It’s been a while since I last wrote for Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union, and whilst I am no longer representing students at the university, the fact I was invited to write one more blog for students about my upcoming topic is a great honour to highlight just how important doing stuff beyond your degree (especially in cases where you can’t continue your studies) is.
Back when I was studying and working alongside the Students’ Union, activism was only just starting to truly become a core part of ARU’s values – I had worked on the LGBT+ Society and with the team at the time was able to continue on the great work of liberation and welfare. However, as a disabled student myself, I had noticed that alot of accessibility issues were often ignored in favour of catering to the majority of non-disabled students. This led to me eventually breaking off and forming Cambridge’s first ever Disabled Students society.
With societies, it is always going to be tough to run one whilst doing your studies, especially in your maiden voyage. You are running with scarce resources and competing with already established societies, you have research to rely upon, and in the case of your target audience, you have to account for individual access needs to promote an inclusive environment. However, with those difficulties, you will develop such a wide variety of skills, be it researching, understanding your audiences, budgeting, showing creativity of designing your own banners and materials, coming up with events and even writing up the risk assessments [the boring part!].
However, the Students’ Union at the time was highly receptive to the idea, and gave a good amount of support whilst providing the autonomy for us to carve our own path. Examples being providing financial support, or supporting us to contact Student Services to book a meeting with their Equality and Diversity office to establish a working relationship.
And after all of that, it was worth it. Even now, after visiting Freshers Fair this September, the officers informed me that accessibility for disabled people is becoming a core value in all SU activity - that in itself is an achievement. It was also through the current academic officer and another liberation activist that we had the first ever liberation student representatives on the SU’s executive, meaning our (disabled students) voices will always be represented!
Nowadays, I work as a support worker apprentice for Hamelin Trust, where my duty is to ensure the physical, mental and academic wellbeing of disabled adults who access our services, whether that is providing activities to improve mobility, design woodwork projects or just for their own enjoyment – that includes having to dance awkwardly! When I had my interviews, my manager gave such positive feedback on those experiences, it was the main reason for them hiring me to work with them.
To sum it all up, don’t be afraid to join any number of societies and get involved – all of those experiences can and will help!
Hamelin Trust is an Essex based charity supporting children and adults with disabilities and their families. They provide short break services, a resource centre, supported accommodation, and outreach services within the community and individual’s homes.
For more information or to get involved, visit hamelintrust.org.uk