Kristina Williams 900x400 I Am BCU

Kristina Williams

Criminology - BA (Hons)

Kristina didn’t have the easiest journey into university, and knew that being blind would throw even more challenges her way. Since joining, she’s transformed the way the university makes itself more accessible for students.

"I moved around a lot when I was younger, going from school to school. All this moving meant my spelling, grammar and maths were really bad, and when I moved into secondary school I was predicted to fail or to get Ds and Es.

However, I’m really stubborn and wanted to do well. The teaching assistants at school helped me get my homework done and go through the work with me. By year nine, I’d gone from being predicted to fail everything to passing my GCSE in English.

It’s been difficult to progress to where I wanted to be. Originally I didn’t want to go to university. I wanted to be a chef, but got turned down for jobs and courses because I was blind, with one college telling me that I could do a course there, but would never get a job at the end of it. So I decided to stay on at sixth form, where I discovered I had an interest in criminology. I thought to myself: “Hey, why not give it go and apply to uni?” So I did.

After finally being accepted at one university, I was denied student funding as I’m not technically a British citizen. I had to take a whole year out to fight a legal battle with Student Finance, and kept asking myself if it was all worth the hassle. During that year, I looked at BCU, and instantly knew this is where I wanted to go instead. After a long struggle, I was finally accepted into BCU with the funding I was legally entitled to. For me, it had been a literal battle to get into university, but I had made it.

Having a disability and entering an unfamiliar environment, I knew there were going to be more hurdles ahead. When I started, my personal tutor had no clue that there was going to be a blind student who would have certain accessibility requirements, but that didn’t faze her. She sat down with me and worked with me on what we needed as blind students.

Since then, I’ve worked closely with my lecturers, friends and other blind students to promote accessibility within the university. We’ve helped to create accessible referencing guides for students, promoted access needs for other students, and set up the Blind Truth Project, where we ‘blinded’ our lecturers for a day to help them understand what we experience and what they can do to help us on a daily basis. Not many people can say that they have actively changed a university to make it more accessible.

When you’re blind, it can be difficult to build relationships as you can’t make eye contact or judge facial expressions. I was okay with the prospect of not making many friends. However, I’ve never been treated any differently outside of my needs. I’m just another student, part of the crowd, and have made more friends than I thought I ever would have, and people are so willing to go out of their way to help me whenever I need it. I feel so accepted here, more so than I ever have done throughout my whole school experience.

For me, if I hear someone say ‘I AM BCU’, I know that that person represents all the amazing things the university stands for, I am proud to be a part of BCU."

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