How can disabled students look after themselves during the coronavirus outbreak?

Students with a disability or a long-term condition must still look after their health and get the support they need – here are some tips on how to do that

March 30 2020
Disabled sign on door

The world certainly has changed a great deal over the past week, and I imagine that you might feel anxious when faced with this uncertainty. However, I hope I can offer a few words of support to help you get through it.

Keep in touch

Lecturers
This may seem obvious, but it really is key. With universities now teaching remotely, it can be even more important to clarify content or to check in if you are going through a rough period with your health.

Despite this, I can wholeheartedly second your complaints. Why has remote teaching not previously been available for disabled students who cannot attend lectures? Fingers crossed this initiative will continue and benefit disabled students in the future.

If you are high-risk or worrying about your health during this time, please reach out. Your university might be able to offer extensions or extra assistance.

Support staff
You might also receive study support through your university or some kind of student allowance. If this is the case, it would be a great idea to get in touch and see if that support can continue. It’s possible they could set up video calls with you or offer support via email. The continued support will keep you focused and preserve a sense of normality.

Work with peers
Do you have friends who are studying the same content? Why not video-call them and create a study session? Right now, it can be difficult to focus on work, but together you’ll be able to bounce ideas off each other.

Routine and accessing essentials
This could include the consistency of eating breakfast or setting aside time to work and rest. Of course, flexibility is crucial, but little things will help to maintain a sense of control during a lot of uncertainty.

Part of this routine is also getting vital supplies of medication and food. If possible, order your medication online because this can be a good way of reducing physical contact. Also, many supermarkets have started setting aside shopping hours exclusively for key workers and elderly and disabled customers.

If you are unable to get out, asking a friend or relative to pick up food can be really helpful. Alternatively, some charities might be able to provide a list of volunteers in your area who are trying to ensure that everyone has essentials.

If you have carers or PAs to help with daily tasks, ensure that you are still able to receive this care.


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Managing your disability

A period of self-isolation doesn’t mean all conditions and medical needs cease to exist. You might experience more pain caused by stress, become stiff because you are moving less less or have a flare-up. Stress can be a major trigger for some people, and it’s safe to say that the current situation will be challenging. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Keep taking medication
  • Hydrate
  • Ensure that you have methods of pain relief (heat, ice, TENS machine…)
  • A cosy blanket and a comfy place to sit or lie
  • Mindfulness
  • Scented candles that can help you relax
  • Gentle stretches
  • Things that can aid as distraction (books, films, crafts…).

If you do become unwell, do not hesitate to contact your GP or local doctor’s surgery. Your health is still important and you deserve support, just like everyone else. Your GP should be able to do a telephone appointment if you need extra support.

Take things easy

It is OK if you are finding this overwhelming and scary – because it is. It may take a while for you to be able to give university work the headspace that is needed, and that is all right. Your physical and mental well-being is fundamental. Allow your body and mind the chance to adapt and try not to pressure yourself.

Try to take at least an hour a day for yourself. Perhaps write a list of relaxing things you can do if you need to step away.

Take each day as it comes, stay safe and look after yourself.

If you’d like to read more of Chloe’s work, you can find her blog at www.chloetear.co.uk.

Read more: Eight meal prepping hacks for students

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