Does having a disability automatically mean that you should settle for less out of life?
What The Numbers Say?
The statistics are perhaps why we might suggest that disabled should prepare to settle for less.
Currently, there is a 50% unemployment rate amongst those who are registered as disabled. This is compared to the national average of 3.9% (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peoplenotinwork/unemployment).
Indeed, although many disabled people say that they have the same priorities as everyone else, they face significant challenges in doing so (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/320509/building-understanding-main-report.pdf).
Disabled people are far more likely to leave school without any qualifications (19.2% compared to 6.2%).
In relationships, 3% of disabled people are thought to be in stable relationships compared to 70% of non-disabled people.
According to official gov guidelines, “A substantially higher proportion of individuals who live in families with disabled members live in poverty, compared to individuals who live in families where no one is disabled.”
None of this paints a pretty picture, does it?
So should disabled people be prepared to settle for less?
Why The Numbers, Don’t Tell The Whole Story
Lets not beat around the bush, the numbers paint a pretty grim picture, don’t they?
Less likely to have qualifications, a happy relationship and a job.
What’s the point of living?
Well, the stats do not tell the whole tale.
Well clearly, not all disabled people are living in poverty, single and miserable.
So NEITHER DO YOU!
Your Wellness Is The Starting Point
We are beginning to wake up to the fact that our mental health is so very important to our wellbeing.
For many disabled people, staying mentally well is a real challenge.
From finding barriers in their communities, to inaccessible buildings and events without planning- it is too easy to become isolated.
And the big problem here is that is the first step in settling for less, if you are not going out, if you keep staring at the same 4 walls, you can convince yourself that is all you deserve.
So how do you combat isolation?
Getting Out And About
The key thing to do combat this feeling of isolation and by extension improve your mental health, is to get out and about.
And while getting out and about can seem tricky, there are things that you can do to make things easier.
1. Find events that match your interests
This might sound obvious but the point is important, and that is because your interests are important to you. That is why, finding people who share your interest can be great. It is a chance to show your passion and speak with confidence. It also gives you a chance to see that other people think and feel the same as you do.
2. Do your research
Everything is scary.
In your head that little devil is going, “what if?”
Combating doubt and challenging your anxiety means taking the devil head on. Planning is the way to do this.
If you are worried about getting into venue, call them and chat to the staff. That way, you can let them know you are coming and they can prepare the lift/ramp or anything else.
Do your research and break down the fear.
Get Into A Routine
Once you break down the fear, you should aim to get into a routine. If you find something that you enjoy, make into a regular thing.
Whether it is going to an activity group or even just down the pub, do it consistently. It will build your confidence and slowly you will branch out into new things.
For more tips about getting out and about – click here.
How Does This All Help You Not Settle For Less?
It is all about making those small steps. Once you start becoming more engaged in your community, you will see opportunities open up to you and this is where you need to be alert.
Things like volunteering, training and gaining skills can all happen if you feel confident to grasp the nettle.
You need to be mentally ready and confident to see and seize the opportunities that will come your way.
But if you a break down your fears and consistently challenging your boundaries, new opportunities won’t seem so scary.
From there it is all about taking those small steps further down the road and seeking further opportunities.
A Little Bit of Knowledge Can Really Help
The other big thing is to know your rights and know what you are entitled to. Things like knowing how to board a train and how to get the most out of train travel, can make all the difference.
Because by exercising your rights, you have better experience and you feel more confident.
Also by properly exercising your rights, you will begin to expect more and will feel more confident about asking for it.
None of It Should Cost The Earth
Money, it makes the world go round right?
And the problem is, it costs more if you are disabled.
So money can be a big reason why disabled people feel like they should settle for less.
Hell, many have less to begin with.
But by exercising your rights, you can get a better outcome and if you ensure your getting everything your entitled to, you can feel the difference.
That means that if your working (even part time), you’re getting Access to Work and Tax Credits.
Could the UK give you a better deal?
Of course they could.
With what we have now, you CAN feel better, you can get more and you should not settle for less.
Make The Change Now
Here are some steps to get started:
- Think about what you are passionate about.
- Explore how you might service those passions.
- Follow that.
- Research the hell out of everything.
- Fill yourself with confidence.
- Take every opportunity.
- Gain skills, knowledge and go forwards.
- Expect more.
- Want more.
- Never settle for less.
Being a disabled teenager is hard. You have all the usual worries about fitting in, making friends and worrying about the future, but you times the severity of those feelings by about a 1000%.
Everything is so bloody difficult and a lot of the time, there is no road map.
That is why it is easy to turn to your parents for support.
And you should do that.
Your parents have been there from the start and they will know better than most what you have been through.
The bond been a parent and their disabled child will always be strong and you will always feel immense gratitude for everything that they have done/do.
Here’s the problem though…
You’re a disabled teenager now, not a child anymore and that means both you and your parents need to adapt.
It Is Time To Start Talking
As a disabled teenager, at some point, you will begin to think, “my parents aren’t listening.”
And this may well be true…
There will be new things that you want to try and things that your friends are doing, which you are not.
Here is the thing though, your parents probably haven’t caught up to the fact that you indeed a teenager.
So to them, you might still be a kid.
That’s normal for parents to think that way about their teenagers though, right?
Well yes it is.
But in the case of the average disabled teenager, your parents probably have a whole list of hang ups that they’ve never dared share with you.
That is why it is time to start talking.
So how do you go about starting those conversations?
Breaking Things Down
Starting those conversations with your parents or your disabled teenager is often a process of breaking things down.
This is because the big things are often the things that you think about first.
How are you/they going to find a job?
How they/you going to have relationship?
You both have to remember that these are end points and that you have to smaller.
Do you want to go out for a drink for example?
If that’s goal, sit down and talk about things like:
- How are you going to get there?
- How are going to get into the venue?
- What about going to the toilet?
Answering these questions can help set both of your minds at rest and make things seem more possible.
For some ideas about answering these questions, give this a read: https://ethosdisability.com/blog/wheelchairs/top-tips-for-wheelchair-pub-crawls-version-2/
Why Talking Might Not Work?
Those conversations might not work for any number of reasons.
But sometimes for the average disabled teenager, it can be for one very important reason for this.
Your parents can only see your limitations and not your potential.
Your parents are so used to doing things for you, and filling in what they see as those gaps that they cannot see a way you can.
As we have previously discussed, it is often the case that learning new things is just a process of breaking things down.
It might simply be that you just need to learn something new.
That is why, as hard as it might be to do, you need to stop listening to your parents.
It is time to start thinking about what YOU really want and going after it. The world is now full of inspiring disabled people who succeed in many walks of life.
Here are a few examples:
Emily Yates – Emily is an award winning travel writer who has been and continues to hop all around the globe – https://www.emilyroseyates.co.uk/
Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham – Aaron is extreme wheelchair athlete who has appeared in Nitro Circus.
Liam Bairstow – Liam is better known as Alex from Coronation Street. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR581PpKueU
Be Brave, Be Bold
It is easy to sit here and say, “be brave, be bold.
But you have to be.
Challenge yourself and be daring, despite what your parents say and push those boundaries.
What seems impossible is often just a matter of proper planning and forethought.
Take getting on a plane for example..
Getting on a plane as a disabled passenger can be simpler than for average joe.
Because, you can get someone to help you through the airport including, pushing you, carrying bags and guiding you the right way.
Also, YOU DO NOT NEED TO BOOK IN ADVANCE TO TRAVEL.
For more tips, see our guide for solo travellers.
So The Next Time…
So the next time that you hear, “no you can’t do that.”
“I don’t think that is such a good idea.”
It is time to throw the challenge down and realise that your parents are not always right.
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.