Jo takes us through her journey as a disabled student attending university

 

I graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2009 (and I still cannot believe how fast time has passed) complete with hearing aids and a wheelchair. Thanks to a University with a formidable and very efficient Disability Services team, I managed 5 years in Glasgow (and Aix en Provence) unscathed.

“thanks to generations of disabled students and access advisers making a noise, access for wheelchairs is generally not a problem”

The Scottish university system means that you can chop and change subjects in your first two (junior) years before settling on a single or joint honours degree. Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world, with buildings to match, but thanks to generations of disabled students and access advisers making a noise, access for wheelchairs is generally not a problem. I only had a few classes in places that didn’t quite match the room title (best one was having a Year Abroad presentation in a science lecture theatre), and the entire Economic & Social History Department were delighted to get the renovated Lilybank House as home to go with their lift requiring student! Technology made my life a lot easier, although back in the days when laptops were large and heavy, I did require a bigger bag! I was allowed free printing at the library, access to quiet spaces with computers and my student card was enabled to open back doors of buildings, so I didn’t have to take the long way round every time.

“My university days have been some of the best, most inclusive, times of my life. Joining more societies than was probably good for my academic side gave me lifelong friends”

As a French student, the Year Abroad was an element I was really looking forward to. I opted to be an English Language Assistant in a high school and was allocated Lycee Paul Cezanne in Aix en Provence. The assistantship scheme is run by the British Council who could not have done anymore to be helpful – my school was fully accessible, they arranged for me to stay in student accommodation so I wouldn’t have to stress about finding somewhere to live (Aix, like a lot of smaller places, is full of steps).They even made provisions for me to not have to attend the induction day in Marseille, to save the stress of an unknown journey (and also meant that I had the joy of my first pay cheque being HAND DELIVERED to my room!) My year abroad was hands down the best part of my university experience, it was the first time I had lived away from home (Mum was forced to let go!) and it was through this that I learnt that I could manage, and that someone would always be around to help (thank you to the various strangers I would accost at the doors of the launderette, because I couldn’t reach the coin slot)

My university days have been some of the best, most inclusive, times of my life. Joining more societies than was probably good for my academic side gave me lifelong friends (the People & Planet 2005 executive were all ushers at my wedding), lessons in how to network (vital for a freelancer) and years of the happiest memories. The value of degrees may be questionable now, but the value of university life – especially when learning how to manage in an abled world, is worth its weight in gold.

Jo’s excellent website can be found below, take a tip from us and have a read. C.S.R. is so important.

https://seeing-social.co.uk/

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