Tackling the University Challenge
Hello, my name is Aaron. I’m profoundly deaf and predominantly use British Sign Language (BSL). I can also talk and lipread. I’m a student at the University of Liverpool, studying Physics. I also have a wonderful hearing dog called Ellie. Hobbies include: spending far too much time on social media; lurking on car forums; walking Ellie; procrastinating important things; and eating food.
I’ve been invited to write a blog post relevant to the theme of Universities. I completed my first year of university on the 2nd June, and I’m going to write a little bit about the challenges I faced as a profoundly deaf student, and how I overcame them to achieve an average mark of 69% for the year.
But first, the biggest challenge of my nearly 20 years of life on this planet was writing my Personal Statement for UCAS to distribute with my university applications. Never have I drafted, and redrafted, one document so many times in my life. The process usually went like:
1. Write a draft personal statement,
2. Submit to my Careers Advisor to peruse,
3. Get feedback from Careers Advisor,
4. Redraft Personal statement,
5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 about 10 times,
6. Finally get approval and submit to UCAS,
7. Make a cup of tea to celebrate!
However, my Personal Statement was really good, and I managed to get on to the course I wanted despite not meeting the grade requirements. I didn’t even need to go through clearing! All I can say in terms of advice for the Personal Statement is: LISTEN TO YOUR CAREERS ADVISOR! They do actually know what they’re doing!
So the first challenge was surmounted! I was accepted to the University of Liverpool!
Second challenge: (which took place after the personal statement was written and submitted, but before I was accepted to university) Student Finance (groans).
Student Finance: a necessary evil for most students. For disabled students, we need the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). In order to get this, you have to send off an application form, after having said on the main finance application that you will need the DSA. When the application form has been processed, you have to go off to a Needs Assessment (NA). At the NA you basically spend approximately an hour chatting to a nice person who can figure out what sort of equipment and support you’ll need. My Needs Assessor decided that I needed language support for writing essays, BSL interpreters for group work scenarios, and a live captioning service for lectures.
The support my Needs Assessor suggested I get has been bang on. However, you should research the various types of support you could get, and see if you can get a ‘taster’ session where you get to use that support system to see if you can live with it. This is what I did before going to the assessment, and I suggested the live captioning and BSL interpreting, as I had experience with those methods of support. Another thing, don’t worry if the Needs Assessment results in a recommendation for support which will cost more than the £20,000 limit on the DSA, your university has to cover the difference between what the DSA will pay, and what you need, thanks to the 2010 Equality Act.
So having sorted the challenge of getting into university, and ensuring all the support arrangements were in place ready to go, the next step was to sort out accommodation. I stayed in university halls for the first year, and being disabled, you’re entitled to reasonable adjustments to your room for your safety and access, so I got a vibrating pillow which was linked to the fire alarm, and had flashing lights installed, but I didn’t have to pay anything, as it was the landlord’s responsibility to deal with the cost of them.
Finally, the last challenge was to have a good time, and I did! Going to university is an amazing experience, and I would encourage people to follow their dreams, and if it involves going to university, then do your best! Universities are also very keen to encourage more disabled people to go to university, meaning most universities tend to be incredibly good in terms of supporting students!
I’m looking forward to going through my second year now. Any ideas what challenges I might face this year?