I’m really proud to have been presented with the Disability Wales Educational Achievement Award earlier this year.
Now, as their ambassador for education, I would love to see more deaf and disabled women enter higher education studies.
Without the support of a Disability Student Allowance (which you can have for every year of your studies) or the mentors in the Disability Support Team at University, I would never have finished my Masters.
Not a chance. I resigned three times, threw in the towel and stumbled away.
My brain refused to co-operate and I believed that I would never become an academic writer. I’m still not. Thankfully, times have changed and I no longer need to worry about dry, dusty sentences. I google long words and drop them in amongst my original thinking. There are gadgets and software for everything and anything. You name it, they can help.
I actually cried during one support session, my head slumped on my empty pages. I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t say it. My ideas were complex but my writing basic in the extreme. And then the mentors offered a solution.
In my mind, ‘academia’ was the preserve of a particular type of person; lofty, preoccupied with serious, deep, swirly thoughts, a little scatty, prone to meandering off-topic. And they tend to tell you all the time that they don’t have a telly.
One word, Why?
As for me, I was more preoccupied with calculating the minutes it would take me to reach my sofa and remote controls (passport to the world), whether or not I had the energy to put a meal in the microwave or lamenting the ever-growing laundry basket.
Someone once told me, if you can do a degree, you can do a Masters. If you can do a Masters, you can do a PhD. It just takes longer. And this came from a very well-respected tutor.
Years ago, I chose travel over education and it was the best decision ever; I learned languages, immersed myself in different cultures and generally had an incredible time.
I felt quite comfortable with my life choice, until someone close to me called me uneducated and stupid as I didn’t have a degree. And not just once; over and over again. It became a serious bone of contention. No matter that I spoke three languages, I was somehow inferior.
It is this kind of attitude that puts people like me off education. I lived under this assumption for a good few years, feeling second-class and not worthy of a decent job. Education should be for all, but the ivory tower is alive and well.
I was lucky enough to study my degree part-time, with thanks to my then-boss, who let me study at work. But education isn’t all about degrees, awards, outcomes. It’s about immersing yourself in something completely different, but something you are passionate about.
I’m in the middle of putting together a PhD proposal. Just writing that sentence scares me silly. But, if I narrow it down, I basically have 5 years to write a novel. Not bad? And it incorporates MS, so results all round?
Scared? Yup. Can I do it? Not sure. Will I give it a go?