I am a graduate research student in Evidence Based Health Care at Kellogg College where I am working on PLOT-IT, the implementation of an infrastructure where the public can prioritize, participate in, and conduct research projects they choose with the support of healthcare research experts.
I arrived at Oxford with a preexisting disability which I sustained in a serious car crash. I was left with broken bones and spinal, internal and brain injuries. I chose to declare these disabilities to the University following my admission.
I would absolutely recommend the University of Oxford as a welcoming environment for a person with a disability. Kellogg College and the departments of continuing education and primary health care sciences were wonderful. The administrators of the Evidence-Based Health Care program put up temporary ramps so I could navigate non-accessible buildings. They arranged for me to have an assistant to help with carrying books and other things. They even signposted the buildings so I would not be frustrated by getting lost due to the brain injury problem. My supervisor, Dr Amanda Burls, helped me to see where my language errors occurred and to do something about this.
The Disability Office was superb; they fought with me for specialist equipment and even appealed the ruling on my behalf after Student Finance England initially rejected my application for some of the equipment.
Many of my instructors provided me with materials ahead of time so I could keep with my classmates. My classmates were also really supportive — even physically, by carrying me when I was unable to keep up with them. I felt accepted and welcomed at Oxford, which has pushed me to surpass my natural best and gain new ground. No one looked at me as a throw away person or a liability and everyone made a special effort to help me feel included.
The one area where the University of Oxford can really make a difference and improve the lives of those with a disability would be to offer scholarships specifically for disabled postgraduate students. At present all scholarships are merit based and there is little room for a person with a disability to compete. It takes us longer to do what others do normally and the traditional pay and hours available are not manageable for those with a disability.
Getting a postgraduate degree or doctorate is a formidable task when facing both financial and physical limitations. By tackling this issue, the University of Oxford can continue making a life changing difference to the lives of students with a disability.