It has been very interesting. It has been a lot more challenging than I thought. Campus-wise it is a lot harder; there’s a lot of hills, it’s a lot harder to get around and be at places on time, especially if I’m in my chair. In that respect, it has been a real struggle. But I think it has also been a massive help in different ways. I can always remember the Pirate Party. I remember I dressed my wheelchair up as a ship and it was possibly the coolest costume there. I had a flag coming out the top and a point in front of my feet, like a ship. It was a great time; I learnt a lot about myself and I met loads of people and for once I felt accepted.
I think at university people are a lot more open about things and they don’t see it as such a barrier. For me, I’ve met many different people from so many different walks of life, and I’ve felt accepted by them. But there have been times when I’ve felt less accepted and I think it comes with the nature of my disability. I’m an intermitting wheelchair user so sometimes I can walk absolutely fine and other times I’m pretty much bound to my chair because I’m in that much pain. I think people can really struggle to get their heads around that because one day I’ll be walking, one day I’ll be using a stick, and the next day I’ll be in my wheelchair. I think people have accepted that and said, ‘Hey, it’s just Amber’. Then other times they’re more cautious or question me a little more, just because it’s a little bit more unusual for a disability. I think, generally speaking, people are really willing to help.
I remember it was one of my first days at university and I’d never really experienced this before because people back at home weren’t so accepting or weren’t as understanding of it. I was trying to get up from Glasney Lodge to the Stannary, which is quite a big hill (I’ve now learnt that I can go through two lifts and around a corner and I’ll be fine) and I remember trying to get up that hill and it was really hard. The thing that made it so much easier was people coming along and saying, “do you need a hand?” and offering to push me without me having to ask. For me, that was a huge deal because not only had I always had somebody with me to push me, but when I was left on my own, with this independence, it was really hard. I think one of the biggest moments was when I actually tackled that hill by myself. So many people walked past, it took me about ten minutes and so many people offered to help me, but I was like “No, no, I’ll be fine”, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it - and I could. I did it. It’s little achievements like that which make you realise, just because somebody’s in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that they’re any different to anybody else.
I still have my emotions, I have goals, I have dreams, I still have everything that everybody else does. It just means I might need a little bit of help along the way, and whether that’s in my wheelchair, if I’m walking, or I’m using my stick; it doesn’t matter.