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Journey to Study and Beyond

1 February, 2016

This year I am completing my final year of university, having suffered a spinal cord injury over five years ago. Growing up my plan was always to go to university after I had completed school and having a spinal cord injury (SCI) didn’t change that. I became a T12 paraplegic at the age of 17, after I fell out of window at school in 2010.

Missing over half the year of school and being in VCE at the time could not be ignored and it was strongly recommended that I repeat the entire of year 11. However, the school did also tell me that it was possible to go straight into year 12 the following year if I desired, and they would work to accommodate that. While I was recovering in hospital, I had everyone from family; friends and the occasional nurse tell me that repeating the year (and not finishing with all my friends) was the right choice.

As a resistant, self-confident person who dislikes being told what he can’t do, I ignored them all and decided to go ahead and complete year 12 the following year anyway. The school were very supportive and helped me overcome a lot of the barriers that I faced. They did things like put all my classes on the ground floor of buildings, provided tutoring during lunch breaks and reserved a car park inside the grounds to make it easier for me to get in and out of the car. The school itself had decent access, so there weren’t many adjustments to be done, all of the buildings had flat or ramp access and the main building even had a prebuilt staff and service lift. It was a tough year given I was still adjusting to life in a chair, but with the support of my friends and family, I finished year 12 and got a VCE score high enough to get into Health Sciences at La Trobe University. This is exactly what I wanted.

"It was a tough year given I was still adjusting to life in a chair, but with the support of my friends and family, I finished year 12 and got a VCE score high enough to get into University"

"The attitude of the other students at La Trobe has also been accepting and welcoming. I have had little problems at university."

Attending La Trobe University in a wheelchair is fine; the campus itself is rather flat and accessible. All of the cafes are spacious enough to move
around in, a lot of the classrooms have open floor plans which means they aren’t too small or squishy and I am yet to come across a lecture hall that isn’t accessible, the campus has plenty of lifts as well. The only difficulty is that it’s a big campus and usually there is quite a walk to classes; especially when my timetable runs classes back to back, so I have to allow myself extra time to get around the uni.

Disability parking is free and parking in it without the right sticker or papers results in a $250 fine. To put that in perspective, if you park in a normal park without a ticket there is only a $27 fine. This is great because people who actually need to park in a disabled spots will always be able to find one, and it goes a long way to helping out those who need it. The attitude of the other students at La Trobe has also been accepting and welcoming. I have had little problems at university.

After finishing my course in Rehabilitation Counselling I plan to continue university and do post-graduate study before going out into the world and looking for employment.

Stephen Callinan is a Rehabilitation Counselling student at La Trobe University, who hopes to continue on with post-graduate study in the same field. He enjoys watching sport, spending time with family and friends and staying fit and healthy.

Tags: Blog, Career, employment, study