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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Resources] : Student Interviews

Kashaf Ahmed

Name :
Kashaf Ahmed
Course :
Business Information Technology
Year of study :
Level of study :
UCAS Disability code :
2 - blind or partially sighted


Can you just tell me your background? Did you do A Levels or did you go to a further education college?

I did GNVQ at Nelson and Colne College in Business Studies and qualified with merit.

How did you get the desire that you wanted to go to university? Did you pick it up at FE or was it something that they were steering you towards at school.

I have seen many people but I have seen people with more disability go to university, so that made me desire to do it as well. I had seen people that had more disability and they've done it, so why can't I do it?

Did you go to a special school?

No, I went to normal high school.

Can you explain what sort of support you got there from teachers?

Just mainly note taking.

Was that the same at further education? Did you get a support worker at all?


Was it the same or different? Did you get a support worker at every stage?

Yes it was a support worker.

What sorts of things did they do?

Just generally note taking and help with research that I did in the library and that sort of thing.

How did you start finding out about the universities that you might want to go to?

When I was on the course that I have just done, I was told about an Open Day for disabled people in the Manchester area and I visited that and got some ideas from that when I went there. I talked with Careers Guidance and people like that and they gave me some ideas of what to look for.

So did you get a prospectus for the university?

Yes I got a prospectus for the university.

Did you find that very accessible? The information that was sent.

Not really. It was quite small and not easy to read.

How did you actually access it then?

When I was looking at what was required I had to get someone else to read it for me, I couldn't exactly read it.

Did they have a website and did you look at it at all?

I had a look at some things on the website. Just general information about the university and what courses they do. I thought it was OK.

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You obviously applied through UCAS, what was the next stage? Did you go to interview or an Open Day?

Once I applied I was told that I had an offer of a place at Salford University. Once I had got all my offers I had to declare which ones I wanted to take up. Since I heard such nice things about this university from other people, I thought, 'Why not come here?'

Did you visit?

Yes, I visited before Easter, last academic year. I had a look around the accommodation and spoke with someone from the Equalities Office. They advised me about how to go about the Disabled Students' Allowances application.

Did you go to any other universities?

I didn't visit any other universities. I was hoping to but the times were not appropriate. When it was the Open Day I was on work experience and I couldn't attend.

Why did you choose Salford over any of the other universities?

Firstly, having spoken to everyone, I thought the teachers were quite nice and I had heard nice things about the university. The particular course that I wanted to do was exactly the one. Other universities had similar courses but not the same. So I chose this university because it had the exact course that I wanted to do.

On the UCAS application form where they ask about disability, were you happy about disclosing at that stage, before you applied?

You just have to put if you have a disability or not.

Were you OK with that?

Yes, because I know that I have problems and need things to make me level with other people. I have to let people know about my disability, I'm not afraid of that.

When they said to come for the Open Day, you must have got some information about the Equalities Office, is that right?


What stuff did they send you?

Just general information about how to apply for the Disabled Students Allowance and things like that.

Was it them that contacted you to go and visit them at the Open Day?

The college were in contact with the university and they sent it to the Learning Support Officer who passed it on to me.

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On the course

When you first got to university, in the first induction week, how was induction for you? Did you get any support or were you just left to your own devices?

I think there was some support when I was enrolling for university, but mainly I was on my own.

Why was that? Was it because you hadn't got any support sorted out through DSAs?

I was still waiting for the DSA to be accepted. I had to wait for that before I could arrange the support.

How did you find your way about that first week or so?

I think the buildings are quite close together and when I got the induction week timetable, which was sent to my home, I got my brothers and sisters to help me to look where the buildings were on the map. So I knew where I was going before I came. That helped I think, so that I wasn't completely lost.

You didn't need too much orientation to the environment to look around?


When you did your report with Access Summit for the DSA - have you had an assessment of support needs?


What things did it recommend in that report?

Things like note takers and help in practicals and help in libraries and with technical equipment, like computers.

Which bits of those support have you actually got in place at the university?

I have got a note taker already. I'm getting a new timetable at the start of the semester and I'll give them that and then I should be OK.

Are going to have somebody in the lectures?

Yes. Then I have to speak to them about practicals.

What have you been doing in the first lectures?

Most lecturers give slides out and I have spoken to lecturers to ask them to put just one slide on a page so I know what's going on.

You get them before the lecture, do you?

I go before the lecture starts and they give all students lecture slides, but I spoke with the lecturer to just print one slide on one page. Other students get six on a page.

Like the PowerPoint thing that they give out.


Have you been taping lectures?


You don't find that useful.

I've never actually done it. People say that it is useful, but I don't know. I would have to try.

Are you used to having a note taker now?


Obviously you do a lot of stuff on the computer. How do you access that? Do you have any specialist software at all?

I've got narrator software which speaks wherever your mouse button is and I use that when I am working so that it reads back whatever I have written down, and then if I realise I have written something I shouldn't have I can delete it and make corrections.

Does that work, it's called 'Narrator' did you say?

Yes it works with Windows XP.

Is it part of that package then, is it quite new because I've never heard of it before?

Windows XP is the latest package to be released.

And does it have that Narrator software?

Yes it is part of Windows software that they have just released. Normally you have to buy it separately, but it is built in to the latest software.

Do you have to do any coding or any programming at all on your course?


Does the software work with that as well?

I don't know because the programming is normally done in the computer labs and it is only on the computer in my room at home. I've got the program up and running on my computer but I haven't actually done any programming.

Are OK in the labs. You don't have any enlargement software on the screen?


You don't have the speech feedback?


Are there any difficulties then? Does it take you a bit longer to do things than other students?

Yes, I have to take my time to make sure I've done it correctly.

What were you doing your coding in?

We're using Visual Basic and we just handed our portfolios in.

That must be quite difficult because you have got to check what you have put on the screen once you have run the Visual Basic program, through the editor, but you don't think you need any enlargement software or anything like that? I suppose it would be difficult to put it in all the different labs, wouldn't it?

I would think so. What I normally do is I do it and check it, and if I run it and it doesn't work I get someone else to check it for me to make sure I have done it correctly, to avoid mistakes. I always try to double check what I'm doing.

You talked about practicals, laboratory work, what does that entail on your course? Tell me about what things you might have to do in a laboratory.

This semester we are using IT which has portfolio work and we work on that during the practical session. We've had to do things like design our own website and things like that. That takes a bit of time because you have to make sure it's done correctly.

How would an assistant work with you on that?

What would happen is I would perhaps produce the work first of all, then they would check that I had done it in the correct format and things like that. If there is anything wrong then I'd do it again.

Have you done anything like that before? Did you do it on your NVQ course - work with an assistant in that way?

Yes, because normally when I have worked before they check my work and they say to me, 'That's not right,' and things like that. That's generally how I work.

It's going to be quite difficult because if you are doing a website and the HTML isn't running properly it might not be an error because you haven't checked it right. It might be that you have not written it right because you didn't understand it. I suppose the person will have to be quite knowledgeable about what is going on.

Yes, that can be a problem.

I suppose you are just going to have to try it, aren't you?

Yes, I'm going to have to see what happens.

How much support have you had off the lecturers on the course?

I think they're quite...you can contact them if you are struggling with anything. They understand that there are people that have problems and they are quite approachable. I feel that I can contact any lecturer if I have any problems with the work.

Are they OK in terms of their lecturing style and being able to hear them and so on?

Yes, because in the modern lecture theatre they have microphones, so that is quite good. I am going to get a radio aid quite soon. I've ordered it and I'm waiting for it to arrive now. That will be one-to-one communication, so that will be quite good.

Have you informed them that they might have to wear these radio aids?

I think the Equalities Office mentioned it to them. If not I'll have to mention it again.

Have you used one before?

Yes I used one at high school.

Do you do group work on your course?

Yeah, quite a lot.

And how did you find the other students reacted to you?

Because we have been doing a big project working with 2nd and 3rd years and they have been quite helpful. I think it works OK.

You seem quite independent in a lot of ways, you manage to get around and study without much support.

Yes, I like to keep my own independence. Sometimes people say to me I'm too independent. I want to be independent I don't want to lose my independence. That's my main thing I understand that sometimes I'm going to need some help , so I tend not to feel bad about it. It's important to know when to ask for help.

Now that you are at university there is a substantial amount of reading to do compared to school or college. What strategies to you use to cope with this?

I'll probably read for an hour and a half then take half an hour break and then do another hour.

How does your vision affect reading? Do you need enlargement?

Yes it has to be a least 18 point for me to read it and I will hold it quite close up.

Do you have to have everything photocopied large then?

What normally happens is we find sections that are required then we enlarge them, that part of the book rather than the whole book.

Do you get assistance with that then?

I know I should get library assistance but I don't know if it covers photocopying.

Are you in contact with a specific librarian?

I have spoken to library staff and they have shown me around, they're quite helpful it's quite a big library.

You get a DSA don't you?

I've been accepted for one, and I've received the technical equipment but the support is about to start soon hopeful. I got a normal computer with large screen monitor and special Narrator software.

Do you do all your assignments on it.

Yes I have always done them word processed apart from one. Handwriting would slow me down a lot. I am slow when having to write neatly I have to concentrate hard. It would slow me down yes.

It would be difficult in lectures taking notes?

Yes because by the time I was finishing one point the lecturer would have moved onto another and then I'd miss that point.

Are the handout usually helpful.

Yes they are quite good. We can usually use them when we look back over them.

Do you think the support is good at Salford University?

I think it is quite good I like the place and I am enjoying myself so far. I get on with the lecturers and students. I think the support will be ok it's just a case of implementing it now. It was just a slow process, generally I think I have done OK.

Who would you go to if you had a problem?

First of all I would go to talk to my personal tutor and he would suggest where to go. It's important to know where to go if you have a problem.

Is there any adaptations to your halls of residence?

My room has it own toilet and bathroom but that's it. Everything is quite close on the campus. That was one of the things I looked at quite closely before I came, because obviously there are problems, I can't cross any major roads.

I go home at the weekends to visit my parents. My dad picks me up.

Do you travel on the trains much?

Not really, I'm meant to be getting some training to show me where everything is but that is going to start in January. I might consider it then. I can't travel on my own so obviously I'm not completely independent, you have to balance things out, I know I need to some help in certain places where I know I can't cope on my own, so it's a case of having to know what your boundaries are I think.

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Do you get any extra time in exams?

Yes normally the papers are enlarged. My English I got someone to write it because my spelling isn't very good because of my sight. I dictate what I want and they write it. I think that's the way they are going to do it here as well. And I think I will get about 50% extra time.

What about assignments, do you get extra time for those?

What I was told when I started was if I have any problems I can get extra time for my assignments, but not normally no.

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Do you do a placement on your course?

Hopefully yes.

Have you had experience of working for a business?

Yes when I was on a previous course I did 4 weeks work experience. I was working at Sweet Dreams in Burnley and I was working alongside the Personnel department on wage slips, calculating how much they get paid.

Was that IT work or was it done by hand?

Know you used a calculator and did it by hand?

What career would you like to go onto?

I'd like to go onto software development or something like that.

Do you think there might be any problems finding a company that would be able to support you?

That would be a difficulty but hopefully we will be able to find a company at the end of the second year and work with them to sort out the problems. Hopefully they would be understanding.

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Three tips for lecturers

What three tips would you give to lecturing staff that would help you?

To speak clearly because sometimes they don't speak really clearly. Always enlarge handouts because sometimes they forget to give me the enlargements. Then you have to wait until it has been done to be able to read what has gone on. It can be delayed. Be more understanding because sometimes people don't understand what you are trying to explain. For example, I was working o a programme and I asked one assistant and he told me to put them on a particular form and then another assistant said I should have put them in word and then into the programme. I like consistency so I know what's going on it can be quite confusing sometimes.

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