Role: VP Welfare and Diversity
Experiences of Disability: I have a disability called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which often means I need to use a wheelchair and crutches. There are also days where I can get around without my aids and this is why my disability is referred to as a “invisible illness”. My experiences of inaccessibility whilst being a student at Exeter are what drove me to run for VP Welfare & Diversity, and the last six months I have actively been fighting for inclusivity for our disabled students.
Course: Economics PhD
Experiences of disability: I have battled with depression and anxiety for over 10 years. Before starting my PhD, I made a commitment to myself to prioritise self-care and always put my mental health first. Despite my best efforts, for a combination of reasons, my mental health still suffered and as I started my 4th year I decided to take a medical interruption. Without UKRI’s decision to provide PGRs with paid sick leave I would have undoubtedly blundered on ahead. Time away from the PhD allowed me to spend time looking after myself and put measures in place to ensure when I returned to my research I’d be better supported. My key message to others struggling is that you are not alone. Reaching out for support isn’t a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
Course: 2nd Year Law
Disability has made my life completely different than what I thought it would be, but it's also opened me up to a whole world I knew very little about and I've met some wonderful people because of it.
My time at Exeter so far with my disability has been hugely supported. The Wellbeing Team in particular consistently go above and beyond to make sure your university experience is as smooth-sailing as possible. It took me long enough to learn that they are there to help you as much as possible! I didn’t know about the ILP (Individual Learning Plan) scheme they had in place, but since getting one for myself my ILP has helped me to feel so comfortable in both embracing my disability and speaking out about it. When I applied for the University of Exeter Law Society Committee for the position of Disabilities Officer, I was so nervous. But since being elected, I’ve been hugely supported by the society and I’ve even had the opportunity to host some great events with some even greater speakers! I was only diagnosed with my disability a few months before coming to University, but since being here the support I’ve had from those around me and the University generally has been incredible and it’s really helped me to be my true self!
Course: BSc Geography
My name is Scarlett. I study BSc Geography at the University of Exeter and I have a disability.
One of the perks of dealing with medical conditions like mine over a long period of time (over 7 years now) is that it has allowed me to learn about myself.
Although it has been a harrowing journey, my experiences have made me more empathetic, understanding and positive compared to what I would have been like if nothing had ever happened to me.
I found myself wanting to advocate for students like me, with a disability. Along with some amazing people and the University's support, the Disability Campaign has made some important steps to improve equality and recognise that disability impacts everyone differently.
It isn't always easy when it comes to people's understanding of disabilities and what they look like, but I have an incredible support network who help in ways that they wouldn't have if I didn't share my story.