By Olivia Smith
If you don’t fit the mould you may not be able to access disability services at Brunel.
When I arrived at Brunel in 2019, I had already been sold the dream of having all facilities available to me as a disabled student. Little did I know that not many of these facilities existed or that I didn’t fit the mould of a regular disabled student – whatever that means.
I am classed as disabled as I have Aspergers and, due to not having any ears, I also wear two Bone Anchored Hearing Aids. So, when applying for universities, it was imperative that facilities were going to be available to support me throughout my time there. I was confident in Brunel’s ability to cater for my specific needs.
Having successfully applied for, and subsequently receiving, my Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) when I arrived on campus, I, like many other disabled students, signed up with the Student Wellbeing team. It was a great feeling knowing that I would have a support system in place when things went wrong.
I soon learned that if you don’t fit the mould, there is not much they can do to help. The issue I encountered was with my DSA provided equipment. During testing earlier in the year it worked fine, so I assumed this would be the case when arriving at university. I started to use the equipment as instructed, by asking the lecturers to wear it around their necks and the equipment would do the rest itself. Seems simple right? Wrong. No sooner had the lecturer started talking, the equipment would malfunction.
I tried several other times hoping it would fix itself, to no avail. When I raised my concerns, I was forwarded on to Brunel’s technician to solve the problem. I was hopeful that once I saw them this would be the end of my problems. How wrong was I!
I met with Brunel’s onsite technician and we tested the equipment several times and it worked in every scenario other than the one I needed it to. I was told to try it for another week over and over again… until week 4. I eventually got fed up of being fobbed off and met with them again. I asked how they were going to help me, and their response was that due to the nature of not having any ears, nor needing a sign language interpreter, there was not much they could do. Most people with my type of hearing loss apparently don’t have any issues when it comes to equipment, which I found shocking. I took it upon myself to return the equipment back to the manufacturers to be fixed. Unfortunately, I am still encountering problems.
I believe for all disabilities, support should be put in place during Fresher’s Week. You should meet with your disability or mental health advisor to discuss the issues that you may face during your time here. You should be able to tell them what support you need, for example weekly meetings. They then should be able to arrange this.
Some of the items on the list of support they can offer, are not applicable to most students. This can make them feel very alone, isolated and in need of more support that they would’ve originally needed.
If up-to-date technology and support systems had been put in place during the first few weeks of term, this could all have been avoided. Some people don’t understand what it is like to have a disability whether it be hidden or not. We are not expecting staff to, but if only we had somebody who was supportive and at least understood and took us students seriously when we say there is a problem.
I know services are under-staffed, but I believe if they feel this is impacting their ability to deliver a quality service to students, then they probably need to think and hire some more staff.
Finally, if students have a disability, they should all receive adequate support to be able to have an adequate university experience without feeling that they’re fighting a losing battle.