27 June 2018 • Gideon Wille
New network for students with a functional disability
The two networks for students with a functional disability, Friends4Future and the Fast Forward Team, have merged. The two networks, that grew from an initiative by Wil IJzereef of the Rehabilitation research group, now form the (dis)abilties network. Together, they expect to better serve students with a functional disability. They will also take over some of the information activities of the defunct SOM (studeren op maat, or customised studying).
“At Friends4Future, we exchanged experiences about what it’s like to have a disability,” says Natasha Roepnarain, fourth year Social Work student. “How you handle it, what you can do for each other and what the University of Applied Sciences can do for you.” It seems that THUAS offers plenty of opportunity, but one person may know this while another may not. This is how you help each other. The network helps you stand stronger. You learn to talk about your disability without becoming emotional. We have really helped each other. It has become a real network of friends.”
The qualities of Friends4Future and the Fast Forward Team – that mostly concentrates on solving practical problems – are retained in the new network. Emily Monteiro, fourth year Social Work student, gives an example. “I use a mobility scooter and it’s difficult to enter the school independently. The swinging doors after the revolving door do not have a button to open the doors. I have to wait for someone to open the doors for me. I don’t like to always have to ask.”
Recognition and acknowledgement
The network is important for Natasha. “It’s about recognition and acknowledgement. It’s great that there is a group where you can be together safely. There is understanding of your situation in class, but there is also a degree of distance. This has led to my being apprehensive to people if I suspect that they don’t want to work with me. I experienced this during my degree programme. I can discuss this sort of issue in the network without being judged.”
Natasha’s disability is not visible so people sometimes tell her to stop fussing. “If I talk to Emily, there is recognition. We both need to take a nap in the afternoon for example. It is important that you can trust each other with this sort of thing in the network. Then I stop feeling that I am lazy and stop feeling so ragged.”
There is still lots to do for the network. Promoting its activities so that other students with disabilities know that it exists; giving information to students and academic career counsellors; and expanding activities to Delft and Zoetermeer. At present, the network organises a monthly lunch for all students with a functional disability. And it has a stand at the Open Days and the introduction.
The lunch this academic year will be on the first Thursday of the month, from 12:00 to 01:00 pm. The first lunch will be on 5 September. For more information about the network lunch, email Wil IJzereef at firstname.lastname@example.org check the Facebook page (disability network HHS). Students with a functional disability can also approach their degree programme’s student counsellor. Students with a functional disability and the handicap + study Expertise Centre believe that information to students with a functional disability should be improved. To this end, they recently launched a guide for universities of applied sciences.