As your Disabled Students' Officer for 2020-21, it is my job to represent the interests of disabled students to the university and at university committees. I also jointly lead the Disabled Students' Campaign, which brings together disabled students, college officers and campaign officers and collectively decides where action needs to be taken - this takes place in conversations between members and officers, in our forums (which are open to all members) and in our community Facebook group.
DSC has been a big part of my time at Cambridge, and I know that having a sense of community as a disabled student can make or break the university experience. Part of this is having a space to feel heard, ask questions and recognise that you are not the only one.
Another key part of our community is having a range of events that draw in different students. During the last term, we organised several big speaker events in collaboration with the LGBT+, BME and Women's campaigns, with Jessica Out of the Closet and with the Triple Cripples speaking with us online. Events like this, which bring together and centre people who experience marginalisation within the disability community, are so important and are something that I really hope to continue through the next year.
Another vital part of DSC is activism around university policies. For example, as Part Time Students' officer for the past 2 years, I have pushed for wider awareness of Double Time among students and staff. Going part time for health reasons can allow students with long-term conditions to avoid intermission if this would not be positive for them, and it's an option that still isn't offered as often as it should be. But it's not just elected officers who can push for change. If there is something within the university that you personally would like to see changed or you want others to know about, contact any of the sabbatical team and we can point you in the right direction!
I hope to focus in university meetings on improving provision for marginalised students during the pandemic, with a view to continuing the positive changes after the pandemic is over. For example, summer 2020 saw some of the first online exams with adjustments built in. We also had a second exam period for people who had been ill or couldn't sit the first set of exams, and there was a 'safety net' in action to try and make sure that students didn't graduate with a lower grade than was normal for them. This is beginning of the radical reimagining of assessment that disabled students have needed for years, and now is the time to make sure things do not return to the status quo.
Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or suggestions! And if you're not sure whether or not you 'count' as disabled... Remember that all long term health conditions count, including physical and mental illness, neurodivergence and specific learning difficulties, invisible and undiagnosed conditions. We won't ask you to prove anything - you're welcome any time!