Next up we have Charlotte. Charlotte discusses her first year at university, but from a completely different perspective. She also educates us on DSA!
“I know what you’re thinking, not another life at uni blog. But hang on in there, there’s a twist! I’m a disabled student. OK so I’m not the typical disabled student that comes to mind when you think disabled, I’m not in a wheelchair or whatever else the stereotypes suggest. In fact my disability is one of a visual kind, I’m not blind but Visually Impaired. “Visually Impaired” can mean different things to different people, as with every disability it is unique to that person. The ways in which the disability affects me may vary from others with the same or similar disability.
Naturally the first day of uni is one filled with anticipation and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I felt anxious too. No one ever wants to be that person that looks extra keen and sits right at the front, with the rest of room’s eyes baring on your back, trust me I don’t want to be that person but due to the fact I can see absolutely nothing from the back of the class I have to. Never the less the end of induction came…I made the decision to approach my lecturers and introduce myself although quite a daunting thing at the time, it’s got to be one of the best moves I made all year. By introducing myself it made it easier to get the help and support I needed introduced to me and no doubt this helped with the success of my year.
Of course being a disabled student, I did apply for disabled student finance (DSA), I’m not going to lie to you I find form filling and evidence finding tedious and stressful. It makes me wonder, I’ve had my disability since birth I’ve had various support throughout my educational life, you’d think they would already know that I am eligible for DSA (rant over!). Many able bodied students may be surprised to find out that DSA is not a large chunk of money that just gets given to you like your maintenance loan and grants. Most goes to equipment companies. My equipment included several types of magnifiers, a Dictaphone, a printer and scanner, specific computer programmes and a Mac book pro (course based). In fact you have to spend your own money to get any of your allocated general allowance back, which is ok, but you have to wait a while for the money to go into your account. The allowance most importantly, pays for your extra allowances for exams, yes the uni’s don’t get funding for this! You have to apply for a DSA to get extra time, readers or scribers or a laptop for exams. Okay, so my ranting is not quite over! But if there’s one thing I dislike most about being a disabled student, it is the fact that every other student that doesn’t receive DSA, assumes you’re a richer student because of it- well I know one thing for sure I’m not!
Any how enough about how it all works. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to function at university and so it makes my life at university as a disabled student so much less stressful and easier to handle. As a whole the university experience is no different from that of a ‘regular student’. If anything, going to university has shown me that no one really cares what disability or challenges you may have as long as you love the course you’re doing and work hard- they will support you in what ever way they can. The one thing I love about it, that I think many DSA students gain is the fact you become more independent and are much more reliant on yourself to get things sorted. For some I can understand the aspect of relying on yourself when having a disability can be daunting but for me it’s just so freeing. Finally the one thing that my first year at university has taught me is whether you’re a disabled student (or not!) you have to go and grab every opportunity possible, whatever your ability and try your best. I’m proud to say even with my visual impairment I have passed my first year at university and am looking forward to the next 3 years of my degree.”