My experience as a ‘Disabled’ Student

by Charlotte O’Brien, Senior Resident

As it’s Disability History Month I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my experience as a ‘Disabled’ student. Why do I italicise disabled? Calling myself disabled doesn’t really suit me as I don’t have a physical disability and personally, I see myself able to do what most non-disabled people can do it’s just I may do things in a different ways or experience things differently. This means it can be very difficult for me and others in my situation to be recognised, taken seriously and get the support we need as you cannot see that we may need specialist support in some way.

This is exactly how it has been at university. For example, if someone was in a wheelchair the obvious thing to do would be to ensure that there was a ramp available and a lift that was working. Now, that’s relatively straight forward but in my case it’s quite the opposite. My needs can vary on the situation, how I’m feeling and lots of other factors and they too are not so simple for others to implement and understand. This was the case when I first started in 2020, unfortunately as for most situations Covid made it more difficult to ensure my needs were met along with my SSP (Study Support Plan*) not being sent out initially. This resulted in many meltdowns, meetings with my senior tutor and academics and a serious impact on my mental health.

What I wish, would be that more people understood that what I’m asking for may not seem so important to do but it makes the world a difference. This allows me to feel more comfortable in class, be able to participate, feel included and just generally get a good experience out of my time here. One of the most difficult things I have to deal with is the general lack of understanding. Since I’ve started, I’ve (along with many others) unfortunately had to fight to ensure our needs are met. This in turn, raises my frustration and anxiety levels as well as greatly impacting on my mental health with on many occasions my questioning of whether I should leave university too.

I’d love to see one day this university as a place where everyone feels comfortable and is accepted and maybe that will be the case. At least for now, I have seen some improvements for Disabled students, which as Co-President of the Neurodiversity Society I have helped with, such as the creation of the sensory room in Senate House and mandatory Autism training for wellbeing staff among other amazing things. It is only small progress but it’s going in the right direction.

I will finish with a piece of advice; never make assumptions about anyone, you never know what someone is going through, and you never know what you might be doing that is getting to them or what great support you’re providing. Think about how you could do things differently. In my case, being open-minded and willing to listen when someone says something’s up or that something’s bothering them. We could all do with some support from those close to us from time to time. Just because some of us are more different than others doesn’t mean we’re lesser than or don’t deserve the same understanding and support we are all capable of thriving so long as we are given the right environment and support to be able to achieve this”.

*Study Support Plan is what is put in place with you and Disability Services on your needs and what needs to be done/adjusted so that you get equal opportunities. It’s sent to your lectures/senior tutor etc at the start of term so they’re aware.

If you need support with a disability contact Disability services on: or find information via their website here

To join BUNS click here for any questions/queries contact BUNS on:

If you’d like to learn more about what’s it’s like being neurodivergent check on these links: DiverseBASS  National Autistic Society & Paige Layle’s YouTube channel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *