I would like to start this article with a very obvious statement: not all disabilities are visible.
I feel like this is a relatively uncontroversial statement. Disabilities come in many forms, such as physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional and developmental impairments. Each of these can significantly hinder a person’s performance and functioning. I’ve agreed with this fact for most of my life, but my views became drastically distorted when I became the disabled one. My disability was that of mental health, something still surrounded by stigma. “I’m not really disabled”, I thought. “There are people out there with real disabilities, real problems. I do not deserve to register with Student Equity and Disability Support or apply for Special Consideration”. As time went on, I realised the impact my mental health was having on my ability to concentrate and complete assignments. I was feeling low, lacked energy, and my thoughts always floated back to the situation at home. Still, I refused to acknowledge the state of my mental health and the importance of registering with the Disability Support Unit or applying for Special Consideration.
It took me a long time to come to terms and acknowledge the fact that yes, at this point in my life, I was disabled. Until my mental health improved, my university work would suffer impairments. I considered taking a break for a while but study was something stable to give me structure, and I enjoyed what I was learning. But was I really eligible to register with the Disability Support Unit or apply for Special Consideration? Yes!
Here’s a clear description of what you’re eligible for regarding Special Consideration and the Disability Support Unit:
- What is it? For a temporary disability which impacts your ability to complete work
- Mental Health Example Temporary mental health problem experienced following a stressful life event, eg. divorce Long term mental illness, eg. depression, anxiety
- Physical Health Example Broken arm Hearing impairment
Disability Support Unit
- What is it? For a long term disability which impacts your ability to complete work
- Mental Health Example: Long term mental illness, eg. depression, anxiety
- Physical Health:Hearing impairment
Registering with the Disability Support Unit makes applying for Special Consideration for your assignments easier. It does not automatically qualify you for Special Consideration, but it means if you are having a particularly difficult episode, it is there if you need to use it.
How do you register?
You can register with the Disability Support Unit anytime in the year, and it is free of charge. You can either make an appointment or complete an online registration form. In section one you need to complete standard information like course studies, student number, etc. Section two needs to be completed by your health professional. They need to provide information about the nature of your
impairment, such as type of condition, time of onset, whether it is permanent or temporary, constant or periodic, and in what ways it impacts your ability to participate in study. After this it will be considered by a Disability Liason Officer, and then you’ll be registered.
Till this day, I still feel uncomfortable accepting the help provided to me through both Special Consideration and the Disability Support Unit. I wish I had known what was available to me sooner. I now realise though that even though not all disabilities are visible, it doesn’t mean you can’t get support. I encourage all of you to apply if you need it. If you want a second opinion, talk to your health professional, visit the UMSU Disabilities Office on the first floor of Union House, or book at appointment with a Disability Liason Officer by visiting the Student Equity and Disability Support office on the Ground Floor of Baldwin Spencer Building or calling +61 (3) 8344 0836.
Not all disabilities are visible. I am coming out of the disabled closet, and I hope that if you need to, you will join me.