URN Interviews: Emma Collins

23rd June 2015

Earlier this year, as a part of the Pulse’s investigation into the experience facing Students with Disabilities at the University of Nottingham, we spoke to UoN Student and GB Para-Rower, Emma Collins, about an experience she faced at Freshers Tent last September.

Emma, who suffers from multiple disabilities, was told that she couldn’t join the UoN Rowing Squad due to her disability, and she spoke to URN News Editor – Samuel Boyle – about her story:

Sam: Emma, I know when you joined the University of Nottingham that you tried to join the UoN Rowing squads – what happened there?

Emma: I went up to the stall at Freshers Fair and told them my situation, because I suffer from multiple disabilities, which is to be fair something that is not easy to deal with, but the people on the stand were not terribly helpful – they said, flat out, ‘we don’t deal with disabilities’.

Sam: And were you shocked by that?

Emma: I wasn’t shocked – I was a little surprised, and a little hurt, but its something as a disabled person that you will unfortunately get used to. I just think there wasn’t enough awareness training going on – which is no ones fault, it’s just the way it is.

Sam: Do you think the Rowing Club had [recieved] enough support, or knew how to deal with the situation?

Emma: Not at all – I know that everyone’s a student and its all run by students, but a little awarenss training would go a long way.

Sam: And in your view, when you approached them that day at Fresher’s Fair, they didn’t have a clue how to deal with the situation?

Emma: Not a clue, its not their fault – obviously it just hadn’t crossed anyones mind that there might be a para-rower one day.

Sam: Did you know where to go to after that if you wanted to carry on doing rowing at the University of Nottingham – and maybe participating in BUCS?

Emma: I did do a lot of Googling, and eventually got into contact with Hannah Webber who was fantastically helpful.

Sam: So the facilities and support provided by UoN Sport are…?

Emma: Really good

Sam: How did that make you feel and what impression did it give you of the University?>

Emma: I was a little surprised and a little hurt, but I dismissed it as one small glitch.

Sam: So perhaps some of the students at the University of Nottingham, some of the societies, some of the clubs, could be more informed?

Emma: Yes

Sam: And that’s something you think the Students Union should be working towards?

Emma: Yes

Sam: Going back to when you first joined the University, what support did you recieve from an Academic level and a sporting one?

Emma: On a sporting level, not a lot…

Sam: … so you weren’t just given the information, you had to go and find it?

Emma: Yes, I had to search for it but its fairly easy to find. And from an academic level, disability support have been really fantastic and really helpful.

Sam: What sort of support do Disability Support provide you with?

Emma: They helped me do by Disabled Students Allowance application and they’ve been very good about interpreters, note takers and various other support mechanisms.

Sam: Are there any major difficulties that your disability means you’ve had whilst you’ve been studying at UoN?

Emma: I have major damage to my shoulder, so carrying books can be a challenge but I get the hang of it.

Sam: But the facilities and support that’s available here has been sufficient?

Emma: It’s been sufficient, there are of course a few glitches – but we’re slowly learning.

Sam: And are any of those glitches particularly troubling that the University should be looking at?

Emma: I do find it a bit annoying that people try and telephone me to discuss how deaf I am – but it’s as good as one can realistically expect and I’m very happy with it all.

Sam: Let’s talk a little bit about the fact you’ve been talent spotted and are now a part of the GB Para-Rowing Community. What was that like when you first found out about that?

Emma: To say I was surprised [would be an] understatement and I had to check several times that they did mean me and they hadn’t e-mailed me as some sort of prank! Once I’d just about believed it, it was really exciting. At the time of my scouting, Rio was a possibility, but now it’s a little less likely so right now I’ve set my sights very realistically on Tokyo.

Sam: And do you think it’s a shame that the University of Nottingham isn’t going to have a Para-Rower whose on the GB squad representing them in BUCS – would you have liked that opportunity?

Emma: The opportunity would have been nice, but it’s turned out very well and I’m happy the way things are.

You can also listen to the interview, in full, below:

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