Making your voice heard: We shouldn’t have to fight so hard just to learn

In December 2020, Student Support Service member Krupali was invited to speak at the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) Disabled Students’ Allowance summit. We caught up with her to find out why it is important to her she speaks out about her experiences as a student with vision impairment (VI).

Krupali has supported the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) for some time. She attended a roundtable with Chris Skidmore, the previous Minister with responsibilities for Universities, and the Department for Education (DfE). Here, she shared her experience of studying and accessing Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

She also contributed to TPT’s response to the Higher Education Commission’s Disabled Students Inquiry. This inquiry looked at the experiences of disabled students when studying at university. The commission has since published its report Arriving at Thriving  which includes recommendations on how to improve the experiences of disabled students.

In her speech at the summit she added context to this report.  She said: “Reflecting on my experiences in education and hearing stories of other students with vision impairment – we shouldn’t have to fight so hard just to learn. Something needs to be done and I wanted to be involved in that change”.

Krupali hopes that sharing her perspective will help professionals understand the challenges and issues VI students experience. She said: “Students with vision impairment are a group that gets forgotten due to low numbers. Taking opportunities to voice personal experience is important in making sure we are part of the conversation.

“I have taken part in awareness training with trainee doctors. Repeatedly they have said hearing issues from the people experiencing them completely changes their perception”.

She shares her story because she knows other students are having similar experiences. Being there to give advice, answer questions or just relate to their situation feels rewarding. She said: “If any students listening come out of it happier and more confident, or with a new idea to try, it is satisfying. I want them to go on and accomplish whatever it is they want to do. If that means sharing my story – I’m happy to do that.”

Krupali has also taken part in Q&A panels with TPT. She said this can feel intense: “You have to accept you may not have all the answers or knowledge the audience is asking for. But relaying your own lived experiences and viewpoint or advice can give students renewed motivation, with new ideas and options to consider.

“Speak honestly. That’s the best thing you can do.”

Reports and events provide a platform for raising awareness and achieving positive outcomes for future students, but their effectiveness depends on students coming forward to contribute. Krupali worries some students fear speaking out. She strongly encourages all to do so:

“If students don’t speak up and talk about what they are having difficulty with, a change cannot occur.”

 

Inspired to take action like Krupali? Want to take part in our discussions and campaigns for the improved experiences of students with vision impairment? Become a member of our Student Voices steering group.

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