I embarked on my adventure into higher education in the mid 2000’s- which explains a lot of my slightly convoluted journey! The Disability Discrimination Act which applied at the time- didn’t apply to universities until 2005 which I believe is why I had a slightly dodgy start but a very happy ending.

I graduated with my Law degree from Brunel University in 2009 but I initially went to study Law at Cardiff University. There was nothing wrong with Cardiff- I actually met some incredible humans- some of whom I actually work closely with now! But I felt the experience was a little segregated. I wanted an immersive and inclusive experience. If I didn’t do something, I wanted it to be because I had the choice not to- not because I physically couldn’t.

“I had no clue what to expect and naively thought I’d be fine coping on my own- however, a social worker at the time conducted an assessment and allocated support- which was a lifeline”

Prior to university I didn’t have a Personal Assistant. Having a progressive neuromuscular condition meant I required an adapted bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. For me, living in halls was a must to enjoy the university experience but I had no clue what to expect and naively thought I’d be fine coping on my own- however, a social worker at the time conducted an assessment and allocated support- which was a lifeline. I received direct payments which crucially enabled flexibility- I could still meet friends and go out in the evenings if I wished.

I also had a Disabled Students Allowance Assessment which was helpful- but a bit confusing at the time. There is so much more information readily available nowadays-and that knowledge is power!

Living in halls was quite the experience throughout my time at university. I didn’t want to live with freshers in my second year so I was with international students and in my final year I was with master’s students. The only ‘drawback’ was that only boys were allowed to stay on the ground floor due to security.. unless the students were disabled.. so I lived mainly with boys. Tragic. The great thing about Brunel was that every block of flats had lifts to every floor so I could visit friends.

“There is so much more information readily available nowadays- that knowledge is power!”

Adjusting to university takes time, living independently, meeting new people, managing budgets- oh and fitting in studying for a Law degree- is a steep learning curve. Having the right support and knowing when to ask for it- is crucial. The disability and dyslexia service were fabulous and happy discussing where improvements could be made.  Mental health was also recognised to keep students from dropping out. In some ways, Brunel was ahead of the curve with many aspects of student living. I completed my final year part time- and split it over 2 years. The university didn’t offer the degree part time and it took some persuasion but it worked out in the end.

To anyone thinking about going to university- do it- it will change your life. I am so glad I persisted. It was totally worth it!

Tanvi Vyas is a freelance Disability Equality Consultant and Trainer with a particular interest in improving access to transport, leisure and education. She is also a Trustee for Muscular Dystrophy UK. Tanvi raises the profile of challenged faced by disabled people and has appeared on national and regional television, radio, online and in print. She is passionate about highlighting solutions to existing challenges and also the investment that can lead to positive change.”

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