Leeds Disabled Student Network: “We’re here to support anyone who needs support”

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Last year, the Gryphon reported on the founding of the Leeds Disabled Student Network. However, a year on, and due to COVID related setbacks, they are still yet to be fully recognised as a society. As a result, they are yet to receive any funding and small things such as setting up a Zoom call through which they can do society socials are impossible. 

Nonetheless, they are still active through social media and want students to know that they are there for those who need them. The Gryphon caught up the society president and founder Emeline Gilhooley to find out how they plan to continue supporting students despite the struggles.

This month, the society have been working to raise awareness about brain tumours on social media. They have been posting about charities as well as informing people on the possible symptoms. 

This is a personal topic for Emeline who, in 2018, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. When the tumour turned out to be cancerous, Emeline was forced to take a year out of university. It was upon her return that she began seeking out support and looking for other people who had had similar experience.

While she recognises the excellent work the University’s disability services do, she found that the social side was lacking – due to confidentiality rules there was no way for her to contact other students with similar experiences. After doing some research, she found that most other universities had some kind of network. It was this that inspired her to found the Disabled Student Network.

The main aim of the society is to connect disabled students to one another. Furthermore, they are currently planning a careers panel to talk about disability within employability and they are seeking to do work around making campus more accessible. A long term goal is for them to be able to work on activism but currently their main focus is establishing themselves as a society.

Emeline explains how there was a similar society prior to her joining the university but it was shut down due to a lack of interest. She believes societies such as these are essential for many students and is calling on the Union for more support.

Unable to receive funding and currently not visible on the LUU website, they are somewhat stuck in a limbo state. However, the main message is: they are there for anyone who needs support.