Disability Services at Warwick
Many students will never have to use Warwick’s Disability Services, and some probably aren’t even aware of their existence, but last term I visited them for the first time to get some help, and was pleasantly surprised by how easy the whole process was.
Disability Services are located on the ground floor of University House, conveniently grouped along with the Mental Health and Wellbeing Services. I knew that they were there, having walked past the door in University House a few times, but I’d never needed to go inside until last term.
I’m quite open about my health with anyone who knows me, and as this post is designed to help those who might need it, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be open about it here too – it’s nothing to be ashamed of, after all. I have an invisible illness; a form of disability called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have been experiencing symptoms since I was around fourteen, but it has been getting progressively worse since I moved to university, to the point that I knew I needed to start seeking more concrete help than that I’d been receiving previously.
Achieving a diagnosis for an invisible illness can be a struggle, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many symptoms are ‘invisible’, not being immediately obvious from an outside perspective, and can often be dismissed or explained away; it is also usually the case that such illnesses have to be diagnosed through a process of elimination rather than a straightforward test for that specific condition, so this can take a long time. This is the process that I have been in the middle of since November 2015 – which I’m sure you’ll agree is a rather long time!
I should have sought help from Disability Services far earlier than I did, but I was scared away by the fact that their website said you should provide diagnostic evidence when going along to talk to them – and because I didn’t actually have a concrete diagnosis yet I just assumed that they wouldn’t be able to help me. This was a big mistake, as all they really need is some form of evidence that you’re under treatment or investigation with a suspected diagnosis and then they can go from there. If I’d only talked to them about it earlier, I could have got the help I now have a long time ago! Technically, I still don’t have a diagnosis, but I’m under the care of neurology, endocrinology, and the occupational therapy team, so I should have realised that this meant more than I thought it did and that Disability Services would still be able to help me!
A small part of me also used the location of Disability Services as an excuse not to visit them. When I was in first year, and was still getting to know campus, University House seemed really far away, and it was easy to avoid going there. In actual fact, it’s about a ten-fifteen minute walk from the centre of campus depending where exactly you are (and that’s coming from someone who has to walk pretty slowly at times). Plus, as a Creative Writing student, I spend a lot of time in Millburn House, which is basically next door!
The long and the short of it is that about halfway through Term 2 I finally plucked up the courage to drop in after my occupational therapist recommended I make the most of any help I could get, and that she had good experience with Warwick’s Disability Services in the past. All I had to do was wander down to University House at one of the drop-in times, fill in a quick form and a copy of a letter proving I was under treatment, and then I got to talk to one of the advisors. He recognised straight away that I needed some extra assistance, and to my huge relief, I now have it! This assistance can come in various forms, but for me it has taken the place of extra time in exams and specific arrangements for them, as well as flexibility over deadlines if I need it, and a recommendation to submit mitigating circumstances at the end of the year as it can be proven that this is a condition I have been battling throughout my whole time at university. After the initial meeting, all I had to do was ask my occupational therapist to confirm she authorised these measures (they could probably have still put them in place without this extra step, but it helped to speed the process along) and here we are. With the pressures of final year really mounting up, it makes such a big difference to know that I finally have some measures in place to help me achieve the best I can in my degree.
As I said, many students will never have reason to use Disability Services during their time at university, but I’m really impressed with how easy everything was once I’d built up the courage to speak to them, and I wish I’d done so sooner. Hopefully this post might encourage any prospective or current students who may need to use to the services to do so, as you may well end up getting a lot more help than you thought.