When you have a spinal cord injury and start talking about education, there's this assumption that you'll want to do IT.  Fair enough if that's what are into, but I got that from so many people and I don't even like computers!

I was in the middle of my GCSEs when I was injured.  I tried to carry on with the year whilst I was in hospital but with everything else going on it was just too much.  I re-sat later, then got a job with the NHS and, whilst there, did my A-levels at night-school.  It was a struggle at the time, going to classes nearly every night straight after work, but being a wheelchair user didn't make things any harder.  I don't think I had any access issues, there was even a height adjustable lab bench for me to use.  And it was worth the effort when I was then accepted by Sussex Uni to do Molecular Medicine.

When I told the University that I was disabled, they invited me down to an interview to talk about any help I might need.  Support was always available; things just went very smoothly the whole time I was there.  I made adjustments to how I worked, particularly in the lab where I kept my materials on lower shelves.  And I put hot samples into a polystyrene box on my lap so that I could still push around the lab safely.

Don't let your injury hold you back

University isn't just about work and I went out quite a lot if I'm honest.  Socially, it was great!  One of the things that the University did for me was to let me stay in Halls beyond the first year, recognising that it would be hard for me to rent an accessible student house.  It made my second year very unproductive - all the new students came in and I basically relived the fresher's experience!  At the end of the year I scraped through the exams and realised that I needed to up my game.  I wouldn't change it, though, it was a great time.

I did pass that third year, and I've since done a Master's at Imperial too.  I'm applying for PhDs now, and enjoying having a bit of time to myself.  There's loads of support available in education, and you shouldn't be put off just because you have a spinal cord injury.  I've heard people say they'll have to change courses now they're injured, but my degree was very practical-based and there was never an issue.  With a few changes I'm sure you can do anything, whatever the practical or physical aspects involved, so definitely do what you want and don't let your injury hold you back.

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