It was during the first week in Staffordshire University that I realised how unprepared I was for life outside the Blind College. I felt very alone and lost in this seemingly large mainstream university.
I could walk the entire college campus in 15 minutes, whereas at the university the departments alone were 15 minutes away from each other. Even though the Disability Support Office had a presence on the campus, the expectation was that I, single-handedly, had to put in the effort to make the adjustments work.
The first year in the university was a struggle due to countless barriers but towards the end of that year, I made a few supportive friends who together with a couple of very good support workers helped me to transform my university experience. My support workers read hours of books on tapes for me, guided me to lectures and helped me with note-taking and paperwork. I have maintained the friendships and connections I made back then, even though I am now based in Leeds. The course itself was fascinating and explored the European art in its many forms, including painting, sculpture, film, architecture and fashion from the mid-18th century to present day.
For my dissertation, I examined the feminist readings and symbology of Frida Kahlo’s paintings. I found this process to be valuable for my own self identification as a ‘disabled woman’, and my burgeoning politicisation. This was especially significant as I was about to start an MA in Disability Studies course next, at the University of Leeds.
Dissertation: ‘Feminist and Other Readings of the Work of Frida Kahlo’