My name is Chloe Tear, I graduated from Leeds Trinity University in 2019 with a First Class Honours degree in Psychology and Child Development. I have mild cerebral palsy and during my time at university I lost a large proportion of my sight. Alongside my studies I continued being a freelance writer and public speaker.

I chose a small campus university and lived on-site during my first and third year. Despite several nights out, drinking games and late nights, I’m not going to pretend I was your average student. My course was enjoyable, but due to my disabilities it did take me significantly longer to complete work than my peers. Personally, I believe much more could be done to support disabled students. Often we are reliant on the select few members of staff who go above and beyond to ensure you can access the course fully. But is this above and beyond? Disabled students should be entitled to all the support they need. It shouldn’t be such a surprise when you receive differentiated course materials.

“Throughout my studies I received support from Disabled Student’s Allowance which allowed me to have mentoring sessions to help me manage my condition and workload.”

Throughout my studies I received support from Disabled Student’s Allowance which allowed me to have mentoring sessions to help me manage my condition and workload. As well as equipment which ensured accessibility and the chance to complete two work placements — one as a teaching assistant and the other being for RNIB.

One aspect of my university experience that was significantly unique was that I had a small team of personal assistants (PA’s) who supported my independence throughout. They enabled my independence, something I like to refer to as altered independence. I appreciated that I’ll never be fully independent, yet to say I lack any form of independence doesn’t seem to do it justice. Throughout university I went through a whole host of PA’s, some who were better than others! They helped me with cooking and washing, assisted with note-taking and carried library books. They also enabled me to expand my public speaking and socialise with friends up and down the country. For the first time in my life the reliance on friends and family wasn’t there. If I wanted to go somewhere I could. It was the first time I had full autonomy.

“During my final year I was proudly elected as Disabilities’ Officer for the Student’s Union.
 It was a chance for me to focus my advocacy efforts closer to home.”

During my final year I was proudly elected as Disabilities’ Officer for the Student’s Union. It was a chance for me to focus my advocacy efforts closer to home. Some of the things I achieved included securing funding for assistive technology, supporting an accessibility audit and hosting many awareness events.

By the time I graduated I was exhausted but so proud. I gave it my all and the hard work paid off. A particularly proud moment was my dissertation which looked at the transition from adolescence to adulthood for young people with cerebral palsy, something that produced fascinating results. Moreover, I was asked to give the Vote of Thanks speech at graduation on behalf of my peers and received a British Education Award for my contributions throughout my educational journey. I also secured a full-time role working for Scope as a forum moderator and content creator. This role means I get to support disabled people and their families and use my experiences to enable others to achieve.

If you would like to follow my work, my blog can be found at www.chloetear.co.uk.

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