Attending University can be stressful and scary at the best of times, never mind when you’re doing so as a wheelchair user or as a person with any form of disability.
Of course, the excitement surrounding attending University is also rife, but there’s so many things you need to consider for this next chapter of your life, and if you’re doing as a disabled person, there’s possibly a whole list of things that you’re yet to consider.
First and foremost, you’ve got to actually get the grades necessary to make it to your University of choice. Once you’ve got those grades in the bag and you’ve received your firm offer – then you’re all set, and you can begin to think about the greater complexities that may arise once you arrive on campus.
Where are you going to live and is the premessis accessible? As a rule, in your first year you’ll be offered a place in Halls of Residence – or they may be called dormitories, depending on where in Europe you’re planning on studying. Most major Universities will have at least one or two dorm rooms that are equipped for persons with disabilities – but some of the smaller Universities may not, especially if their student housing is in old buildings.
It’s definitely worth sending an email to your University’s housing office, just to let them know your intentions and to signal that you will be requiring accessible accommodation.
Moving forward, it’s common for students to move out of their dorm rooms after the first year and seek private housing with their friendship groups. This can often be quite problematic for disabled students, as not many privately rented properties are going to fall within the accessibility requirements that you personally have. In many cases, your university will offer you the chance to remain in your dorm room for the duration of your academic studies, if you feel like this something you’d prefer to do.
Get Assigned to a Disability Advisor on Campus
Not only with your advisor be a fantastic fountain of knowledge and help whenever you need it, but they will also be able to help you to gain access to special disability programs at your given University. For example, I was provided a free laptop and equipment by my University, as it was deemed essential to my studies and there were facilities such as this for disabled students.
It’s hard to say what will be offered at your particular University, so this is why acquiring the help of an advisor is a must. They will also be able to assist with all other aspects of student life, such as getting around campus in a safe and accessible manner, and helping you to find accommodation if and when you need it. They may also be able to help with some smaller aspects your University life, such as gaining additional time in your exams, or being allocated a scribe if you need one.
There’s assistance out there, so you may as well take what you can to make your life easier.
Find your group
One of the greatest things about attending University is the friendship groups that you make and the relationships and bonds that you develop which will often last a lifetime.
Finding your network of friends, and forming groups will not only help to make your time at University feel all the more special, but you’ll probably be able to rely on certain people to help you out in sticky situations if needed. For example, I was once snowed in and couldn’t get out of my dorm room for several days, but friends of mine who were on the same course, took notes for me and passed them on to me at the end of each day – so I was never too far behind on work.
University is an amazing experience and it will surely change your life for the better, but ensuring that you’re well prepared is a must, especially if you’re heading there with complicated accessibility needs and so forth.
For more interesting articles on all aspects of disability, including other blog posts relating to education, be sure to check out the Passionate People blog on the Invacare website.