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April 9, 2019 | by  | in Token Cripple | [ssba]

Token Cripple – How To Survive Your First Year at University (with a disabled twist!)

Before leaving home to begin my first year as any Arts and Law student would—at Weir House—I was shit scared. It didn’t help that everyone kept telling me that everyone was in “the same boat”. Because, as I saw it, unless everyone else’s boat had holes in the sail, sharks circling with a particular thirst for disabled-person blood, and a sailor who can’t physically haul herself back into the boat when the boom inevitably knocks her off—then don’t fucking talk to me about boats.


While having a disability doesn’t ^really change the first-year experience, there are some things that people with disabilities have to worry about that others don’t. More, there aren’t any wikiHow pages for our situation. For a person who relies on someone to tell me exactly how to do things, this was difficult. So, I’ve decided to adapt the wikiHow page on surviving your first year at university with things that I learnt from my own mistakes as a disabled first-year student.



How To Survive Your First Year at University (with a disabled twist!)


  1. Socialise frequently


Socialising in your first year can involve drinking. This may not be your thing but, if it is, don’t let the inaccessibility of clubs in Wellington stop you. To help you out, I have compiled a handy (but non-exhaustive) accessibility review of night venues:


“We love drunk disabled people” level of accessibility:

Danger Danger – Dakota – The Establishment – Edison’s Superette – Siglo (downstairs)

Dirty Little Secret – Meow


“You’re ok if you’re not in a wheelchair” level of accessibility (a few stairs):

Circus – Red Square


“Fuck disabled people” level of accessibility:

Caroline – Ivy – Siglo – Every single flat party you will ever attend (including mine)


  1. Develop a sensible coping strategy


When I first came to the university, someone gave me some advice. They told me that counselling services are always booked out—so I should plan ahead if I wanted a session. At the time, I thought this was a bold suggestion—talking so openly about mental health as a disabled person was something new to me. But, it ^is important to develop a coping strategy for when all turns to shit. You see, my “coping strategy” for when my reserved chair wasn’t in a lecture theatre consisted of struggling in silence, leaving, having a little (big) cry, then going to Moore Wilson’s (nothing calms me like wholefoods), then lying to my friends. Ah, silly first-year Alice. So naïve, so dramatic. Don’t be like Alice. 


  1. Don’t be afraid to bring up an issue or ask for help


If I had just asked someone to go find a chair for me, I wouldn’t have ended up spending my whole student loan on Moore Wilson’s juice. Similarly, if I had just let the guy (who I had fallen over in front of) help me up, it wouldn’t have been so fucking awkward.

People are generally cooler than we give them credit for, and are more than willing to help. Asking for assistance is a skill I started developing in first-year, and am still practising now.


I also learned not to be ashamed to bring up any issue I was having as a disabled student. At the end of the day, it’s my ^right to get an education, and it’s not my job to make this institution accessible. It’s your job, Victoria University of Wellington, and I’m paying you to do it.


  1. Take a breath!


Be gentle with yourself. Life can be shit, and sometimes it takes a lot of energy (that we just don’t have) to turn lemons into lemonade. Never downplay or discredit how you feel, take everything as it comes, and don’t wear your fucking lanyard around uni—no matter how practical it is.



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