I won’t let disability affect my time at uni

Steph Niciu

As a student, you become accustomed to all that university life has to offer: Your course, meeting new people, hardcore partying and living away from home. However, as a student with a disability, it can seem all the more daunting.

I started at LJMU in 2009 on the Journalism degree course.  I have the physical disability Cerebral Palsy which means that I use an electric wheelchair and I stammer. Despite having these impairments, I am one of those people who does not see them as an issue, contrary to what others might think.

In my first year, I really did try and relish the university experience. I had to adjust to life as independent adult, which was difficult at first, because as well as meeting new flatmates, I needed to arrange a personal assistant (which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds!) to help with my physical needs whilst in halls. Once all that was in place, however, I was ready to make some friends and get stuck into my course.

Socialising was one of the main things I was looking forward to at university. Although, for us, it can seem harder to approach people and make those connections. No matter what your impairment, you need to be the one to participate and actively involve yourself in forming friendships just like anybody else.

The fruits of my efforts have produced a great, close- knit group of mates, every one of which I’m happy to say are genuine friends.

Before university began, I undertook a Needs Assessment which meant that I would be allocated the relevant required support. I was given support workers, who assisted me physically and who acted as note-takers in lectures and seminars if I needed them and I received mentoring, which I use even now, to talk through any anxieties I have about my course.

If I had any additional issues, the Journalism department was fantastic and very supportive of me, this positive attitude, I think, is something that can be applied across the university.

Failing this, the Disability Co-ordinator (DiSCo) was on hand to help. I even started to contribute to the JMU Journalism website and my efforts were recognised by Editorial Director John Mathews, who appointed me as an Entertainment Reporter.

I made the decision to transfer to English at the end of my first year. It was a difficult choice to make but I knew personally that it was the right one. I’m now in my second year and loving it. One of the reasons, I think, I chose to switch, was due to my disability, particularly my stammer and the fact that it was difficult to conduct interviews because of it.

Still, I am pursuing my journalistic ambitions even though I’ve left, as my one-year experience left me with a taste of what I could be. I am gaining work placements, such as the Liverpool Echo, next February.

Steph Niciu

I have continued my role as a reporter on the site because of the team and the invaluable experience it provides. I’m doing this in the hope of doing a postgraduate diploma in Journalism with a view of becoming an established entertainment journalist.

All in all, I think being a disabled student in university is what you make of it. I think what this experience teaches is that it doesn’t matter what your disability is, if you work hard then you can achieve what you set your mind to.

Another lesson I have learnt is that rather than trying to lessen the issue, it is important to be able to become more self-aware. Because, after all, you do have a disability so make sure you get the support that you are entitled to.

And most of all, enjoy it.  As I know I have!

About Steph Niciu, JMU Journalism