Accessibility at Leeds Uni

Final year Film, Photography and Media BA student, Kat Padmore shares their best tips and experience as a disabled student at the University of Leeds.

If you’re a disabled student, life can be much harder for you than for your peers. As an autistic student with a physical disability, I know university life is daunting for many reasons that most of our classmates have to think about- how will I get around campus? How can I make sure I understand my academic responsibilities? How do I start making friends who understand what it’s like to be a little different?

The University of Leeds and Leeds University Union have an incredible wealth of resources for disabled students, helping with everything from workload to welfare. Here are some key things to keep in mind when navigating Leeds life with a disability:

Disability Services

Disability Studies

Academic Personal Tutor

Your personal tutor is a vital resource. This person is usually an academic working in your school and can help you balance your module workloads with a healthy social life and any extracurricular responsibilities you may take up. It’s essential to foster a positive relationship with your tutor early in the year and keep them in the loop about any issues you might face due to accessibility issues on the part of the uni. If you worry that you don’t work well with your tutor, you can ask to switch, though this may not always be possible. Turn to your tutor if you need help accessing your lectures or course content- they can point you in the right direction. My personal tutor has been a godsend when dealing with the workload of full-time study with a disability, especially when it comes to balancing practical work with academic research. In my second year, my personal tutor helped me balance documentary production, short film editing and an essay alongside two marked blogs all in one term; if it wasn’t for her tips and guidance, I never would have completed the year.

Equality Officer at LUU

Societies

Outside of Leeds and LUU provisions, disabled students ourselves have carved out spaces for community, care and visibility in our student community. We have societies that represent people with a disability, long-term health condition or chronic illness. These include the Neurodivergent Society, Mind Matters, and the LUU Disabled Student Network. If you feel there is a lack of social representation for people with your lived experience, you can form a society following this helpful guide. I get so much joy out of being a member of the Neurodivergent Society, which was set up by my friend Livi. Just having a space to speak with other autistic academics, where no-one will judge you for your stims, interests or mannerisms, is incredibly empowering. Community can be hard to come by as a disabled person, but societies are an excellent way to meet people who just get it.

Accessible Study Spaces

Studying is hard enough without struggling to find accessible places to work. Luckily, Leeds has quite a few. There are two accessible study rooms in the Laidlaw Library, four in the Edward Boyle Library and one in the Brotherton Library. You can book these using this link. Outside libraries, there are quiet spaces throughout the Union, including bookable meeting rooms on the top floor accessible by lifts and comfy lounging spaces in Union Square with an accessible ramp. As someone with a physical disability, I often find it hard to break the habit of studying at home since heading out is extra challenging. It’s always best to switch up your study space and work outside the house when possible, especially if your disability makes you more suspectable to social isolation. If you need to ensure study spaces cater to your specific considerations, ask Disability Services for extra support.

As a disabled student, I understand the worries you have, issues you encounter and frustrations you experience getting your education while living a “different” life. I have found the Uni of Leeds to be caring, compassionate and ready to change if it ensures disabled students can succeed just as easily as their peers. If you want to talk about all things disability, feel free to reach out to me on socials, or maybe I’ll catch you at a society meeting soon!

Written by Kat Padmore

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