Introduction to University
It’s that time of year again – the days are getting shorter, the weather’s getting colder, and half of the UK’s 17 and 18-year-olds are knee-deep in university prospectuses and baffling UCAS emails.
University isn’t for everyone, but if higher education is something you’re interested in, brittle bones definitely shouldn’t hold you back. Even if you’ve had difficulties getting the right adjustments made at school or college, going to university doesn’t mean life has to get even more complicated. With the right support, university can be both an enriching and a liberating experience, offering a chance to gain independence, friendship, as well as the confidence and qualifications to go on to bigger and better things in the future.
Here are a few tips on how to make the transition to university go as smoothly as possible:
Go to open days
Attending an open day at a university you’re interested in is important for any potential student, but for disabled students, open days can be a vital opportunity to survey the university campus, size and terrain, to view accommodation, and to meet support staff. For me, a small, flat campus was essential, so attending open days helped me to work out which universities were plausible – and which would be simply unmanageable. For others, viewing accessible accommodation options could be a make-or-break. Think about what your priorities are before you visit, and if you fall in love with a university which doesn’t seem accessible, don’t give up – talk to the university about how the course or campus could be made accessible to you.
If your parents aren’t able to take you to open days themselves, ask around to see if you could go with friends – or ask your school if they could organise a trip to a university you’re particularly interested in.
Apply for DSA
Disabled Students’ Allowance is a non-means-tested Government grant to help disabled students with additional costs and equipment. After applying, you’ll be invited for an interview, where an assessor will talk to you about what kinds of support might be helpful, and then make a recommendation to the Government. DSA can cover both equipment (like specialist desk seating, laptops, or hearing equipment), and human support (like personal assistants and note-takers), and your assessor might suggest things you haven’t thought of yourself – such as support with field trips or research equipment, which you might not have needed before. The process can take a little while, so apply as soon as you can.
Your DSA isn’t set in stone, so if you find yourself needing a little more help once you’re at university, you can request another assessment. You can also expense reasonable costs (detailed in your allowance), so remember to keep hold of any receipts!
Get to know your Disability Service
All universities have a disability service dedicated to supporting disabled students. Even if you think you won’t need any support at university, it’s worth dropping by to let them know who you are as soon as you can, as they can provide vital help if something changes, such as in the event of fracture.
Say hello! Going to university is a scary time for anyone, but for those of us with OI, it can be especially daunting. Remember, everyone else in your year will be nervous too! University is a great opportunity to start fresh, so put your best foot (or wheel) forward and get out there. The friends you make in your first few days could become friends for life, so be yourself, and say ‘yes’ to as many events as you can – you never know who you might meet!
Ask someone with OI
Remember, you won’t be the first person with OI to go to university! If you have any questions or concerns, why not ask another person with brittle bones who you know has been to university – or ask the Brittle Bone Society to put you in touch.