Hey! I am Natalie! I am in my final year at LBU studying Childhood Studies and I am also the new elected Disabled Students’ Community Convenor for 2021-2022. I started my role in early September and as we come to the end of October (how is it November next week?!), I have now been in my role for around 2 months. So, what have I been up to in my role in the last few months then? Read on to find out!
- Attended the Convenor training:
The convenor training was the first thing I got involved in, in my new role. This consisted of hearing about the Students’ Union, about the officers and their objectives and a bit more information on my role as a convenor. It was also a chance to meet the other Community Convenors and ask any questions. This training helped me understand more about how I would be able to help students going forward as well as hearing more about my role. Prior to this training, I was a little unsure about what things I would be getting involved in etc, but I came away from this meeting being more confident about this as well as how I would be able to help a student if they came to me.
- Attended fresher’s week:
My first ‘shift’ involved attending fresher’s week at the end of September. This involved meeting new students and introducing them to all the different communities we have here at the Students’ Union. Attending this was a great opportunity to meet with students face-to-face, to be able to tell them more information about the student communities as well as getting to know students and telling them about myself! As well as this, I got to hear first-hand about how students were finding their university experience so far and if there was anything I could help with. I believe face-to-face meetings are extremely important as not only does it put a face to a person’s name, but it also helped me to build rapport with the students that signed up to my community!
- Attended the Student Tea Party at Headingley Campus:
After fresher’s week, the Students’ Union held a tea party in both campuses. I attended the one at Headingley campus and again, I introduced myself to students and promoted the different communities. Of course, tea and cake were consumed too! Similar to above, attending the tea party helped me to introduce myself as well as giving me to opportunity to meet students and hear their stories (and if there was any support I could provide). Additionally, I was also able to raise awareness of the communities available and let students know what they were and what they could expect if they joined a community.
- Attended my first Officer/Convenor meeting:
As a convenor, myself and my fellow convenors will be working closely with the officer team and will be meeting fortnightly. This first meeting consisted of hearing and telling the group about my ideas for the next year for my community. This fortnightly meeting is not only great to come together to support the other convenors/officers with their aims, but it is a chance to discuss any important topics or issues that are happening with students and what we can do to deal with these situations to make sure all students are having the best university experience possible!
- Attended the LeedsNoHateCrime Conference:
I met with different organisations from across Leeds and West Yorkshire and learnt about hate crime. I also learnt about what different organisations are doing to prevent this. After the meeting, I shared important information and details with my community. Attending this conference helped me to get a better understanding of hate crime as well as learning the steps students should take if they were to experience this. Prior to the training, I did not know a lot around hate crime, and I would not have known the steps a student should take if they were or had experienced this. Now, if a student were to approach me about this, I believe I could help them (to the best of my abilities) as well as letting them know where to go or who to speak to (to make sure they get the right support that they deserve).
- Attended Autism Awareness Training:
I attended an hour of ‘autism awareness’ training which included finding out things like what autism is, the myths and facts of autism as well as hearing what it is like to be in employment as a person with autism. We also got to hear first-hand from Officer Meg Dorroch about what it is like to have autism and how it affects Meg’s day to day life. Prior to attending this event, I had learnt about autism and the effects of this but my knowledge around the subject overall was quite basic. After this training, I felt I understood the condition more, especially hearing from Meg about how autism personally affects her. Additionally, autism comes under having a disability and as I am the disabled community convenor, I believe this training helped me to make sure my aims and goals for this year are accessible for all students with disabilities but especially accessible for students who have autism.
- Met with the new Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Coordinator:
Similar to the officer/convenor meeting, I met with the new EDI coordinator to share my ideas for the year and find out what help and support they could provide me with to bring my ideas to life. As EDI Coordinator was new to their role, we spent some time getting to know each other (as we will also be working closely this year) and talking through ways that we can make positive impact for students!
- Met with a Student Union Academic Assistant
I met with an Academic Rep Assistant from the Students’ Union, and we discussed their plans to get students, especially students with disabilities, involved in different opportunities and activities (like volunteering and sports). This meeting fitted in really well into one of my objectives; this year as restrictions from the pandemic continue to ease, I hope to be able to arrange more meetings with my community so being able to meet up and listen to the ideas of someone who wants to arrange accessible opportunities was great to get this aim started. We only briefly spoke about this but will be meeting soon to start creating some plans for the community to get involved in - watch this space!
- Met with Academic Experience Officer Meg Darroch:
I met with Meg, who was the disabled students’ community convenor for 2020-2021, on several occasions in the last few months. Meg shared some hints and tips for the role as well as listening to my ideas and aims for the year ahead. We also spoke about some ideas to work together on in the next year too! Meeting with Meg and hearing about her experience of the role was super insightful and I believe gave me more of an understanding about my role and how I will be able to help and support students.
- Met with the Community Volunteer Coordinator at Leonard Cheshire:
After helping a student (from the organisation Leonard Cheshire) with research around hate crime and how it affects people living with disabilities, I was asked to join a meeting with the community volunteer coordinator manager to discuss the types of help and support they can provide me with (and students with disabilities or long-term health conditions) around hate crime. The coordinator also spoke about the different volunteering opportunities the organisation has (specifically for people with disabilities or long-term health conditions). Following on from this meeting, we arranged to meet up soon so I can find out more information that I can then pass on to the students in the disabled community. Coming away from this meeting, I felt I knew a lot more about disability hate crime and the effects of this. I also learnt more about how much help is out there too. Similar to the hate crime conference, leaving this meeting, I felt confident about being able to help a student that does experience this. Additionally, as part of my goals this year, I hope to be able to share as many accessible opportunities and experiences as possible for students in the disabled community (and this organisation had a lot to offer for me to share!).
- Got involved in the launch of the new #Doitmyway tool kit for students with disabilities:
As well as meeting on several occasions with Meg, I was also given the opportunity to work alongside her on the new toolkit that she is in the process of creating for students with disabilities (the launch is sooner than you may think, and all will be revealed then!). As this toolkit is for students with disabilities, getting involved in the launched has helped me to understand how the toolkit works and what students can get out of it. When the toolkit launches, I believe I will feel confident in helping students who need help using the kit etc.
- Worked with the British Dyslexia Association during Dyslexia Week 2021:
As part of Dyslexia Week 2021, I took a course and joined a webinar to learn more about dyslexia. I also posted Monday to Friday (5 posts) to raise awareness of dyslexia and the British Dyslexia Association. Prior to this week, I did not know much about dyslexia but through this week, the course and attending the webinar opened my eyes to the affects of this and what students may go through. From this, if a student in my community came to me with a query to do with this, I believe I would be confident in being able to help them. Additionally, as I did not know much before, I felt there may be students in a similar position so raising awareness of the subject in my community not only helped celebrating people with dyslexia but hopefully gave students in the community an opportunity to learn about or learn more about dyslexia. Similar to the autism training, getting involved in this week and the course etc made me make sure my aims, goals, posts etc are as accessible as possible.
- Posted on MS Teams group at least once a week in group to engage with students:
Lastly, since starting my role, I have made sure I am posting in my community’s group at least once a week with things like job opportunities, opportunities to help in research around living with a disability or a long-term health condition, information on awareness weeks/days/months, local events in Leeds and useful contact information for departments or people within the SU and university. By doing this, I hope to provide a sense of community for students as well as hoping students find something that interests them or helps them which will help with their university experience. Lastly, I hope it reminds students that I am available to help them about anything university and community related!
Thanks for reading and see you here again for blog #2!