helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

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Why disabled students run out of spoons before they even START studying.

I would be really excited if I could start work on my PhD. I've been in college lots over the past couple of weeks, but all I've done can be summarised in three easy sentences:
1) Going to meetings.
2) Chasing up paperwork.
3) Shouting at people about disability stuff.

Getting my registration paperwork has been a nightmare, possibly due to starting at a weird time of the academic year. Everything seems to involve three times as much bureaucracy as it should. I actually had paperwork in my hand on Friday, but after noticing the fees were twice what I was expecting I discovered it was for full-time study rather than part-time. And I couldn't just correct it myself, and they couldn't correct it on the spot even though I could have produced my offer letter from the department.

At this rate it'll be February before I have a student card, which is not pleasing me.

Also, Student Finance England are absolute numpties. Last year, my Disabled Students Allowance was dealt with by Kingston Council, my local authority. After the initial uselessness and bollocking, they handled everything fine and I got reimbursed very promptly. However, being a "new" student (because my diploma finished and I'm starting a new course), my file has been moved to the central Student Finance England along with all other new students. This should, in theory, be a good thing - having all disabled students administered from the same place means that everyone with the same needs should receive the same funding allocation. However, SFE apparently can't find their arses with both hands and a map. They apparently have been given less disability training than the average reader of my journal would pick up just from reading my rants.

As far as SFE were concerned, I don't need another DSA assessment because my last one was in December 2008 - never mind that it was for a course which was 9 hours a week in college, and my new course is 20 hours a week in college! They're also quibbling the taxi costs that I've had before and insisting that I should provide them with a timetable of classes - when I'm a research student! The brain, it hurts.

So I launched Mark at them with another of his famous TALK attacks, and we've managed to persuade them that I really do need a new Assessment of Needs. I'm hoping to go back to Roehampton Access Centre to see the same person that I saw before, but that requires that Roehampton actually return my answerphone message. This doesn't seem to have happened so far.

And to make sure that no one in the School of Biological Sciences can turn around and say "we didn't know about [fill in the blank]", I've spent quite a lot of hours updating my Individual Student Support Agreement to cover being on a research course. This has involved Mark and Steve in the Disability Office, Caroline my Disability Mentor, Philip my supervisor, Richard my partner... It's still only 2/3 complete.

Paperwork. I hate paperwork! All this being proactive and making sure my needs are being taken care of eats up spoons that I should be using for... actual studying. I'm working along the lines that it's an investment now for much less hassle in the future, but it's hard to keep that in mind when you're two weeks into term and have done no work yet.
Tags: college, disability

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