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TX: 21.06.04 - END OF YEAR STUDENT DIARIES - PART 1

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY 
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

BARCLAY

Ruth, Ciaran and Sarah are disabled students who started university last October and we've been hearing about their experiences throughout the year. They've been keeping diaries for us and for the BBC's disability website - OUCH - on how they've adjusted to university life. Ruth Douglas is reading medicine at Leeds University and has severe asthma and a rare genetic disorder called Nail Patella Syndrome. Ciaran Gilligan is at Manchester Metropolitan University studying English and creative writing, he's a wheelchair user. And Sarah Butler is studying physiotherapy at Birmingham University and is visually impaired.  

Here's a reminder of how things were going in October and at Christmas.  

DOUGLAS

Sunday 21st September.

Well I'm halfway through the first day and there are no major disasters so far. I've been allocated a massive specially adapted room which I feel a little guilty about as a non-wheelchair user. I have to have help with washing my hair, that means that they have to be able to get into the showering space with me and when I went into other students rooms they have the most tiny bathrooms ever and there would have been no way I could have someone help me wash my hair. 

GILLIGAN

Monday September 29th.

I'm having a meeting tomorrow with my stepdad and my two PAs to discuss how that whole situation is going. It's a very odd thing to have to do - start organising your own care after being used to having it done for you for so long. 

BUTLER

Thursday 25th September.

Went out last night with the medics, nurses and physios. Had an amazing evening and met loads of people, although I did remember what it was like to go clubbing with people who really don't understand my visual impairment. I think people are really thrown by the concept.  

GILLIGAN

Sunday 15th December

As I sit here I'm listening to a radio talk show, everyone is discussing a burning question - is it or is it not Saddam, some say it's a clone, some say it's a double? I say there are more pressing matters at hand, like will I or will I not get all my essays in before Thursday?  

DOUGLAS

Ah such a lovely thing happened tonight - my choir was singing at a big carol concert, it was about an hour before the start of the concert and when I got a call on my mobile it was a friend who was helping organise and set up for the carol concert and she was ringing me because the lighting company wanted to use a smoke machine and she didn't want to let them use it if it was going to set my asthma off. 

BUTLER

Today was our Christmas ball, held at the Botanic Gardens in Birmingham . Spent most of the afternoon getting ready with the girls before the lads came round for drinks. Can't help but smile as I watch everyone bustle around me, all the anxieties about making friends and fitting in are just a distant memory.  

BARCLAY

So it's almost the end of the first year. What are their verdicts now on university life? Well the first update is that Ruth hasn't been well enough to finish the year, nor to complete her diary. She hopes to sit her exams in August and we wish her well. But here are Sarah and Ciaran's thoughts.  

GILLIGAN

Here I am again at the end of the academic year. I've just finished my last first year exam. All my worries about how it would have worked out proved unfounded, everything went off without a hitch. I was given my own room, a laptop and enough added time, I hope, to write down everything that I needed to.  

The exams are done now, just waiting to get my results. I'm trying not to think about too much but when I do I'm kind of oscillating between moments of absolute confidence because I only need 40% to pass the first year, but then at the same time I'm sort of thinking what if I've only got 39% and I've failed. It's quite a terrifying thought to think that I've failed but at the same time I'm really, really hoping I've passed. 

BUTLER

Luckily I've managed to escape written exams this year. However, we do get to experience the terror that is practical exams in their place and trust me - they aren't easy. Having to reel off a load of information on demand without having time to sit and think isn't good. But on the plus side I think I may have found the answer to accessible exams for the visually impaired amongst us. No pesky exam papers, no worries about extra time or super duper talking enlarging dancing computers, you simply have to walk into a room, grab a body and away you go. 

For one of our exams we were meant to look on a computer screen and there was a tiny little video clip of a patient who had had some kind of neurological deficit, for example they'd had a stroke or they had multiple sclerosis or something and we were meant to watch this and analyse the way they move. Well for me being visually impaired it's completely inaccessible to do that because the video clips are absolutely tiny but thankfully the university - the lecturers at the university came up with a brilliant idea of taking myself and the other visually impaired student in my year out to a hospital in Birmingham which is fabulous because it meant we got the chance to look at a real life patient. So it was really good and I got 2:1. 

GILLIGAN

I've just got back from a show at the Manchester Academy . The band on in question were really good - an indie outfit called Gomez. The night was full of the usual gig related madness that I seem to encounter quite frequently. 

I was at this gig, I see this other guy in a wheelchair going through the crowd and as soon as he saw me I knew he was one of those people that has to talk to any other disabled people he sees and he was like rooted to my side really the whole night, he like parked himself next to me and wouldn't stop like talking and shaking my hand, and I think he quite liked me because he was a bit camp and a bit touchy feely like. But I thought it was a good laugh. 

BUTLER

I did escape written exams rather well but I am a little bitter given that most everyone else was lounging around doing the odd exam here and there, perhaps a smidgen of revision, I was sent out to work in a hospital for four weeks - 8.30 till 4.00 Monday to Friday. 

Whilst I was out on placement it was really good and my visual impairment wasn't actually a big problem. Initially I think some of the staff were rather apprehensive about taking me on in their department but I think by the end of the placement they could see that I was coping just fine. Medical notes were a bit of a problem because doctors have the most awful handwriting and I feel overall in the placement we overcame a lot of my difficulties within the workplace, more than that I feel really good about actually working in the future. 

GILLIGAN

One of the things that I've come to realise, since I started university, is that when ordinary garden variety able-bodied folk see someone with a disability out and about doing something everyday and normal, particularly socially, it does something to them. 

I went to this gig in Manchester - Night and Day Café - and all of a sudden this old guy came up and sat down next to me. And right away I could tell he was a bit trollied. He leaned in really close and said - What's wrong with you then? - like really blunt. I just told him, I said - Oh it's cerebral palsy. He just - he went - oh they can cure that now you know. I found this absolutely hysterical, so I thought I'd humour him and I said - Oh really, really, how's that? And he says - Yeah, they can cure that, all you need to do is get some herbal medicine and you'll be running up and about in no time. And I was so shocked, just because I could not believe the complete like ignorance behind the comment. But at the same time it did give me a good laugh. 

BUTLER

Apart from there being rather too many lectures for my liking I don't have too many complaints. My main peeve is patronising lecturers. I would like to point out these are in the minority and for the most part my lecturers are fabulous. I think the main problem is lack of understanding and perhaps in some cases feeling burdened by my presence in the class. Okay, so equal opportunities states they can't feel this way but I can't say I blame them. It is an extra hassle having me there and at times they do have to put in more effort to include me. But it would be nice if they could at least slightly disguise their sighs or irritated faces. 
In lectures my friends are a real help to me actually. The best bits I suppose when there's stuff on the overhead projector they'll always tell me what it is if I haven't got my monocular to read it with and it's really great because if there's videos and stuff they'll always sort of give me an idea of what's going on, on the screen. Which his really, really good and I feel really sort of pleased that people have been that sort of - not only that understanding but take the time out to do that for me and it's really nice, because I feel really comfortable within the class.  

BARCLAY

Sarah Butler and Ciaran Gilligan coming up to the end of the first year.

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