Campus
Campuses are confusing and in those first few weeks finding your way around can be a nightmare.
Particularly if you have either mobility or sensory issues.
If you spend some time wandering around the campus early on, then it will help. If you have support either around university or at home, ask them to come with you to the campus and just find your way around.
Sign Up For Societies
Societies and clubs are a great way for every disabled student to find people with similar interests.
Not everyone enjoys clubbing and going to bars, but nearly everyone wants to be social.
All clubs and societies will have full range of events to dip into. They’re ready made social calendars – doing what you love.
Get Into A Routine
In your first week as disabled student, you’re going to find yourself with a lot more free time than you are probably use to.
Depending on your course, you may not have that much teaching time and that can be hard to get use too.
That why it can be sooo important to build some sort of routine for yourself. Especially in the first week, you want to try and make sure you’re doing stuff every day.
It is so easy to fall into a pattern of doing very little but in the long run, this will be bad for your wellbeing.
Make Sure You Communicate
It can be easy to think that now you are out on your own, that you need to DEAL with everything yourself.
Especially in that first week, it is easy to think that you want space from those closest to you.
Keep communication going. It is not uncommon for many teething problems to crop early on and you don’t need to deal with them alone.
If You Need Advice
Disability Rights UK run a helpline for disabled students offering advices and support. Find information here.
If you want to read more from us, why not check out:
Also please consider supporting this site by buying our Disabled Student Guide
It’s that time of year again, Freshers week is upon us!
For every new student in the country, this is the moment that they have been waiting for – freedom, with you know lots of alcohol.
But for new disabled students’, Freshers like every other university tradition can be daunting.
The reasons vary from person to person, but for many disabled students, Freshers can just come too soon.
Being a disabled student can mean that you have a lot to organise before and during those first few weeks as a new student.
And even if you do plan ahead, there is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly.
So, what can you do to enjoy the experience?
Don’t Panic During Your First Freshers
Everyone feels the pressure of Freshers. It is a bit like NYE, you feel under pressure to have a good time because everyone else seems to be.
So the first thing to remember during Freshers as a disabled student is to not panic.
EVERYONE IS NOT HAVING THE GREATEST TIME EVER…
INSTAGRAM IS FAKE.
If you are encountering problems where you’re living or at university, then it is important to deal with them first.
Freshers is just one week in 3 years and you get 3 goes at it.
Find Something YOU Like
Don’t follow the crowd.
Think about what your interests are and try to find places and activities that fit your tastes.
Universities are full of all kinds of clubs and societies, and there really is something for everyone.
The Accessible Freshers
Do your research.
If you are thinking about going somewhere and you are unsure about the accessibility, ring them and ask. You can arrange for another entrance to be opened in advance and know where to go in advance.
If you require a changing places toilet, remember, there is a map with them on.
Pro Tip – if you have support inside university, chances are that the person supporting you has a pretty good insight into the area – ask them for advice.
Getting The Right Support From The Start
Freshers can be made so much harder if you don’t have the right support in place – we’ve covered organising support in our Disabled Students’ Guide.
But check out Ask Jules because they specialise in supporting physically disabled students.
The right mix of products and knowledge can bridge the gap for a disabled student. But what sort of things make a good disabled student toolkit?
Yes this is obvious but that doesn’t mean you should not include it! Your phone will always be a critical part of your disabled student toolkit. From apps to comms, your phone can do it all!
It is important to remembered however; that your phone can be a useful study tool. From taking pictures of important info to recording audio – don’t forget to use your phone for uni.
Tablets can be cheap and they are very useful. They have very similar functions to your phone but pack a lot more power. From longer battery life to more advance apps, who needs a PC these days?
Tablets are often lighter and more compact – meaning that if you cannot carry that much – go for tablet over a laptop.
Medication management can be a pain. Keeping track of your meds, while you are out and about can be a pain but the stylish Sabi products have you covered. Check them out here.
Nimble is the one finger cutter that makes plastic packaging easier to handle. Check it out here – https://version22.com/product/nimble/
If you drool (and many people do) – a stylish bib can make all the difference. You can take it off and on as you please and they wash well.
If You Are Wheelchair User
The Quokka Bag is a great little item that attaches to most wheelchairs. If you are a wheelchair user, it can be a great addition to your disabled student toolkit. It basically functions like a third pocket and make it easier to reach essentials quickly.
If you enjoyed this article – please consider buying our disabled students guide- https://ethosdisability.com/product/ethos-disabled-students-guide/ .
It has loads more useful information and costs the same as coffee!
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Looking after your mental health as student can be the key to get the most out of your uni experience.
Unfortunately in the UK, traditional MH support services are spread thin and this means that looking after your mental health comes down to you.
So here are some things that you can do to support your own mental health.
Get Into A Routine
Getting into a routine can sounded like obvious advice but it also can be difficult to do. Particularly if you decide to live away from home. Your lectures and seminars might account for as little as 10 hours a week, so what are you going do the rest of the time?
It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing nothing, which is no good for your mental health.
You want to make sure that you try and have a routine of doing things outside of going to lectures. Joining clubs or other organised activities can help shape your life and give you some rhythm.
If you have a physical or sensory impairment, finding activities that are accessible can be tricky so this is another good reason to join clubs or societies. University based initiatives have a responsibility to be inclusive so they will try and meet your additional needs.
By building up routine of things that you usually do, it will make sure that you always have something to look forward to, even on a down day.
Talk To Your Tutors
There can be a lot reasons to miss lectures, particularly if you are a disabled student, and missing lectures can impact negatively on mental health.
You can begin to think, “I’ve missed that lecture so I should miss the seminar as well.”
“I missed all last week and I’ll never catch up.”
Despite all your best intentions, life can and will get in the way of your studies. However, all universities will have support services on offer, including student support officers, drop-in sessions and union workers.
Also your tutors will be available for the occasion one-one if you need to catch up.
Don’t let missing lectures or seminars put you in a negative frame of mind.
For more help and support see:
These disabled student study tips come from students, past and present, and experience student support officers.
Take A Break
Taking regular breaks is sage advice for any student but it can be particularly important for the disabled student.
Many conditions that affect people physically, can affect on how quickly you fatigue. Spreading your study time out with ample breaks can make it seem like you have not been ‘hard at it’, but the truth is retention is the name of the game.
Shorter study sessions for people who fatigue easily can often lead to better retention.
Listing tasks and then marking them as complete can be an easy way to break down larger pieces of work into more manageable chunks. Also apps such as Trello (which is free!), can make task lists easier to make and track.
Old fashion paper notebook can be off putting to a number of disabled students. If you have motor control difficulties, pen and paper can seem like the last thing that you want. But scribbling thoughts that just pop into your head can be really useful. Not everything needs to be neat and tidy. Sometimes messy is better.
Setting The Zoom
Setting the natural zoom on your web browser and other applications can be critical. The temptation can be to go full on screen magnifier or even audio description. However, depending on the nature of your visual impairment, setting the native zoom option can be more beneficial, as the native option often avoids distortion that some specialist solution cause.
Set Out Your Space
Setting out your space is a top disabled student study tip. It may be that due to your condition, you thrive in certain conditions and others you don’t.
For example, if you struggle to concentrate with noise, then probably best to try and avoid studying in halls or in your shared house.
Most university libraries have disabled students’ room, which is kitted out with all sorts of assistive tech but is also not accessible to the majority. These rooms can be ideal quiet zones for people who need them.
These disabled student study tips come from our ED Disabled Student Guide which available to buy here.
There are more tips in the guide so it is worth buying – also it costs the same as a coffee.
Ethos Disabled Student Accommodation Tips taken from our Student Guide!
Staying at Home and Commuting
The main advantage to staying at home is continuity. This is true of all students (disabled or not) but it is worth reinforcing here.
If you commute, providing that this is practical, then you can enjoy continuity of care provision and the stability that brings. Even if you have a low support package, do not underestimate the benefits of stability if things are good. It can be incredibly difficult to recreate those positive conditions elsewhere.
If your course of study is challenging and requires a lot of your energy, then commuting might be the right way to go. Moving can take time to get right and the upheaval might not be for you, if you need to hit the ground running academically.
It is important to remember that many non-disabled people make the decision to commute. It can feel as though you need to leave home in order to really feel the benefit of ‘going to university’, but this is not the case.
It also worth noting that your course will run for at least 3 years, which means living away from home is something that can always been done in the future.
Ethos Disabled Student Accommodation Tips – Living Away
If you decide to live away from home – plan, plan early and really think about what you need.
Every halls of residence will have accessible rooms. Accessible rooms have wet rooms and large space, enough to easily move a wheelchair around. However, things to think about when picking halls might include:
- Where is the campus that you will use most? Is it close to the halls that you are thinking about using?
- Are the surrounding areas accessible – ie can you get out and about?
- Are the things you need close by and can you access them? This include shops, bars and places to eat.
For a place to be accessible, it is not just about where you sleep and eat – it is also about what is around you and what will give you the best experience.
Did you enjoy this blog?
Then why not considering buying our Disabled Student Guide – it costs the same as a coffee!
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.