On 5-8 February, Newcastle University Students’ Union ran its third annual Disability Awareness Week.
The campaign aimed to shed light on issues affecting disabled students by educating the wider student body. Topics covered in the week included recognising ableism, government changes to monetary aid, and students own lived experiences of being disabled at Newcastle.
Many new unique events were organised for this year’s line-up, including a parasport fencing session led in collaboration with Inclusive Newcastle, which saw students of all abilities and levels taking part in an action-packed taster session.
A two-hour slot was also booked at the Student Advice Centre, allowing students to drop-in and get guidance on all things disability-related, from applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to getting started with Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).
“The collaboration between the PTO, DaNSoc, students, and external speakers has been inspiring”
DaNSoc Secretary Sarah Main and LGBT+ Officer Hannah Fitzpatrick
The week also saw two guests speakers run successful sessions. Joanna Gower, former Welfare Officer and LGBT+ Association President at Durham University, led ‘It’s All in Your Head: The Effect of Invisible Disabilities’, a discussion examining how wider society perceives what disability looks like and how we can challenge our assumptions about chronic illness.
Sez Thomasin, an award-winning autistic genderqueer poet, also ran a popular poetry and zine workshop session, where students could create their own disability inspired talks.
By far, the most well-attended session was the collaboration between the Disability and Neurodiversity Society (DaNSoc) and the Working Class Students Network, titled ‘I’m Not a Scrounger.’
This discussion looked at the intersections of disability and social class, and how we can challenge the benefit fraud stereotypes.
£141 per week that you could receive from the government via the PIP scheme
The campaign concluded with a screening of Mad Max: Fury Road. The franchise has a history of having great disability representation, from amputees to dwarfism, and PTSD to Downs Syndrome.
The Courier spoke to DaNSoc Secretary Sarah Main and LGBT+ Officer Hannah Fitzpatrick while they were running a stall to promote the week’s events.They reflected on the success of the week:
“The level of response has been amazing, and the collaboration between the PTO, DaNSoc, students, and external speakers has been inspiring.”