May 27th, 2021
Over the course of this month we’ve shared a series of blogs from alumni reflecting on this year’s theme of ‘Disability: Finding our way’.
The alumni have been kind enough to share their experiences of living with a disability whilst studying at Nottingham, how they found transitioning to and from university life and their career journeys to-date, along with their advice to inspire and support for current students and staff.
The last blog in this series has been written by alumnus, Thomas Lamb.
Tom graduated from Nottingham in 2016 with a BSc in Physiotherapy and in 2020 with an MSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine. He is a member of the England Partially Sighted Football Squad, the current world silver medallists, and is training for the World Championships in 2023. Alongside this, Tom is also a Senior Physiotherapist at a private sports injury clinic.
In this blog, Tom shares his experiences of the benefits of utilising the disability support services at the university to excel academically and as an elite athlete, along with his life after graduation and his advice for current students and staff.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tom and this month’s other alumni contributors – Agata Cienciala, Aymun Khan and Molly O’Brien – for sharing their stories with us, and we hope that staff and students alike have benefitted from learning about their experiences.
“I’m Tom, and, firstly, I am proud to be University of Nottingham alumni!
“I was born visually impaired with an optic nerve defect in my left eye leaving me blind in one eye, as well as having nystagmus in both eyes meaning that I am visually impaired. As a result of this, I have had the honour of representing England 40 times in Partially Sighted Football and, as a squad, we are the current world silver medallists. Having this responsibility as an elite athlete, I do tend to spend a lot of time training.”
“Professionally, I am currently working as Physiotherapist for a private sports injury clinic, and I have previous experience of working in the NHS and professional football.
“Throughout my time at Nottingham, I had outstanding support from staff, friends and family. From an academic perspective, thanks to my tutors and disability support staff, I was made aware and subsequently had all the necessary arrangements and support networks available to me for all exams and placements. In a sporting context, I had all constant support from Hannah Webber (the University’s Disability Sport Officer) throughout my masters year to ensure I had everything I needed to perform for Nottingham and England.
“I did encounter a number of challenges whilst at Nottingham, particularly first-time round; having to navigate around new city, having to explain to brand new groups of people about my disability and how it can affect me, and having to adjust to the demands of academic workload and sport, whilst factoring in that I probably couldn’t complete my work at the same speed as able-bodied individuals. All these challenges were halved and made easier by student services, disability officers, friends, teammates and peers.”
“Since leaving Nottingham, the world came to a standstill, like it has for everybody else currently. I am trying to overcome the unique challenges we have all faced globally over the past 18 months, but feeling optimistic and excited about a return to a form of normality.
“From a football perspective, I am hard at work preparing for the World Championships in 2023 and I’m really enjoying playing and training hard in the gym again.
“Work has been challenging since beginning in September and working right the way through the pandemic, but I have been grateful for having a focus and a opportunity to do my bit to support the National Health Service and people in need of Physiotherapy during the pandemic. My employers have been very accommodating and supportive of my visual impairment since starting; from adjusting the arrangements of the room to suit my line of vision when having consultations with patients, to allowing for extra admin time, making the transition into a new working environment, much easier.”
“My advice to Nottingham students living with a disability would be to firstly understand what services you have available to you before doing your best utilise them to maximise your potential – whether that’s academically, through sport or socially.
“My advice to staff would be to make time to understand how each person’s disability affects them because each person will be completely unique, even if they have the same disability. Don’t be afraid to ask us questions.”
Further information about the university’s Disability Support Services Team, our specialist service providing student-led support to enable disabled students to flourish as independent learners, is available here: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/StudentServices/Servicedetails/Disability-Support-Services/Disability-Support-Services.aspx
Find out more about inclusive sport at Nottingham here: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/sport/inclusivesport/index.aspx
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