I’m an occupational therapist and I trained to be an occupational therapist back in Ireland several years ago now. I’m also blind, and when I first applied to university, I had a range of questions, asking me could I be an occupational therapist while being blind? Over the course of my education, and certainly when I was working in practise, I found that actually being blind could be an advantage. So when I was working with people in stroke rehab for example, I couldnít see to fill in the forms, but some of my clients could fill in their own assessment sheets. Therefore they had the control over what they wanted to put in that information, so that changed the power dynamic. They recognised that as a blind person there are some things that I couldnít do but there are many things that I could do. I remember once I was looking after a female patient who had had a stroke. She had lost ability of one side and she was really upset one morning when I was helping her to get washed because she was unable to get toothpaste on her toothbrush. So I showed her how you can do that really effectively with one hand. If you can imagine this is the toothbrush, I told the patient she should put the toothbrush in her mouth, and squeeze the toothpaste on, and she would be able to. It was little tricks like that that I was able to help patients with. They could see that actually, although they were going to have to adapt, it wasn’t unachievable. I think diversity is an important agenda for health and social services as well as society at large really. So many people that use services come from very very different backgrounds. So ideally, what we want to be doing in the school is to create professionals who marry those backgrounds so the more we can get a diversity of age, ethnicity, religious, sexuality backgrounds, the better really. When you’re working with somebody you need to understand that their values may well be very different to yours so the more experience you’ve had of working with different values and beliefs really helps you to work as an occupational therapist to identify and really understand that everybody’s different and everybody’s unique. We always have patients from different backgrounds and different faiths, and to have nurses from different backgrounds, will mean that the patients will be more relaxed, because they know that there is someone that will understand them. There is nothing, no favours to anybody, everybody is equal. That is part of the thing that has made Britain so great, I think the fact we are a diverse nation. There are lots of career opportunities for anyone, whether disabled or not. It covers such a vast area from acute physical, through to mental health, learning disabilities and brain injury. So there is so many areas you can go into. Also now prisoners have occupational therapists, so its such a diverse area to work in and I feel very blessed that I am in the profession now. As a school we are very committed to the NHS constitution which is a government policy which articulates the expectations around values and beliefs being respected in the NHS so that practitioners are able to support people from diverse backgrounds and all sorts of different communities. Having a diverse group of students is actually really useful and important on a physio programme, because ultimately students learn a lot from each other, from discussing things, but also in practical scenarios. So, actually having a diverse student population helps generate ideas, discussions. If everyone was coming in with very similar experiences, this actually produces less of a stimulating environment. So certainly, physic students and groups of students we take on every year, there’s often a real mix of people from school leavers to quite mature students with different work backgrounds. So it provides a really nice learning environment. I think one of the biggest things you do learn is from peoples personal experiences, and if you’ve got a good mixture of people on the course, you can get that. It really balances the groups out because youíve got the people coming form different backgrounds, different ages and with lots of different experience. A lot of our students have maybe done other jobs in the past and then decided yes, I’d like to be a midwife and have a career move. It is recognising that there are other people with different views, with different perspectives that are service users who have a right to be listened to and to be acknowledged. It’s about the attitudes towards the community and the environment that we’re working in. It’s just about being open minded, it’s about being accountable for your actions, being responsible to the people you work with and the people you live around. There is a whole variety of support mechanisms for students. There’s academic support obviously from their tutors and the academics who work with them, but we have people who help students with additional learning needs, we have chaplaincy, we have counselling services, we have AskBU as well as [email protected] initiative which is a student engagement team of fairly new graduates who provide social support to students as part of the whole package. We have a large number of students that may have something called a specific learning difficulty which may be dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia. I would say many students actually within those types of disabilities tend to do very well on professional based programmes that are largely practice based. So in practice, those students tend to excel. Where they may need a little bit more support, is actually in the academic side. So what we have here is we have the additional learning needs service, which can support the students in developing their time management skills, their academic writing skills. But we also have those types of support built within the programme within their academic advisor. So there is no reason why anybody, or a student with a disability shouldn’t be able to succeed in a programme in health and social care. The trick for somebody from a different background is to get over that education, and that’s why at BU we’re really committed to promoting diversity, so that people feel equal in the classroom, so that your experience of being first from your family to go to university, your experience from a different cultural minority, your experience as somebody with a disability, or additional learning need, actually thatís important, that’s valued and that can enhance your practice.