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Disabled Student Diaries update: Charlotte

by Charlotte

20th September 2010

In the autumn of 2009, BBC Ouch! followed three disabled freshers - Charlotte, Andrea and Lee - through their first four weeks at university. Here we catch up with them one year on.

In candid videos and diaries they expressed their feelings about starting new courses, independent living and socialising.

19 year old Charlotte is quadriplegic and when we first met her she was preparing to start a course at Lancaster University. We made the following film with her last summer shortly before she started ...

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Her degree focused on film and cultural studies but incorporated sociology and gender and women’s studies. Now an employer of her own care assistants, at first she found the change in lifestyle very difficult and considered abandoning the course. Here she explains what happened after we left her last year.

My first set of diaries documented my first four weeks at Lancaster University. They covered the challenges I faced whilst adjusting to the move away from home and getting used to a team of three new carers.

Those of you who read the original diaries will know I found the first term very tough and was on the verge of leaving. However, I am happy to report that things couldn’t be more different now.

My worries about the workload decreased when two fellow students offered to help me with typing essays. This took the pressure off as it meant I could organise my time better and no longer had to worry about the language difficulties I had experienced with my foreign carers. These two students were bright and bubbly and introduced me to their own friendship circle. This gave me the confidence to engage in more social activities and I now consider them my closest friends.

I am also very grateful to my carers Janna, Fredericke and Elaine who worked so effectively as a team to help me to cope. I had lots of fun with them and count them as dear friends.

Some of the social activities I have been doing include going to see the University Gospel Choir, watching a netball match during the sporting weekend between Lancaster and York universities, birthday meals and regular nights out.

My friends are so determined I remain solidly in the group that one night they persuaded some boys living in the flat above to carry my electric wheelchair (which is very heavy!) up the steps so I could join in a friend’s birthday drinks party.

One of the highlights of the social calendar was a Grease themed party in the final week of term. There were plenty of Pink Ladies and T-Birds, not to mention lots of sweet demure Sandys, but I chose to try something different. I dressed up as sexy Sandy from the closing scenes of the film. I didn’t think the look would be half as good as it turned out but my friends were very good at hair and make-up. I am very excited that the friends who created my look will be living on campus next year.
Charlotte as Sexy Sandy from Grease
On an academic level I am glad I had the confidence to ask my tutor how I could improve my essay marks. I realise now there is so much at stake at university and the responsibility of seeking help lies with the student. I managed to finish my sociology minor subject and have said goodbye to the seminars I found it difficult to engage with. I have had to pick some sociology seminars for my second year but I am hoping these will be more exciting.

Overall, my university experience has made me more outgoing and assertive. I still have the same goals but also now have the get-up-and-go attitude required.

One of my goals for the coming year is to increase my independence whilst also considering my carers’ own needs and views in planning our routines. I am hoping to have a regular meeting to discuss how we can work together more effectively and give everyone the opportunity to do what they want to do.
Charlotte out clubbing with friends
Another aim is to become a dj on the university radio station as this is something I have considered as a possible career option. This would be a good opportunity to try my hand at it.

I am excited about the second year of university and I can’t wait to start delving into my chosen subject, seeing old friends and having the confidence to hopefully make stacks of new ones.

How did the other students get on?

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