Student Profile: Andrew
Written by Patricia Udoto, a Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) student at the University of Newcastle
Course: Bachelor of Accounting
Year: Third Year
At the peak of his life, Andrew's life as he knew it turned upside down. Andrew was an active 22-year-old final year Veterinary Science student. He was also a rugby union player.
Andrew never imagined himself using a wheelchair for mobility, but what nobody imagines could happen to them did happen to Andrew. He became a quadriplegic and can now only get around with the use of a wheelchair.
"I broke my neck in 1990 while playing rugby union and damaged the cervical vertebrae," he said and went on to explain what part of the cervical vertebrae was damaged. "I was in the hospital's spinal unit for 9 months and later spent a year in a hostel with trained staff to assist me. In mid 1992, I went back home." He lives with his parents in Merewether.
Because of his injury, Andrew was not able to practice as a Vet like he wanted. He therefore chose to go back to university to try and find a course that would interest him.
In 1993, he went back to the University of Newcastle and enrolled in a Bachelor of Mathematics and Statistics degree, which he finished in 1997. In mid '98 he was employed as a Statistician with the Area Public Health Service.
"I got a job half way through 1998 as a statistician part-time. Between '97 and '98 I bought a new wheelchair and did other things which take time when using a wheelchair, went back to university, and started to do accounting part-time."
He worked for three years up to March 2002 but the company consolidated positions, making them full-time, and he did not get a position. He went back to study full-time.
"I was not disappointed because I was not interested in going on and doing postgraduate Statistical studies. It was only earning me money while I was at university more than anything else,' he said. He is currently in his third year of his accounting degree and will graduate at the end of the year. "As long as I do four subjects this semester and four next semester, I will graduate at the end of the year," he said. "I have to keep busy otherwise I will go nuts."
Andrew has a supportive family and is a self-motivated person. He described himself as a Type "A" personality, a competitive person always striving to be the best, a perfectionist. "I'm self motivated but it also might have something to do with my family. My siblings are intelligent people and I believe I am too," he said.
Support Services Accessed at University:
Andrew reckons there is a lot of help to be found at the university. First of all what he did when he came to university was to find the Disability Support Unit and the Adaptive Technology Centre.
"The assistance is available, all you have to do is look for it and once they find it, the staff will bend over backwards to assist you", Andrew told me. "No one is going to go looking for you to help, you have to find them".
Some of the things the university assists with are to provide a scribe for Andrew since he cannot take notes by himself. There are people provided for this purpose and are available on request.
Some buildings were inaccessible to Andrew but after he approached the university, they had sliding doors fitted in place of the ordinary doors. Rooms for tutorials are sometimes inaccessible, and he approaches the secretary with a request for a change of rooms and it is done.
In the Adaptive Technology Centre, which is in the library, there is a provision for a sliding table that can accommodate a wheelchair.
For exams, the scribes come along and write the answers for him. But here he faces some difficulty, which he describes with a tolerant smile.
"I think out aloud while doing a calculation and sometimes the scribes write what I am thinking out aloud. You have to distinguish between when you are thinking out aloud and when it is an answer to be written down."
Asked if he ever felt like throwing in the towel, he said, "Feeling discouraged gets to any student at one time or another. When I feel like I want to give up, I take out a couple of videos, buy a block of chocolate, and laze around all day. Treat yourself and relax then get over it".
Just ask for the assistance and the people concerned will work out a way to make it work.
Andrew's reply when I asked him for a word of advice for people with a disability who intend to pursue university studies was, "Be self motivated and do not wait for aid, go find it because if nobody knows that you need help, they won't be able to give it to you."
He also mentioned a few places to find this help that they would require like the Disability Support Unit at the University and the Adaptive Technology Centre in the University's library.
"They are ready to bend over backwards to help you in these places". Andrew said.
He says that you should motivate yourself to get the help you need, to get people to take your notice.
"Although I never had a disability in school and cannot speak from that perspective, I assume things may have been made easier there like school providing help and so forth. Here you have to go looking for it."
"People are not going to come to you and ask you, "Do you want help?". You generally have to go to them. That's the way I do it but then again I am a bit of a control freak so that just may be me. But yeah, if you need help you've got to go and find it," he said.
"Once you find the right people you will find that it opens up all kinds of doors and they will point you to other directions and so forth. I think the best way to get things moving is to go straight to the top. If you need something to be done, it will get done faster."
Andrew is an encouragement to people with a disability. He is a driven, ambitious man who believes in being the best that he can be. He does it all for nobody but himself.
It is very enlightening to meet someone so determined and who believes in himself and his abilities despite his disability. This goes to show that with determination and self-motivation you can go a long way to making a success out of your life. Andrew is a testament to this fact.
by Patricia Udoto