The pathways to higher education are tougher for some students than they are for others. A recent study showed that disabled students at university in Hong Kong, unsurprisingly, wanted to get on with their studies with the minimum of fuss and without drawing attention to the perceived stigma of their disability (http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1589/1557). It is the role of educational institutions to help facilitate that wish wherever possible. No further research is necessary to discern the fact that disabled student face significant barriers to higher education, and as a result are not proportionally represented in our schools and universities.
If you’re going to university in Hong Kong then the first thing you should do is make contact with student services at your prospective university. All of the major HK universities including City U (http://www.cityu.edu.hk/sds/home/service/sfds/), Chinese U (https://www2.osa.cuhk.edu.hk/disability/en-GB/), Baptist U (http://sa.hkbu.edu.hk/home/campus-life-support/welfare-and-services/services-for-students-with-disabilities/) and HKU (http://wp.cedars.hku.hk/web/cope/?p=1144) have specific facilities for disabled students, aiming to create barrier-free access to their courses. This includes those with learning disabilities as well as physical disabilities. These resources offer everything from counselling to financial advice, as well as dealing with entirely practical matters like accessibility. This is your first port of call if you have specific questions, or if you plan to organise a campus visit (a very good idea as you need to know if you’ll have any difficulties getting between classrooms, cafes, offices and the library).
If you’re going to the UK, UCAS has some great advice before you set off but again, make sure you state your disability on your application form so the university can insure appropriate housing and any possible support you might need (https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/getting-started/individual-needs/students-disabilities). Again, make contact with the disabled sector of the student services at your university before you arrive. This is also the case for other overseas study destinations, like Australia, Canada or the US.
There is also the issue of whether or not you choose to disclose your disability. University can represent a fresh start for many people, and there may be the temptation to avoid perceived stigma if your disability is not obvious. If your disability is not obvious, and you are causing no unmanageable problems for yourself or your peers, then disclosure is up to you. However, you must ask yourself if your disability impedes your ability to learn in any way. One way round this might be to have a private conversation with your instructors and personal tutors. Staff members should be highly amenable and sympathetic to such discussions. Together, you may be able to develop solutions without emphasising your problems (for example recording all lectures, choosing seats close to the front of the class, asking for PowerPoints in advance in order to prepare for class). In 2014 the human rights of persons with disabilities were reaffirmed by the United Nations. Now let’s ensure those rights are respected.
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