Posted on 4th October 2019 at 11:10
My name is Sophie Abel and I am 23 years old. Like most children I went to school then to college to do my BTec’s. University felt like a natural next step after my positive experiences in the academic sector so far. My tutors at college and my family were very supportive in my want to go to university. As my family have all had academic backgrounds, I never questioned that I would go to university as well. I thought my Cerebral Palsy would affect what course I would do and where and worried my Cerebral Palsy would mean university would be to difficult for me. Despite this I was eager to go and at least try. After some long and important decisions, I decided to study Media Culture and Production and Southampton Solent University.
Despite the planning and preparation that went into studying this course at this university, events played out and the overall experience was not a pleasant one. I can now reflect on the experience and reassure others that it was not due to my Cerebral Palsy that I had this negative experience, rather that the tutors and people that surrounded me. I had to take a step back and decide on my next move, knowing the aspect of my disability and its restrictions were not culpable for my bad experiences at university.
Fast forward a year and I decided try university again, this time studying Creative writing and Journalism at De Montfort University. I learnt from my experience at Southampton Solent University and picked a university closer to home with regular trains operating between Leicester and Birmingham. Although it wasn’t the journey itself that was the issue, living so far away from home left me feeling more vulnerable. While I don’t think you should be limited in where you go, on a practical level it can be beneficial to stay nearer home in some situations.
The accommodation was fully kitted out for a disabled person, with the hoist going from my bedroom to the ensuite bathroom, along with 2 alarm systems that I can use in case of an emergency. Using my negative experience at Southampton Solent University, I threw myself into life at DMU with energy and vigour. I felt I had to be mindful of certain decisions; going around campus I had to be sure of access and lifts because of my Cerebral Palsy. I also had to keep in regular contact with the tutors so they knew where I was on a unit and any further support, they could give me. By being pro-active with communicating with your tutors I felt my Cerebral Palsy didn’t have to affect me academic performance as I was given forewarning and advice along the way.