We speak to Amy Dowse, our Disabled and SLD representative about her role and why it's important to celebrate and recognise World Autism Awareness Day.
Can you tell us a bit about your role as Disabled and SLD Representative?
As the Disabled and Specific Learning Differences (SLD) Rep for the Mile End campus my role is to advocate for students and raise awareness of issues surrounding disability and specific learning differences. I want to show students that the challenges they face do not have to hold them back, it is these challenges that help them grow.
What are some projects you’ve worked on as a rep this year?
I took over the role of Disabled and SLD Rep (Mile End) in August 2021.
Since the beginning, I have been running a series called ‘Disability Spotlight’ on Instagram. Spotlights are posted to coincide with national and international awareness days/weeks with the aim of bringing awareness to a variety of different disabilities, illnesses and learning differences. As well as sharing relevant information about the disability, illness or learning difference, I also post a quote from someone who is affected by it. These quotes are to show people that amazing things are possible, despite the challenges they may face. I have been able to share some fantastic quotes from a huge range of people such as:
- Chris Robshaw (English Rugby Union Player)
- Sophie Christiansen (Equestrian Paralympic Champion
- Rosie Jones (Comedian)
- Jeremey Chopra and Ian Redpath (Creators of @allontheboard)
- Sir Chris Homes (Britain’s most decorated Paralympic Swimmer)
- Sir Steve Redgrave (Rowing Olympic Champion)
- Amy Dowden (Strictly Professional Dancer)
- Phoebe Paterson Pine (Archery Paralympic Champion)
There are many more still to come. Make sure you are following @disabled_sld_rep_qmsu on Instagram to find out more.
I also organised Queen Mary’s first Disability Fortnight from 1st to 14th December 2021. We had 10 days of events, content, and competitions, showing students that despite the challenges faced by people with a disability or specific learning differences, amazing things are possible. A personal highlight was hosting an inspiring talk with David Smith MBE, Paralympic Boccia champion, about achieving incredible things despite the challenges he faces. I am also proud to have hosted a screening of Dear Evan Hansen to encourage conversations around mental health.
I am in the process of creating a video series looking at the world of work with a disability or SLD. For many people, leaving university and entering employment can feel daunting and overwhelming. I have reached out to people from various fields and backgrounds to answer some common questions about working with a disability or SLD, to give students some guidance and reassurance about how to navigate the working world.
Did you know that students with a disability or SLD are eligible for Disabled Students Allowance? This can be a notoriously confusing process, with many students feeling like they can’t apply due to the complexity. I am creating easy to follow guide to help students feel less confused and claim the support they deserve. I hope to share this with you all soon.
Why do you think it's important to celebrate and recognise World Autism Awareness Day?
Autism isn’t the same for everyone. It’s a spectrum, and people are affected in many different ways.
A lot of people hide their autistic traits to fit into a neuro-typical world. They may be struggling, and you wouldn’t even know it.
People with autism deserve to be understood and accepted. I am passionate about raising awareness, changing attitudes, and breaking down barriers. I want to transform lives and create a society that works for all autistic people. World Autism Day is a powerful way to start making this happen.