Change text size:

Choose Style:

Patchworktogether Spotlight: Ben’s Story

Patchworktogether Spotlight: Ben’s Story

We spoke to Ben Barrett, a student who worked as his Oxford college’s student disability representative. Read Ben’s story to find out more about disability in the world of academia.


“For students about to enter university, the number one piece of advice I have is to get in touch with the university beforeyou arrive. Whatever your situation, this will make everything so much easier,and you won’t have to struggle through fresher’s week or your first term without the support you need.”


Tell us a bit about your experience living with a disability. How does it affect your day to day life and your time at university?

I’ve had severe hearing loss since birth. This is because I was so wriggly in the womb that I strangled myself with my mother’s umbilical cord, cutting off oxygen to my head. My family sometimes joke that the emergency C-section was the only time I’ve ever been early.

Because I’ve always been deaf, I can live with it quite easily from day to day but in specific situations it causes difficulties. I can’t locate sounds or filter between them, which can be distressing and disorientating. Big dinners at long tables, nightclubs and stereo music are all deeply uncomfortable.

Until making the switch to mono I didn’t hear whole sections of some of my favourite songs. I never heard any lines sung by Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody. I had always assumed “little low, little high” was some strange in-joke among Queen fans that I wasn’t party to.

At university, I really, really struggle with listening to lectures and had to get permission from the faculty to record them in case I miss anything (this is usually very easy to get, but talk to your lecturers or faculty before you record anything as copyright can be an issue and lecturers can get very angry if they think you’re just recording so you don’t have to pay attention).

Ben Barrett

“I’m Ben, and I’m going into my third year studying English at Oxford University. In my spare time, I enjoy rowing, drama, writing and debate.”

We would love to hear about your work as your college’s Disability Rep?

When I was a disability representative for my college at Oxford, I served a pastoral role to students, acting as a bridge between them and figures of authority when they needed support on issues from accommodation to addiction. I received emails and texts at all times of day and offered tea and biscuits to (occasionally very distressed) students, trying my best to ensure their situation would not hold them back academically or socially.

I also organised events like a sign-language workshop and a sensory art session, open to all to broaden understanding of the limitations faced by disabled people in everyday life. I advertised disability talks taking place in the wider university.

Finally, in recognition of my work, I was invited to sit on the central university’s outreach and access boards, where I helped to scrutinise and improve the information for disabled students provided in the university prospectus. That year, a whole page was dedicated to disabled students for the first time.


Do you have any advice for people living with a disability similar to your own, either in academia or the world of work or more generally?

For students about to enter university, the number one piece of advice I have is to get in touch with the university before you arrive. Whatever your situation, this will make everything so much easier, and you won’t have to struggle through fresher's week or your first term without the support you need.

I know how hard it is to live without this kind of support, and how crucial this first step is. Send an email as soon as you have an offer so any exam or accommodation requirements can be taken into account from the beginning.

Most universities will have a (very friendly!) Disability Advisory Service who can offer you help even if you’ve never received support before. The government also offers a grant (the Disabled Students’ Allowance) which you don’t have to pay back and which you can use to pay for any equipment you might need.

Once you're there, familiarise yourself with the pastoral support available in case you ever need a listening ear or practical help. You’re not alone, and you deserve to succeed at your course just as much as anyone else.

If you are a prospective or current student, you can apply for Disabled Students’Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs you may have because of a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability.

The front of a building with a queue outside

All Tags
Ability Connect Academy for Disabled Journalists Academy for Disabled SEO Specialists Access2Funding Accessibility Accessibility information Accessibility int he workplace Accessibility ramps Accessible education Accessible locations Accessible places Acid reflux Adaptive fashion Advocacy AI Aleto Foundation All Saints Alt text Aspiring Entrepreneurs with Disability Development Programme Assistive technology Autism Awareness Barriers Beth Kume-Holland Blog Budgeting Bullying BUPA Burnout Business Business Disability Forum Business model creation Business skills Business workshop Businesses Cancer Candidates Captions Cash flow Cerebral palsy Characters Charity Charity sector Chronic pain Closed captions Clothes Clothing Cognitive disabilities Comfort zone Communication Community networks Companies Company Company Corner Company culture Confidence Confucius Consultant Consultation Content creator Content designer Data talent Diagnosis Difference Digital and social media marketing Digital transformation Disabilities Disability advocate Disability advocates Disability and Neurodiversity Network Disability awareness Disability Awareness Training Disability community Disability confident Disability Confident Leader Disability employment Disability inclusion Disability news Disability Policy Centre Disability Pride Disabled Disabled candidates Disabled community Disabled founders Disabled people Disabled People’s Direct Action Network Disabled talent Disabled team Disabled-led Diverse Diverse workforce Diversity Diversity and inclusion Diversity Project Diversity Recruitment Platform Domestic violence Dysfluency ED&I EDDP Education Education and resource platform Employment opportunities Employment platform Empowerment Equality Act 2010 Ethnic minorities Eventbrite Expert teachers Expert training Fashion Fashion industry Fathom Feedback Finances Financial goals Financial planning Financial plans Financial services Financial services sector Flexible work Freelance FTSE 100 Fund management GAIN Game Gaming Gareth Walkom Garment technologist Gastrointestinal conditions Gem Turner Gender Gender Networks Grant Logan Guide dog Healthcare Hidden talent pool Homeworking Hospice UK Compassionate Employers Programme HR Hybrid working Ian MacKenzie Inclusion Inclusive culture Inclusive workforce Inclusivity India Inspiration Intellectual capabilities Interview process Interviews Investments Invisible disabilities Invisible disability Isaac Harvey Isaac Harvey MBE Istituto Marangoni Jack Wills Job descriptions Job interviews Job opportunities Job vacancies Journalism Journalists Learning disability Leeds Leeds trinity university Legislation LGBT Great LGBTQ+ Limb-pelvic hypoplasia LinkedIn LinkedIn influencer Listening service Lloyds Bank London London Fashion Week Long-term health condition Long-term health conditions Mapping days Mark Esho Matt Pierri Maya angelou Meta Metaverse Migrants Motivation Multinational firm Musculoskeletal conditions National Council for the Training of Journalists NCTJ Neurodivergence Neurodivergent Neurodiverse Neurodiversity consultant Neurodiversity space Neurotype Neurotypes New Delhi News Non-disabled founders Non-profit Novos OBS Occupational health Office environment Organisations Partially sighted Partnership Patchworkers People Phase Eight Phone calls Physical disabilities Pirate video games Policy Poverty Presentations Pride Network Primark Processes and systems Professional Women’s Network Progress Together Public speaking Puneet Singh Singhal Race Race and Ethnicity Network Raising awareness Registered blind Remote course Remote education Remote learning Remote work Removing barriers Resilience Revenue streams Rights School Scoliosis Scope Search engine optimisation Selection process Self-employed Self-employment Senior staff Sexuality Shaw trust Shaw trust power 100 list Sign language SJP Small Business Britain Social impact Social mission Social mobility Social-emotional learning Social-emotional learning platform Software Speaking situation Speech differences Speech disabilities Speech impediment Spotlight series Spotlight stories Ssstart St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation Staff Stammer Stammering Stonewall Stories Stuttering Sustainable change Sweaty Betty Target market Tech industry Tech talent TEDx Tesco Think tank Training Underrepresentation Unhidden Unhidden Clothing Universities University of Leicester Vanessa Castañeda Gill Victoria Beckham Video editor Video game Vimeo Violence Virtual reality VR Wealth management Web accessibility Wheels and Wheelchairs Women Work environment Work from home Working conditions Working Families Group Working from home Workplace adjustments Youth Zoom Abc Ability Today Access to work Accessibility in the workplace Accessibility test Accessible work Acting Adhd Adjustments Administrative Adrian lord Advice Advocacy and campaigns Allparty parliamentary group for inclusive entrepreneurship American civil rights movement Android Anglonorman App Artificial intelligence Bad grammar Barriers to work Bbc Benefits Blind persons act Blue badge Blue badge service specialists Care Career Carer Celtic languages Center on everyday lives of families Ceo Cfs Chloe tear Chronic fatigue syndrome Chronic health condition Chronic illness Commodo aute beatae Community Community story Community, community story, founder, feature, accessible work, disability employment gap, making a difference Companies house Compressed hours Computer science Computers Coronavirus Councils Covid19 Crystal mark standard Deaf Design Dialects Dictionary Digital accessibility Disability Disability discrimination act Disability employment gap Disability rights movement Disability services Disabled peoples direct action network Disabled persons employment act Disabled-led organisation Easy read Edit Tag Test 2 Email address Employer Spotlight Employers Employment English English speakers Entrepreneur Entrepreneurship Epilepsy Equality Equality act Equality and diversity Equality of access Esources, disability, disability services, support services, community story, features, adjustments, social support network Esse vero eum nisi a Eugenics Facebook Feature Features Fibromyalgia First world war Flexi Flexible working Flexitime Flextime Founder Francesco cirillo Freelancing French Gcses Gdpr General data protection regulation Good Good grammar Google Government policy Government support Graduate Graduates Grammar Grammar schools Health Health condition Health conditions Hearing impairment Help And Support Tags History History of language Holistic Ico Impact Imposter syndrome Inclusive entrepreneur network Inequalities Inequality Information commissioners office Information governance Instagram Internet Jacqueline winstanley Laborum Magna moles Language Latin Law Learning difficulties Lexicographers Limited company Local councils Local government Making a difference Marketing strategy Mecfs Medical conditions Medical model of disability Medical vs social models of disability Medicines Mental health Middle english Mindfulness Mlm Mobility issues Molestias quod sapie Multilevel marketing Nam eaque iure aut v National league of the blind Neurodiversity Nihil corporis aliqu Niya Normans Old english Old french Onboarding and retention Online Out of work Oxbridge Parent Passwords Patchwork hub Payment details Planning Planning for work Podcasts Pomodoro Preposition Private schools Psychiatric Psychiatry Punctuation Qui voluptatem debi React Reasonable adjustments Recruitment Remote working Resources Resources and support Rest Retinopathy of prematurity Sales Scam Search engine Second world war Shell shock Slang Sociability Social Cipher Social interactions Social media Social model of disability Social support network Socialising Spelling Spoken language Spotlight series Spotlight stories St. James’s Place Standard english Startup State schools Student Students Studying Suffragette movement Support Support services Syntactician Syntax Tag Technology The Disability Policy Centre The elderly Then barbara met alan Trafalgar square Turkish United nations Universal inclusion University University of arts london University of cambridge University of hertfordshire University of hull University of leeds University of oxford Victoria Jenkins Visual impairment War Ways of working West germanic dialects William shakespeare Windsor consultations WithVR Wordpress Work structure Workforce recruitment Working environment Workplace barriers World war one World war two Young carer

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to help our site function. We’d also like to use analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use our website.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core website functionality such as network management, security and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may impact how the website functions.

Analytics cookies


We’d like to collect website analytics cookies information using Google Analytics to help us improve our website. We collect this data by running Google Analytics JavaScript on your device, which collects data about how you interact with our site. The data is collected in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information please see our Cookies page.