Disabled and thinking about dropping out of Oxford?

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cassiabark
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#1
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#1
Hi, I'm a first year English student at Oxford and I'm thinking about dropping out. It's really difficult to describe everything that's going on but, basically, I have a few long-standing health conditions that mean I'm physically disabled and have mobility issues, and it flares up when I've overexerted myself- so I have my good and my bad days. I knew going to Oxford would be tough, but I've had my disability for as long as I can remember, and I got through GCSEs and A-levels (with admittedly some difficulty) but I'm smart and the one thing I've ever been good at is academics. Besides this, I've wanted to go to Oxford to study English since I was eleven, and I'd always thought it was the only place I could go to achieve what I wanted- to become a famous academic, or big-time lexicographer etc. etc. The point is I was possibly delusional.

Anyway, before I arrived I set up all my disability stuff, getting into contact with the Disability service, ordering my disability equipment, contacting the Oxford disability service, contacting multiple people at my college, registering with the GP here. It seemed like everything was going to be okay. When I arrived, I found that I had received my ground floor room which I had requested due to my disability, but the only kitchen available in my building was on the 2nd floor, up a very steep and spiral staircase. Due to severe allergies, I can't eat in hall, and I have a mini-fridge in my room, but no other kitchen appliances are allowed. The first week I fainted because I couldn't get upstairs to my kitchen to make myself meals. (I should clarify that I can use stairs but only when I'm having a good day, and even then I have to stop to have multiple breaks when I'm using them + it is extremely painful and tiring.)

I realised that I would have to start hoarding food and cutlery in my room, so I did, and everything was going okay-ish, until my this week- I had a bad flare-up and am unable to leave my room. This has been going for 3 days, I ran out of food and can't go shopping, so I have had to ration out my food, I stopped having breakfast and am having two slices of bread with brown sauce for lunch and dinner everyday. I'm so hungry and can't even wash myself, let alone my laundry- so I'm rapidly running out of clothes too. The thing is, I would be able to feed myself if the kitchen was on the ground floor. I can't even begin to describe how humiliating and degrading it is to live like this. I have cried the last few days more than I ever have in my life. I also only just came off my antidepressants this summer, and I'm worried that these few weeks here will cause me to relapse into depression.

Before this week, I contacted the disability service at Oxford to say my accommodation is not accessible and to tell them about some issues I'd already faced- not going into too much detail, but I had my disability equipment delivered and couldn't carry it myself to my room, I asked a porter for help, told him I was disabled, and he refused and told me to carry it in two trips. Anyway, the woman at the disability service told me to effectively 'try harder to find a kitchen on the ground floor'. There are ground floor kitchens in college, but they are in different buildings which I don't have access to ( I literally don't have a key for them, and even if I did, they are so full with about 15 people to one kitchen that I couldn't keep my stuff in there anyway). So I'm getting a real sense that Oxford is not accessible and is actively unhelpful towards disabled people. I have booked an appointment with the person in charge of welfare for Monday, and I'm going to tell them about everything, and hope that they can maybe move me? But honestly, I have no hope, because there is only one accessible room in college and I think it's already in use and has no access to kitchen facilities anyway.

It really looks like I'm going to have to drop out. But I'm so conflicted. Despite all this, and the fact that I kind of hate it here because of everything I've experienced and the fact that I've not met many nice people, I love my course. There's a lot of work but before this week I was ahead of everyone else, because I love the work- it's amazing. The English is everything I ever dreamed it would be. But I can't enjoy it, because I am becoming more and more depressed the longer I'm stuck in my room. I know I'll get better, but when I have my next flare up, I can't imagine doing this again.

I've been crying over FaceTime to my parents all week. I've told them that I'm suffering and they've offered to come down to buy me shopping but they live 2-3 hours away, so I can't do that. Them coming down would only be proof that I can't stay here. If it was any other university I would have dropped out by now, but I feel like I have to see I through, even though I can't imagine staying here another week let alone another three years, because everyone's so proud of me. All my family, teachers, neighbours, even the local newspaper- they all told me how proud they were and how they knew I would get in, how they just know I'm going to go on and do a masters then a phd. I feel so unbelievably ashamed and guilty because I am not able to live up to the person they think I am. Mostly though I've let down myself, and I hate myself for that.

I honestly don't know what to do. I've never been more lost in my life. Do I stay here and suffer, not bering able to look after myself, eventually falling behind on work and getting more and more depressed? Or do I leave, having no plan for the future, no idea what to do with my life, no friends, no motivation, having let everyone and myself down, but able to look after myself?

If anyone has any advice, any idea on what to do next, or if anyone has ever been in a similar situation, please reply. Thank you so much.
Last edited by cassiabark; 1 month ago
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Plagioclase
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#2
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#2
What you're describing is appalling. You are right to be escalating this and it would be a disgrace if you were forced to leave the university as a result of them failing to make adjustments for your disability (which I assume they were already aware of since you have a DSA). When you say you booked an appointment with the person in charge of welfare, who specifically, your college's dean of welfare?
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cassiabark
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#3
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
What you're describing is appalling. You are right to be escalating this and it would be a disgrace if you were forced to leave the university as a result of them failing to make adjustments for your disability (which I assume they were already aware of since you have a DSA). When you say you booked an appointment with the person in charge of welfare, who specifically, your college's dean of welfare?
I booked an appointment with the College Chaplain, who's on the welfare team- another disabled student told me to go see her. The disability service told me to go talk to my college disability coordinator but I have no idea who it is.
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Audrieee
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#4
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wow girl you’re so strong. I hope everything gets fixed for you.
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Plagioclase
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#5
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(Original post by cassiabark)
I booked an appointment with the College Chaplain, who's on the welfare team- another disabled student told me to go see her. The disability service told me to go talk to my college disability coordinator but I have no idea who it is.
Okay, this sounds like the right person to escalate this to. If you want to PM me your college (I'm a postgrad at St Anne's) I can see if I can find out who your college's disability coordinator is, although the college chaplain should be in a position to help too. Hopefully they will be able to help you but if not, keep escalating this - it sounds like you are 100% in the right.
Last edited by Plagioclase; 1 month ago
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Muttley79
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#6
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(Original post by cassiabark)
Hi, I'm a first year English student at Oxford and I'm thinking about dropping out. It's really difficult to describe everything that's going on but, basically, I have a few long-standing health conditions that mean I'm physically disabled and have mobility issues, and it flares up when I've overexerted myself- so I have my good and my bad days. I knew going to Oxford would be tough, but I've had my disability for as long as I can remember, and I got through GCSEs and A-levels (with admittedly some difficulty) but I'm smart and the one thing I've ever been good at is academics. Besides this, I've wanted to go to Oxford to study English since I was eleven, and I'd always thought it was the only place I could go to achieve what I wanted- to become a famous academic, or big-time lexicographer etc. etc. The point is I was possibly delusional.

Anyway, before I arrived I set up all my disability stuff, getting into contact with the Disability service, ordering my disability equipment, contacting the Oxford disability service, contacting multiple people at my college, registering with the GP here. It seemed like everything was going to be okay. When I arrived, I found that I had received my ground floor room which I had requested due to my disability, but the only kitchen available in my building was on the 2nd floor, up a very steep and spiral staircase. Due to severe allergies, I can't eat in hall, and I have a mini-fridge in my room, but no other kitchen appliances are allowed. The first week I fainted because I couldn't get upstairs to my kitchen to make myself meals. (I should clarify that I can use stairs but only when I'm having a good day, and even then I have to stop to have multiple breaks when I'm using them + it is extremely painful and tiring.)

I realised that I would have to start hoarding food and cutlery in my room, so I did, and everything was going okay-ish, until my this week- I had a bad flare-up and am unable to leave my room. This has been going for 3 days, I ran out of food and can't go shopping, so I have had to ration out my food, I stopped having breakfast and am having two slices of bread with brown sauce for lunch and dinner everyday. I'm so hungry and can't even wash myself, let alone my laundry- so I'm rapidly running out of clothes too. The thing is, I would be able to feed myself if the kitchen was on the ground floor. I can't even begin to describe how humiliating and degrading it is to live like this. I have cried the last few days more than I ever have in my life. I also only just came off my antidepressants this summer, and I'm worried that these few weeks here will cause me to relapse into depression.

Before this week, I contacted the disability service at Oxford to say my accommodation is not accessible and to tell them about some issues I'd already faced- not going into too much detail, but I had my disability equipment delivered and couldn't carry it myself to my room, I asked a porter for help, told him I was disabled, and he refused and told me to carry it in two trips. Anyway, the woman at the disability service told me to effectively 'try harder to find a kitchen on the ground floor'. There are ground floor kitchens in college, but they are in different buildings which I don't have access to ( I literally don't have a key for them, and even if I did, they are so full with about 15 people to one kitchen that I couldn't keep my stuff in there anyway). So I'm getting a real sense that Oxford is not accessible and is actively unhelpful towards disabled people. I have booked an appointment with the person in charge of welfare for Monday, and I'm going to tell them about everything, and hope that they can maybe move me? But honestly, I have no hope, because there is only one accessible room in college and I think it's already in use and has no access to kitchen facilities anyway.

It really looks like I'm going to have to drop out. But I'm so conflicted. Despite all this, and the fact that I kind of hate it here because of everything I've experienced and the fact that I've not met many nice people, I love my course. There's a lot of work but before this week I was ahead of everyone else, because I love the work- it's amazing. The English is everything I ever dreamed it would be. But I can't enjoy it, because I am becoming more and more depressed the longer I'm stuck in my room. I know I'll get better, but when I have my next flare up, I can't imagine doing this again.

I've been crying over FaceTime to my parents all week. I've told them that I'm suffering and they've offered to come down to buy me shopping but they live 2-3 hours away, so I can't do that. Them coming down would only be proof that I can't stay here. If it was any other university I would have dropped out by now, but I feel like I have to see I through, even though I can't imagine staying here another week let alone another three years, because everyone's so proud of me. All my family, teachers, neighbours, even the local newspaper- they all told me how proud they were and how they knew I would get in, how they just know I'm going to go on and do a masters then a phd. I feel so unbelievably ashamed and guilty because I am not able to live up to the person they think I am. Mostly though I've let down myself, and I hate myself for that.

I honestly don't know what to do. I've never been more lost in my life. Do I stay here and suffer, not bering able to look after myself, eventually falling behind on work and getting more and more depressed? Or do I leave, having no plan for the future, no idea what to do with my life, no friends, no motivation, having let everyone and myself down, but able to look after myself?

If anyone has any advice, any idea on what to do next, or if anyone has ever been in a similar situation, please reply. Thank you so much.
I am shocked at the lack of interest in supporting you - get in touch with student union and student welfare - what they are doing to you is DISCRIMINATORY and illegal. If nothing improves fthen go to the press and get your parents involved and your MP. You deserve the Oxford place and they should be ashamed that they are not supporting you.

The_Lonely_Goatherd have you any advice?
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cassiabark
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#7
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#7
(Original post by Plagioclase)
Okay, this sounds like the right person to escalate this to. If you want to PM me your college (I'm a postgrad at St Anne's) I can see if I can find out who your college's disability coordinator is, although the college chaplain should be in a position to help to. Hopefully they will be able to help you but if not, keep escalating this - you are 100% in the right.
Thank you so much for replying. I genuinely felt like I was going crazy or making a big deal out of nothing and that I was just not coping. I'm going to email the chaplain again now and ask for the name of the disability coordinator in the meantime.
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cassiabark
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#8
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(Original post by Muttley79)
I am shocked at the lack of interest in supporting you - get in touch with student union and student welfare - what they are doing to you is DISCRIMINATORY and illegal. If nothing improves fthen go to the press and get your parents involved and your MP. You deserve the Oxford place and they should be ashamed that they are not supporting you.

The_Lonely_Goatherd have you any advice?
I know that's what I'll have to do if it ends up going nowhere after my appointment on Monday, but I'm so scared and angry and tired. I want to stay but I don't know if I can live in a place like this any longer. It's hardly the first ableist thing too happen to me, but I'm not at home and I'm so alone and I don't know if I have the energy to stand up for myself. Thank you for being angry on my behalf though, it's nice to know that I'm not upset over nothing.
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Muttley79
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#9
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(Original post by cassiabark)
I know that's what I'll have to do if it ends up going nowhere after my appointment on Monday, but I'm so scared and angry and tired. I want to stay but I don't know if I can live in a place like this any longer. It's hardly the first ableist thing too happen to me, but I'm not at home and I'm so alone and I don't know if I have the energy to stand up for myself. Thank you for being angry on my behalf though, it's nice to know that I'm not upset over nothing.
I'm a teacher and if you were one of my ex-students I'd be there tomorrow giving them 'h*ll' - how dare they make you feel like this!
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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#10
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#10
Hi,

Replying in haste/briefly, as I won't be able to reply properly 'til tomorrow afternoon.

Am so angry (albeit not entirely shocked) by what you are being put through. It's very alarming and - as pointed out - illegal.

Please do let me know if I can help in any way (am a Worcester College alumna). It's totally understandable to not be sure if you have the energy to fight - and you shouldn't have to be fighting in the first place :mad:

Please don't put yourself through hell on earth for the sake of other people's pride in/opinions of you. It's sort of what I did and it doesn't end well...

Will reply more tomorrow x
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brjf
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#11
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#11
Yeah no this is absolutely atrocious, do not drop out but sue the uni to kingdom come for this
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azby1098
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#12
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My god, i am so so sorry you are going through this

Wait until you have your meeting and don’t drop out - you may be able to ‘rusticate’ which means to re start next October, and maybe between now and the new academic year you can organise accommodation with your college which is more accessible and works with your needs? Not sure what else to say, but if you need to rant please feel free to PM me, more than happy to be a listening ear
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skylark2
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#13
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What a horrible situation to be in. I'm so sorry.

I had a few disjointed thoughts...

where is your tutor in all of this? He/she should be able to kick up a massive fuss and get you made a priority.

is the college actually aware that you can't use the supplied catering _at all_ so you are literally starving? Or are they thinking that you're making a fuss because sometimes you can't make yourself a snack when it would be convenient?

"there is only one accessible room in college and I think it's already in use and has no access to kitchen facilities anyway"

The problem is going to be that they can't magic accessible self-catered accommodation which doesn't exist. Were you under the impression that it did exist - was it a factor in your choice of college? What are you expecting them to do?

I mean, I would expect the normal accommodation to be suitable food supplied in hall.
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Cote1
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#14
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I hope that you can make use of the help offered on here. Also, are your parents able to help you advocate? This is very concerning. Don't drop out. There are probably also organisations around who can give free legal advice to get some action.
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Cote1
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#15
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I am definitely no expert in this area but I imagine the Equality Act 2010 applies here. The Act is there for a reason. It may help to refer to it as the situation you are in is completely unacceptable.
You can also get advice from this organisation I think.

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/...dation-finding

This is worth reading too.
https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/a...abled-students

There is a helpline.
https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/h...dents-helpline
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Cote1
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#16
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It must seem overwhelming. It is hard to fight your own battles sometimes. Please access the support offered on here if you feel able to. Also, are there additional people who can help you make calls and write emails if you need it, like relatives and friends?
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cassiabark
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#17
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(Original post by Cote1)
It must seem overwhelming. It is hard to fight your own battles sometimes. Please access the support offered on here if you feel able to. Also, are there additional people who can help you make calls and write emails if you need it, like relatives and friends?
Hi, thank you for all your help. My parents can help me with all the legal stuff and serious emails, and they’re coming down next weekend to pick me up regardless of what happens. I don’t want to make any rash decisions yet but I may have to drop out- I know I deserve to be here and can do the work, but I can’t do that without support- my body physically cannot. If I do have to drop out because of my disability, I will kick up a fuss first.
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cassiabark
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#18
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#18
(Original post by skylark2)
What a horrible situation to be in. I'm so sorry.

I had a few disjointed thoughts...

where is your tutor in all of this? He/she should be able to kick up a massive fuss and get you made a priority.

is the college actually aware that you can't use the supplied catering _at all_ so you are literally starving? Or are they thinking that you're making a fuss because sometimes you can't make yourself a snack when it would be convenient?

"there is only one accessible room in college and I think it's already in use and has no access to kitchen facilities anyway"

The problem is going to be that they can't magic accessible self-catered accommodation which doesn't exist. Were you under the impression that it did exist - was it a factor in your choice of college? What are you expecting them to do?

I mean, I would expect the normal accommodation to be suitable food supplied in hall.
Hi, I just found out that the disability service hasn’t even told my tutors I’m disabled and the support plan they were supposed to have ready in september, which I organised over the phone and via email, is still not ready, and the details on it are wrong.

I was given a mini fridge in my room, and I managed to leave my room to go shopping yesterday but could only carry a few things so I luckily now have a few bits of food. But they won’t last long. I have tried to email the welfare team over the weekend to say “this is kind of urgent” and they basically said “okay well the earliest I’m free is on monday, you can tell me then”. So even though I told the disability service I was struggling, it seems to me like they’ve not bothered to pass it on, and for the college I’m just not a priority, even if they don’t know the full extent of it yet.

Also I didn’t choose my College, I was pooled here. I originally chose a more accessible college. When I was pooled here, it was a genuine concern with regards to accommodation but I had numerous phone calls with the college and they assured me I would get an accessible room (i.e a disabled room not just one on the ground floor)- they never mentioned there was only one room, I only recently found that out. Also the Hall itself is up a flight of stairs so it is inaccessible for disabled people anyway.

And while I know they can’t manage to magic up accessible accommodation, if there is more than one disabled person that chooses or is allocated to the college, and I suspect there is more than one disabled person here, who gets the one room? The issue is the college isn’t accessible in the first place but they go around saying they are.

I spoke to another disabled student here and She moved to the second and third year buildings which are further out in her first year, having had to rusticate a week in, because the on-site college accommodation was not accessible. But she wasn’t physically disabled and could walk into the city.

Honestly I have no idea what I’m hoping for. I think they will have no solution for me and they’ll give one that will just provide new problems for me. At the very least I’m going to rusticate because my body can’t handle much longer like this, but I suspect that the same thing would happen next year if I came back.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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#19
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#19
(Original post by cassiabark)
Hi, thank you for all your help. My parents can help me with all the legal stuff and serious emails, and they’re coming down next weekend to pick me up regardless of what happens. I don’t want to make any rash decisions yet but I may have to drop out- I know I deserve to be here and can do the work, but I can’t do that without support- my body physically cannot. If I do have to drop out because of my disability, I will kick up a fuss first.
I will write more at length later, but I'd recommend doing a FOI (Freedom of Information) request to get access to any emails that may have be sent about you between staff at college/college and disability, etc.

I would def recommend cutting your losses and getting out of Oxford by dropping out - as you say, even if they provide a solution to this somehow (which I doubt they would in a proper/sensible manner, tbh) there are systemic issues at play and other problems will no doubt crop up over the next few years. There is no shame in dropping out and doing what is best for your health :nah: It is a great shame and you should def kick up a fuss if you feel able to, but don't hang in there doggedly to the detriment of your health :nah:

Solidarity with you!
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Cote1
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#20
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#20
This is all disappointing to hear. I would hope more support would be offered to students with a disability. I would try hard for a solution which does not involve being forced to drop out unless you want to drop out and try a university which will deal more appropriately (and, from what you say, legally) with your needs.
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