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Written by Zohar Mendzelevski-Steinberg, Disabled Students’ Officer

Arriving at UCL was the start of my journey to becoming a proud and empowered disabled student and scientist.

In my first term, I joined the committee of the UCL Disabled Students’ Network, where I found wonderful friends in a supportive community atmosphere and began to work on disability inclusion at UCL.

This year, Abigail Smith and I will be your co-Disabled Students’ Officers, and we are excited for another year of socials, campaigns and meeting new students! We have an active online community, which you can join via our Facebook page and Facebook group, and sign up to our mailing list to get regular updates on what we’re doing.

The term ‘disabled’ is one that I first came to identify with as a university student, having had a chronic illness throughout my teens. The definition of disability is much wider than you might think - it includes people with mental illnesses, learning difficulties, autism, chronic physical illnesses, chronic pain and physical impairments. University is where a lot of people find out that they can access a world of support and community based on conditions they had previously felt alone with, and this was definitely my own experience. Through the DSN and the national disabled student community, I learned that my differences are not a source for shame or inferiority, but rather an important part of a society which thrives on a diversity of abilities and thinking styles.

There are lots of sources of support for disabled students both within the Students’ Union and in the university. Make sure to declare your disability so you get a Summary of Reasonable Adjustments (SORA) from UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing Service (SSW), which lists all of your required course and exam adjustments. If you are a home student, be sure to apply to Student Finance England’s Disabled Students’ Allowance for help with specialist equipment, travel and support workers. If you are not a home student, SSW will be able to support you with getting these needs met directly. Talk to your personal tutor about any concerns you may have and they will be able to signpost you to support and discuss how you can make your experience in the department a positive one. 

SSW holds regular drop-in sessions (now remotely) where a friendly advisor will help you with any health and wellbeing issues, and you can refer yourself to UCL’s Student Psychological and Counselling Services if you need the support of a counsellor. There is a lot of support available for disabled students who need accessible accommodation, whether wheelchair-accessible, en-suite for a chronic illness or a range of other adjustments. You can get your rent adjusted downwards so that you do not have to pay the higher fee for accessible accommodation as a disabled student. If you need help meeting any disability-related costs or have any unforeseen financial hardship, you can access the UCL Financial Assistance Funds. The Students’ Union offers a fantastic Advice Service if you are struggling to get your needs met and need some additional support.

I look forward to meeting you all!