View Dyslexie font  |  View high contrast
Toggle menu
Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training
News item

BBC Ouch: Students with disability: 'I wish I'd known that'

Going to university is an upheaval for everyone, but being disabled can mean there is even more to consider. As part of BBC Ouch's series experienced students with disability pass on their wisdom and tips, from employing personal assistants to getting funding to make their studies more accessible.

This article, written by Emma Tracey on BBC Ouch Blog, may be of interest to students just starting out at university or in the Training sector - it provides advice from students with disability on such issues as employing personal assistants to getting funding to make their studies more accessible.

Below is an excerpt from the article. 

Choose your assistant wisely

"The biggest thing for me was finding a personal assistant (PA) who not only met my needs, but matched my personality," says Michaela Hollywood, a postgraduate student in Northern Ireland who has muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair.

The 24-year-old employs a PA for university but has care from her parents when she's at home. She hires her PAs via an agency who advertise online. Michaela used to post the agency adverts where graduates of occupational therapy and physiotherapy could see them, feeling that "they wouldn't be afraid to do personal care". Her PAs help her with daily tasks such as sitting straight in her chair and assisting with going to the toilet.

She had difficulties with the first PA she hired. "She wouldn't speak unless spoken to, which put me under a lot of pressure," she says. "My grades were much lower in that semester than any other."

Her latest assistant is a politics graduate with no care experience, but Michaela says the partnership is going well and has unforeseen benefits: "She can attend my lectures when I am too sick to go."

Different people want different things from their PA and a common debate is about whether he or she should melt into the background allowing the disabled person to shine, or join in with conversations and activities. Hollywood says her PA is involved in many areas of university life and helps immensely by pushing her forward, making her feel more included.

But for Jamie Green, a languages student with cerebral palsy at Durham University, this involvement would make him feel "very awkward".

The remainder of the blog students provide advice in the following areas:  Know your DSA, Manage your expectations, Do your research, Don't let anyone tell you what course you should do

You can read the full story online at

Author details

Emma Tracey BBC News, Ouch