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I Won't Apologize for Accessing Disability Services At University

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Following my brain surgery for a rare atypical colloid cyst (brain tumor), I had some memory deficits. I was not sure if my “pre-surgery” skills would still be available to me, so I decided to do some kind of study to upgrade my skills to potentially secure a job. To test myself and see if I would be able to remember anything long enough to be examined on it at 12 months post-op, I enrolled in a Dual Certificate III in Business and Business Administration at my local TAFE.

I was told I should make contact with Disability Services so I could get assistance should I require it. I was horrified. The word “disability” grated on me. I did not think of myself as disabled. I bit the bullet and signed in. I successfully completed my Certificate III without assistance and it gave me a real sense of achievement. Disabled? Not I!

I then decided to try a Certificate IV Adult Tertiary Preparation. It is a gateway program into university. My idea was that if I could make it to university and beyond, I would like to get into brain tumor research. I signed on with Disability Services as I had done the previous year. It still grated. I did not like being classified as disabled. However, I needed help. I asked for it and I was given it. I felt like I was somehow cheating because other people in my course were not receiving the same support. It took a little while, but I eventually got it through my head that it was OK to ask for the help I needed and that it was leveling the playing field. The things for which I was receiving help were things other people had no problem with. Rather than “cheating,” I was giving myself a chance to operate at the same level as everyone else.

I managed to pass all 10 subjects with honors and was offered a spot in a Bachelor of Clinical Science program. I was thrilled to receive the offer. My friends, family and lecturers were all very proud of me for putting in the effort, pushing through the road blocks and making it through.

I started the Bachelor of Clinical Science and quickly found the four-subject course load was too much. I dropped back to three and things went a lot more smoothly. I had great support from disability services at university. I had overcome my fear of the label “disabled” and looked at it more as “enabled.” By using the services available, I was “enabling” myself to perform on a more level playing field.

After a period of illness, I had to take some time out. I have returned to studying, but transferred over to Bachelor of Psychological Science. I may not be able to help find a cure, but I can work towards helping others living with a brain tumor and their families on this brain tumor journey. I also want to help support clinicians in the field through this roller coaster.

By enabling myself through being in contact with disability services at my university, I am now about to complete my BPsySc and am applying for post graduate studies. I’m not sorry.

Getty image by Motortion.

Originally published: March 27, 2019
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