What it is like to study at Marjon with a disability?

question marks on coloured paperFear, excitement and trepidation are some of the feelings I had on my first day at Marjon. I am a 47 year student with complex disabilities, including mobility and dyslexia.

The reason I chose to start University at this age was that I had taken medical retirement from Royal Mail in 2009. I was interested in studying BSc (Hons) Speech Language and Sciences but regrettably, due to health problems and challenges with my memory to remember the phonetics, it emerged that it would be beneficial for me to change courses. I had a series of conversations with the management of the Student Support team, my Mentor and the Course Leader and decided I would move to BA (Hons) Special Educational Needs and Disability Studies. I am more engaged in this course and I am achieving higher grades.

Before coming to Marjon, I was studying at City College Plymouth. There was support available for me there and I felt I had a purpose in life again.

I commute to Marjon every day, and the most significant challenge every day is getting out of bed as I am crippled with osteoarthritis and have scoliosis of the spine. I have problems if lifts are out of action as I walk with crutches. I also have a specially adapted chair which is wheeled around by a Non-Medical Helper (NMH). As well as pushing my chair and other equipment around the NMH takes notes in my lectures when I need their help.

With the support of a Mentor, Study Support Worker and an NMH as well as adjustments like handouts printed on blue paper (as I am unable to read black on white) and the software provided for home studying most of the time my disability does not affect my studies. Occasionally I may get a migraine or I may not be able to move, and it is these times the disabilities could harm my education.

I am a member of the Giving Voice charity where we help people to find a voice if they have had a stroke or are deaf. I can communicate with deaf people through sign language. I am also an active volunteer with The Memory Café on campus, which supports people with dementia and their carers. Before the current lockdown I was organising a 1920’s themed tea dance for Memory Café as evidence towards one of my assignments.

Coming to Marjon at 45 was the best decision I have made as it has given me a new lease of life and a purpose to get out of bed every day.

Thank you to Lynn Stewart for writing this.

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