Seeing Past Limits: Connah’s Story

In December 2023, we hosted a webinar with Wolverhampton University, in which Connah Anders, a blind student we supported through our Student Support Service shared his story.

Connah faced many challenges during his educational journey but overcame them to achieve a fantastic result.

Keep reading Connah’s story and get great tips and advice about preparing for university.

Connah’s Journey Through School

“At 14 years old you shouldn’t have to move away from home just to get a better education.”

Born with a severe vision impairment, I experienced barriers throughout my early school years and felt like I was different to other children. My family and I had to fight to access my education due to issues like work not being adapted in accessible formats and me not being able to see the board like other students.

As a result of these difficulties, I had to leave mainstream education at the age of 14 to move away to New College Worcester (NCW), a specialist school for vision impaired children, which saved my education. Although things improved a lot when I started at NCW, I still feel that the disruptions I faced during my school years had a long-term effect on my confidence, which impacted me as I moved on to university.

Building Confidence with an Apprenticeship

Initially, I was adamant that studying at university was not something that appealed to me after my previous school experiences. After leaving school, I completed an advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence with British Judo. This was partially based at a university, so I became familiar with the campus and other students. Following this, I decided to apply for a university course and give a degree a try.

Getting the Right Support in Place at University

Although there were some initial barriers to accessing my university course, I found that preparation was the key to ensuring I had everything I needed for my university studies. Before I started, I met with university staff to discuss support and applied for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). Through this, I received a notetaker and sighted guide, which was crucial as my vision decreased and that enabled me to navigate around campus more independently.

My advice to other students is to fill in the DSA application form with as much detail and as early as possible. Stand your ground and advocate for yourself if you feel a particular type of support or piece of equipment is what you need. You are entitled to the extra support, and you deserve it.

Self-advocacy While Studying

Although I thoroughly prepared for university, there were still some problems which arose on my course such as access to resources and having my DSA equipment and training arrive later than expected. I therefore decided to get in touch with Thomas Pocklington Trust’s (TPT) Student Support Service, to advise me on what next steps I might want to take.

From this, the team were able to use their advisory experience and specialist knowledge to help me identify issues and share potential solutions with me and the university staff. I feel that self-advocacy skills and having the confidence to express myself and my needs to others at university will go a long way. Recording agreements with staff in writing and being as solution-focused and realistic as possible are the best ways to overcome any barriers when studying.

Achieving Success

Despite the ups and downs throughout my educational journey, I graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a first-class honours degree in Special Educational Needs, Disability and Inclusion Studies. I feel now more passionate than ever about sharing my experiences to help others in the future and I am aiming for a career in disability advice and advocacy.”

Watch the full webinar below to learn more about Connah’s experiences and hear useful hints and tips from our Student Support Service.

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