This week at university I did more work on my modernist art publication and had a really positive meeting with disability services. From this meeting, they were able to put measures in place to help me with my studies.
MEETING WITH DISABILITY SERVICES
By this point, I was getting close to the end of the semester and it was really starting to show through my health. My bad days were getting worse and I was having more of them. To the point where I only managed to make it into the studio for a half day the whole week. Fortunately, I also had a meeting with disability services scheduled for this week, this was something I had done a number of weeks ago but had to wait a while for the appointment.
I was quite apprehensive going into this meeting. The student services at college had given me help but I didn’t find it very useful. So I went into the meeting at university expecting something similar. In fact, the only reason I set up the meeting was so I had my illness recorded on my file. This way it meant if my lecturers ever raised a problem my CFS was already documented.
I was quite surprised by how positive the outcome of the meeting actually was. Because the university has better funding there is more they can do to help. I already have quite good coping mechanisms in place so that was a huge help. But if needed the disability services are able to get me extra time to hand in my work.
I was quite surprised for them to actually say that my health was the most important factor. And that I should place my health before university work. It probably seems quite obvious but that was the first time someone actually told me it directly. If I miss so much work it means I have to catch up over the summer then so be it. The disability services will do everything they can to make sure I don’t have to drop out because of my health.
Not only were the disability services able to help with making sure my CFS was documented. They can put devices in place to help me get to university and do my work while there. Though not something I needed I now know they are able to get taxis to take me to university, and they are able to hire people to help carry and sketchbooks or other items I need. Depending on the course you can also hire people to do some of the practical work for you. I think this works better for science courses, I can’t get someone to just design stuff for me.
They were even able to show me a small break room within the university buildings. If needed I can rent a key from disability services and I can use the restroom whenever I need a quick nap. I had a quick look, it’s very small and basic, but if taking a quick nap means I can spend more time in the studio this has to be a good thing. Before finding out about the restroom I had been taking quick naps on the sofas in the canteen. I know for a fact I was not the only person doing this.
They were also able to give me tools to help me work at home. I already have a laptop but if it ever breaks I can get funding to have it replaced. Since I have problems with my hands getting stiff they were also able to give me a full ergonomic set up for at home. This included and keyboard and mouse along with a laptop stand. The point of this is to reduce the strain on your wrists and neck if you spend a lot of time working at a computer.
They were also able to give me a digital recorder for my lectures, at first I wasn’t having problems paying attention during lectures. Taking notes actually helped me stay focused. But as the semester went on and I got more tired listening in lectures definitely got harder. I don’t think I’ll use the recorder all the time but it’s nice to know I have it if ever needed. Along with the recorder they put a note in my file explicitly stating I was allowed to record lectures. It wasn’t till I was on Reddit after that I learned some lecturers don’t like you recording. Even with mitigating circumstances. I find that a bit strange, though it could just be a US-based problem.
The strangest thing I found through this whole experience was my interactions with the staff. They were all lovely, I feel like I almost expect people to be a bit standoffish, so I’m surprised when they are actually nice. But none of them assumed I was coping just because I didn’t look sick. I’m not used to someone asking if I need help carrying my bag, or if I’m able to walk down a flight of stairs.
I think people just expect me to not have problems because I don’t look like I have problems. And to be fair even if I feel awful I would rather carry my own bag instead of letting someone else do it. And I only have problems with stairs if I’m really tired. But it was nice interacting with people who didn’t automatically assume I was well.
It should be noted this attitude isn’t just from the disability staff. I think the university must give training to all faculty staff when it comes to accommodating disabilities. Even the lecturers will say that your health is more important than coursework. They will also make sure to ask if anyone needs accommodating with coursework. When watching a film the lecturers will ask if subtitles are needed. Or make sure everyone can read the brief. It’s lots of little things the staff do to make sure everyone is accommodated that I’m not used to. But it makes me really happy to see the staff are considering these issues.
I was nervous going into this disability services meeting but looking back I’m really happy I did. If you’re at university and you’re having problems I highly recommend you talk to student support. You may be surprised by just how much they can help.
MORE IN THIS SERIES
Course Induction & Matriculation | Art School Diary #1
Project Briefs & Lectures | Art School Diary #2
The Lives of Others | Art School Diary #3
Chronic Illness & Coursework | Art School Diary #4
Under Camera Artwork | Art School Diary #5
A New Design Brief | Art School Diary #6
Reading Week & GDFS | Art School Diary #7
First Project Hand In | Art School Diary #8
Risograph Printing & CFS Problems | Art School Diary #9
Photography & Essay Writing | Art School Diary #10
Darkroom & Artist Books | Art School Diary #11
Meeting With Disability Services | Art School Diary #12
Final Week Before Assessment | Art School Diary #13