You may remember me blogging a few months ago about me 'umming' and 'arring' about whether or not I should accept one of my university offers and go to university this coming September. My main concerns were all Cerebral Palsy related and I found myself asking questions like...
'How am I going to get around the city if I need to, bearing mind I couldn't do it on foot and I am unable to use public transport alone?'
'Am I going to have to get around the campus by myself? What about things like curbs? 99% of the time I can negotiate small steps/curbs by myself, but I've been known to misjudge before and fall over, some steps are sometimes just too deep and being in a new environment with new people, I won't know what I can and cannot 'cope' with and I won't ask new people for help because I'm weird like that!'
'How is freshers going to work? I can't go out and fend for myself in a city centre at night (that's what I've been told, I'm not one for saying 'I can't'!), and I can't stand in busy bars, holding my drink and I couldn't go to the bar'
But, like I said in my previous blog post, I won't let my disability stop me from going to university; however, of course, I still have questions regarding my disability and university.
Back in October, I went to a general open day where I sat down for an informal and general chat with Disability Support; a student with dyslexia was there to help and talk to prospective students like me. Now, without sounding rude and ignorant, my initial reaction was virtually 'why would I want to talk to a student with dyslexia when I have cerebral palsy? These conditions are like chalk and cheese!'. I was so wrong, I've never spoke to someone so helpful and she was able to give me so much information! She explained even the smallest of details that put my mind at ease, for example, she told me if as a direct result of my disability, I was self-conscious about presenting presentations and answering questions in lectures (which is very much the case for me with having a slight speech issue!), I could be excused from this and it would be written down in black and white in a personal 'learning contract'. I was told not to worry, every little detail would be discussed and my university experience will be tailored to me.
I then went back to the university and my campus on Saturday, and apart from a little 'wobble' in the car on the way there, I felt so positive about it and it felt 'right' if that makes sense? I was fascinated by the sample lectures I went to and I was astonished and so pleased with myself when I managed nearly all the steps solo (i.e. without holding onto someone!) ... I know, I sound incredibly sad! So, within half an hour of returning home, I decided to give it everything that I've got and I accepted my place!
You may be asking 'what course are you going to study?'. Well, I've actually changed paths completely. At school, I was very into English and I was looking at applying for Journalism this time last year, but, I'm so glad I hung back and took a gap year; looking back, I wanted to do Journalism because it was just 'something to do' and it was a 'sensible' option for me, i.e. it could all be done using my computer. As you all know, in this past year I have become heavily into and passionate about Paralympic sport, especially athletics; participating and being so involved with Paralympic athletics has given me something that nothing, or nobody, has ever given me before. It has given me, and continues to give me, so much more opportunities that academic routes never have, and never will, provide me with. Even though I hold decent GCSE's and A Levels (if I do say so myself!), in the real world, even though we're meant to live in a world of 'equality', I just can't get anything like a job as people, even though they'd argue down to the ground this isn't the case, they don't want to employ disabled people!
I've been so inspired and in awe of everybody I've met through my sport, and I really don't know how far I'm going to get competition wise, but most importantly, sport hasn't discriminated against me, which is bizarre to think as sport is obviously physical and I have a physical disability!
I decided that I want to promote this for other disabled people and I want them to have the same, if not more, opportunities that I have had and continue to have; I want them to have the same sense of achievement, self-value and the feeling of belonging that I have gained out of sport. Therefore, I am studying 'Sports Development with Coaching', which to cut a long story short, will allow me to promote Paralympic sport to disabled people, especially those who wouldn't normally consider sport/be aware of the opportunities, as well as training to become a coach as I would also love to coach Paralympic athletes myself. I only found 'my opportunity' in sport by pure chance, I saw a tweet from Paralympics GB promoting an event in Sheffield, which obviously I went to, but, I don't want it to be a 'pure chance' for others; I want it to be a definite option that's waiting there for them if they decide they want to give it a try if that makes sense?
I am really excited about starting university, but I am as equally nervous. This sounds really stupid, but I'm nervous about how people are going to react to my CP, especially with part of the course being hands on and physical. I do find it hard to introduce myself to people and get myself in the middle of things; my speech is clear 90% of the time, but it does sound a tad different if that makes sense? People often say 'oh don't worry, at the end of the day, people should just accept you no questions asked!' ... yeah, maybe, but unfortunately some people just don't and I'm very aware of that.
In some ways, I think I'd find it easier if only my legs were affected and I was a wheelchair user, and I hope I've not offended anyone by saying that. For starters, a wheelchair says to everyone around you, 'I have a disability', something that I'm not very good at saying and I don't even know why as it's nothing to be embarrassed about! People automatically open doors and move out the way; I struggle with doors and I am easily knocked over as people just don't realise, at first glance, I can appear able-bodied. I can't use my hands; if only my legs were affected, I could have an electric wheelchair and go out about to cafes and stuff in-between lectures as I would be able to handle money physically and I could also speak for myself. I would be able to take all my own notes in lectures and participate, e.g. answering and asking questions. I don't know if I'm even making sense? And, I am not trying to make out that I'm worse off than a wheelchair user/somebody with CP where their legs are only affected, because I'm not; every disability is different, unique and personal to the individual, and I would never change how my CP effects me, but, you do sometimes come up with bizarre scenarios in your head!