the state of being able to study, regardless of disability or other given circumstances, whilst supported by your educational institution

One of the biggest concerns facing young people who identify with disability is the idea of embarking upon tertiary education. Of course, there’s support in high school for you and your needs, but will you receive that same level of support at university? And if university is such a big step up from high school, is it even possible to make it through an undergraduate degree?

I can answer both of those questions. Yes. And Yes.

I am a current third-year student dealing with full-time study, work and managing a physical impairment on the side. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s all sunshine and roses, because it’s not. Heck, I’m running on two hours sleep right now thanks to an assignment that was much harder than first thought…


But it’s definitely feasible. Going to uni doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. It’s totally possible to rock up to uni everyday, go to your classes, do your assignments, and embrace the uni student lifestyle – regardless of your condition, impairment or ailment.

QUT’s Disability Services exists for the sole purpose of helping you achieve your goals. If you’re hesitant to ask for support, be comforted by the knowledge that they have to help – it’s their job.

Whether you need guaranteed accessible classrooms, more time in exams, or even if you struggle to take notes during a lecture and you want to make use of QUT’s notetaking services, it’s all possible. With QUT, studyability is a certainty.

I can’t speak too much on exactly how you get support – because I don’t know you, and while I can say you’re looking mighty fine (where did you get that top? I love it! You’re lookin’ really good, pal), all I can do is direct you to QUT Disability Services.

My own personal experiences

No amount of support could stop me from turning up to a cancelled lecture. Sigh. Well done, Maddie.

No amount of support could stop me from turning up to a cancelled lecture. Sigh. Well done, Maddie.


My physical impairment is one of weakness, semi-limited mobility and fatigue. I often get muscle cramps, muscle pain, and general dizziness if I go too hard, too fast. So with me, even though I am completely independent on campus, I still needed a little help getting things sorted.

In my first year, I visited Disability Services. All I had to do was get a doctor’s note confirming my condition and bring it in – then, I could access a wide range of services and receive assistance in the areas I needed most. I received a Support Plan, which was sent to the unit coordinators and passed on to tutors and lecturers, but it’s important to note that your condition is never disclosed without your permission – and if you want it to stay private, it stays private.

For me, my biggest concern was fatigue. If I’m physically exhausted (which tends to happen when studying drama, particularly in the lead up to a uni production), I lose the ability to focus on assessment and wind up with severe nausea, pain and general difficulty even bringing my hands to the keyboard to type. So, if I had three assignments due in the same week AND I needed to be physically present at uni for rehearsals, I could apply for an extension on one or two of them, just to lighten the load. I would usually only need three extra days or so to rest up and put in my best effort.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Putting in your best effort.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a little extra help so you can level the playing field amongst your peers and do your very best. Who knows? You might end up smashing it completely with a bunch of High Distinctions/7’s and be the first one to get work out of uni!

But what about ME?

If you’re currently in high school, wondering if you can juggle study and dealing with life with a disability, I’m here to say you can.

From flexible study load options to note-taking services, there’s always support available. Your studyability is guaranteed with QUT. You can do it, easily.

I’m in my third year, now, and let me tell you – I would not be close to finishing my degree if it weren’t for the support services I’ve been able to use here at QUT.

It’s hard, because it’s often extremely difficult to find someone who understands how you feel, what you need and what life is like. Studying with a disability is hard, and I can tell you that almost no one at uni understands exactly what it’s like for me to study at the same rate as my peers. Staff included – no one understands what it’s like for you.

You are your own expert.

It’s a struggle, for sure. But I’m determined to do it. And I’ve recently received my first professional job as an artist in the theatre industry – all thanks to the support, study and networking opportunities at QUT. So… clearly, it works. Drama degree wasn’t such a useless choice at all, eh?

If you’re feeling unsure of where to go, or if you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed with this major life transition, you’re not alone. My first six months at uni were spent hiding behind bookshelves in the library and having a good old cry because I had no idea what I was doing. There’s always help available, all you have to do is ask.

First year was comprised of emotional eating, coffee and general 'what am I meant to be doing?' - but I made it through.

First year was comprised of emotional eating, coffee and general ‘what am I meant to be doing?’ – but I made it through.

If you have any questions about my journey, or if you need a little help answering questions about your own path, please comment below! I’m here and ready to help – and we can embrace our studyability together.




2 responses

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  1. Avatar
    Shannon Brierley

    I’m hoping to get into paramedics next year, however last year I had six brain surgeries, so who knows if I’ll even get in. Not one person has said i can do it and everyone always cringes. I reckon I can. Can you go to part time if it gets too hard?

    • Avatar

      Hi Shannon!

      If you want to become a paramedic, definitely apply. There are flexible study options that can be negotiated with Disability Services if you get in, and you can absolutely go to part time study if you find that it’s better for you. Don’t be discouraged by the opinions of others. Do you know how many times I was told that studying drama would never go well for me? I’m nearly at the end of my degree now and it is so rewarding studying something I’m passionate about.

      My best recommendation is to contact Disability Services to see what kind of support you can get in your studies. They should also be able to check through the course information for paramedics qualifications and see how you could best approach it. From there, you can make a decision on whether or not to apply. Here’s the link for more info (including contact details):

      Do what’s best for you. This is your life and your career, so it’s your decision. 🙂

      All the best!

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