It was during my first week at Staffordshire University that I realised how unprepared I was for life outside the Blind College. I felt lost and alone in this mainstream university, which seemed very large to me.
At the College, I could walk the entire campus in 15 minutes, whereas at the university the departments alone were a 15 minute walk away from each other. Even though the Disability Support Office had a presence on campus, the real-life expectation was that I alone had to take full responsibility for making the educational adjustments work.
The first year at the university was a definite struggle and I faced countless barriers, but towards the end of the year I met 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 endless hours of books on tapes for me, guided me to lectures and helped me with note-taking and paperwork. I have maintained many of the friendships and connections I made that year, even though I am now based further north in Leeds. The course itself was fascinating and explored European art in its many forms, including painting, sculpture, film, architecture and fashion from the mid-18th Century to the present day.
For my undergraduate dissertation, I examined the feminist readings and symbology of Frida Kahlo’s paintings. I found this process to be invaluable in my self-identification as a ‘Disabled woman’, and for my burgeoning politicisation. This was especially significant as I was about to start an MA in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds.
Dissertation: ‘Feminist and Other Readings of the Work of Frida Kahlo’