My experience of student services..



My experience of student support at the University of Sussex.

I thought that the last blog entry that I wrote didn’t include the support that I received from the Student support services at Sussex. So I thought I’d correct this, mention them, and hope that my positive experience with this invaluable department at the University helps others to maybe seek their support, and in doing so, will help their ‘student journey’. Or at least find some help in dealing with issues that may be restricting my fellow student’s experience of the University.

As you may be aware I was diagnosed with a serious mobility issue, something that I really did not expect or indeed anticipate, and this has made attending University difficult and challenging to say the least. I did manage earlier in the year to get a pass to park at the Bridge car park, which is twenty minutes away from the main University campus, It’s a pleasant walk up hill, when the sun is shining, but as my illness began to manifest itself and I found walking more and more difficult I really needed to find an alternative.

So I took myself to the office of Student Services, filled in the forms and made an appointment to see an advisor. Of course I had to take with me proof that I had this medical condition, (doctors notes and the like). During the course of my 45 minute interview a whole range of support was made available to me, even dispensing a parking permit for drivers with special needs. (I had at this time been for my DSS appointment in which I was interviewed regarding my disability and whether or not I was eligible for support from the state, but they don’t regard Avascular Necrosis as a serious condition, or a double hip replacement as warranting a temporary blue badge!) – So being able to park on campus, closer to the location of my lectures has been unbelievably helpful. The layout of the campus is, as I have mentioned before, Is not designed with disabled people in mind, and even with this helpful parking support, it is still incredibly difficult to get about.. I also cannot drive if I take pain relief, so it is a simple choice of a lectures, or pain relief, one or the other. So getting to the university is ok if I’m driving, but then my time on campus is limited until the pain takes over, and I’m unable to walk.

Other helpful support that I received from student support include a penalty waver for a week on essay submission, this helps if the medication creates a drug haze, and gives a little bit more time if my essay planning goes off course, just a small but helpful buffer.. And also library support..

You may, or may not have realised that the library is an access nightmare for anyone with mobility issues. Multiple floors and then there are issues of carrying books and using crutches, and even finding books, bending, reaching, stretching and navigating the shelves is a difficult process, and when coupled with basic access, It just make a trip to the library a nightmare. Access and navigation of the library becomes such an issue that you just cannot face the process, so it becomes such an issue, in the end it’s simpler just not to go. This impacts on a disabled students studies, how can one possibly research if access is limited? The ability to browse shelves, when taken away is a serious issue, how many books are lost to the student who can’t just stumble across the book  which could help that essay reach higher marks, and the student more clarity on issues that they wish to study? 

The Library services that are offered are a limited easier access, however the entrance is separate from the main entrance to the library, and the path to this second class entrance is along a longwinded path,  and invariably there are cars parked on the path impeding access.

But by far the best service offered to student with disabilities are the libraries members of staff. The Library offers an order and collection service, simply email the book you require, and it is waiting for you in a day or so, and the staff have been so very helpful in providing this service, sometimes offering to collect books without pre-ordering. This along with electronic renewal is by far the best service available. Thankfully we are in the digital age, and more and more books are being digitalised, and can be accessed online, this makes things easier for a disabled student, but what is lost is the experience of using a library, and its social aspect. 

 I am aware that the campus of the University was not designed for simple access, and I have heard that there are plans to improve access about the university, but only by reporting the issues that disabled student encounter every day, can we hopefully have some parity in our student experience, and enjoy a level playing field with other students across the academic spectrum.

I’d advise my fellow students to visit the student support services, all I can say is that they were so efficient, friendly and helpful, most of the services that were put in place, were put in place with a few days, and this radically improved my University experience.. and all it costs is a bit of your time..Well worth it! 

So if you see us string at the sky, or looking frustrated, maybe kindly offer to reach that book I might have my eye on! I’ll get you a coffee and we can talk.. 

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