“Growing up, my plan was always to go to university after I had completed school and having a spinal cord injury (SCI) didn’t change that."
In 2010, Stephen Callinan fell out of a school window. He suffered a spinal cord injury, and became a T12 paraplegic at 17 years old.
He had to miss out on over half a year of school, and had two options upon his return. The first was to repeat his entire Year 11, which was the option recommended by everyone around him, including his family, friends, and even nurses. However, confident in his abilities, Stephen decided to opt for the second choice instead, which was to advance straight into Year 12. The school was extremely supportive and accommodating to Stephen’s needs upon his return.
“They did things like put all my classes on the ground floor of buildings, provided tutoring during lunch breaks, and reserved a car park inside the grounds to make it easier for me to get in and out of the car."
The school itself had accessible features like flat and ramp access, and also a service lift for staff members, which Stephen could use. While Stephen still had his own challenges of adjusting to life in a wheelchair, the overwhelming support from the school and his family and friends allowed him to overcome many obstacles. Stephen eventually achieved what he set out to do: he graduated from high school and was accepted into Health Sciences at La Trobe University.
Advancing his education
At La Trobe University, Stephen found school life in a wheelchair to be a pleasant and manageable experience. He could get around most areas of the campus with ease because they are spacious, and the campus has plenty of lifts as well. A lot of classrooms have open floor plans and the lecture halls that Stephen have been to are also accessible. The only issue Stephen had is that he needed more time to get around because the campus was too big!
The university also supports its students with disabilities by imposing a hefty fine for cars that are parked in parking lots reserved for people with disabilities without the right papers or stickers. Other than that, disability parking is free for students with disabilities, and the fine ensures that they will always be able to find parking lots if need be.
As for the other students, Stephen has encountered many who are friendly and welcoming, making his university life all the more enjoyable. “I have had little problems at university,” he says.
Now, Stephen is gearing up for graduation, as he will be completing his final year at university soon year. Upon finishing his course in Rehabilitation Counselling, Stephen plans to further his studies by taking up a post-graduate degree before looking for employment next. Stephen has certainly achieved his goals and more.
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