Bring your mobility aids and get ready for a nap – you’re in for a wild ride!
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Freshers Week. As a full-time wheelchair user with complete paralysis, chronic fatigue, and anxiety issues, partying was never going to be on the agenda for me. Instead, I made my peace with just going to a few of the craftier events and spending some time actually meeting the people I’d been chatting with in the weeks prior to moving in. I figured that all the hype about how exhausting Freshers Week is was only going to be applicable to the able-bodied lunatics partying so late that it becomes early and drinking themselves into a stupor. How could that possibly apply to me when the biggest outing I had planned was terrarium making?!
Boy was I wrong.
See, the thing people tend to forget about when they talk about Freshers Week is disabled people. This was first evidenced when I was booking activities: SUSU neglected to include any information about accessibility. This led to significant disappointment when I made my way onto campus to try the axe-throwing and found my path blocked by a set of stairs to get into the cage. My plans for destruction were thwarted by stairs. Like a dalek. It happened again when I did the treasure hunt. Multiple instructions required the ability to walk down sets of stairs. Seriously, can a dalek not catch a break? Getting in and out of the welcome tent was another challenge, as I had to roll through grass and mud to get inside. Which is less of a problem for me and my badass wheelchair skills than for others, but still meant I had to give my wheels a good clean when I got back to halls. You can’t plan world domination covered in mud, people!
But to be honest, these are fairly minor issues in the grand scheme of things, and overall I was thoroughly impressed by the inclusivity provided to the vast majority of the activities. It would have been nice to have some accessibility information in advance though, so if any of the people planning Freshers 2023 are reading this, here’s my contribution!
Then I had to deal with the fact that a lot of the events are quite late at night. My fatigue means I’m basically no good after about 9 pm, so even some of the more sedate evening activities, such as the quiz and the movie nights, were just impossible for me to get to. Fortunately, I made friends quite quickly, who were perfectly happy to spend quiet nights in with hot chocolate and a sappy film. Honestly, they saved me from spending my evenings wallowing in self-pity in a blanket cave.
The final challenge I had to face was the insane levels of fatigue I had to deal with during Freshers Week. I’m no stranger to being exhausted by a long day of work, but it felt ridiculous that decorating a mug was enough to wipe me out for an afternoon! What I hadn’t reckoned with here was the huge change my brain and body were having to deal with. Everything is new and overwhelming. Add to that the amount of socialising you have to do and it’s no wonder really that I was so exhausted by it all!
So here are my takeaways from Freshers 2022: stairs suck, fatigue sucks, and I would make an awesome dalek. But most of all, to all my disabled and chronically ill buddies – remember your pain meds and be gentle with yourselves – you got this!