In the final year of my A Levels I made a sudden decision to go to University, but I wanted to live at home. So, my priority when choosing which Uni to go to was that it needed to be fairly local as I planned to drive in each day I had lectures.
Because of this, I chose the Uni I wanted to go to because of the location and the course I wanted (Psychology and Philosophy), before looking into the accessibility of the campus. The closest University for me that did this course was Manchester Metropolitan Crewe (Cheshire) campus, not the main Manchester campus.
I went to an open day in the summer before I was due to start Uni. The campus itself was small, but ideal for somebody in a wheelchair. I found that most of the campus was accessible, with ramped access to every building and automatic door openers on those that were most used. However, as with many Universities, a lot of the buildings are old, so they don’t have lifts to the upstairs rooms. But despite this, the lecturers or timetable planners never have a problem moving the classes downstairs as long as you make them aware. Also, the campus accommodation is fairly new and has some purpose built disabled rooms and is just a few hundred yard ‘tootle’ across the road from the campus, all with flat pavements.
When applying for student finance I was introduced to the term DSA, which is an allowance for any equipment (such as a lightweight laptop, and photocopying allowance) or any assistance (such as a personal support worker to help whilst getting around campus) you may need whilst at University.
Before the beginning of term the disability support advisor at MMU contacted me to arrange a meeting to discuss any equipment or assistance I would need on campus during my first year. However, I found it difficult to know what I would need as I hadn’t started yet, so we arranged another meeting for a few weeks into term. At this meeting she told me that the University could only provide a personal support worker to assist with educational needs, and can’t provide a personal care worker to provide any physical support, so I decided that because I lived at home I would just cope on my own.
At the beginning of the year I had support whilst getting around campus, mainly for opening doors etc. However, after a few weeks I realized that I could manage on my own as there was normally always students around to help out, therefore, my experience at Uni has been independent as I have usually just relied on others.
The social life in Crewe is fairly limited, as many places in town are inaccessible for wheelchairs. Also, there are a number of student societies, yet most are sports activities. From my experience, when going out it is important to find out about the access for yourself in advance, and not to rely on others, as often people will tell you they’re accessible and when you get there it turns out they’re not.
By Jessica Berry