Charles Bloch - One man and his dog
Coming to De Montfort University wasn’t, for me, an easy journey; not too much in my life has, unfortunately, been easy.
But it turned out to be one of my most important journeys.
I have a severe visual impairment and I’m registered blind. It’s presented some difficult, and at times, unfair hurdles in my life. Many of my primary school teachers had written me off from an early age, telling me that I would never learn to read or write properly or I was too far behind to catch up with the other kids.
Thankfully my dad, who also has a visual impairment, felt I should get a proper education and we moved to Coventry so I could enrol in a specialist school where I flourished, exploring new passions and gaining confidence.
Armed with BTEC Level 3 diplomas in performing arts and IT, I found DMU. It was a big step but a doable one. I wanted to stay pretty close to home and this was the only university at the time to offer a course centred around social media.
I applied for the Digital Marketing and Social Media BA, and was really happy to be accepted on to the course.
The university offers a lot of support for disabled students, and even gave me a tour of the campus before arriving. They made everything much more accessible for me and allowed me to have a note-taker, who I would not only sit with but also chat to about my needs and the course in general.
My first day on campus was actually very nerve-wracking. Not only had I previously felt shunned by mainstream education, but the common ground I had also shared with my classmates at my specialist school in Coventry was also no longer there. My safety blanket had been pulled out and I looked to adapt.
I must admit, I struggled initially to acclimatise to the immersive social environment that comes with studying at a university. I was self-conscious and probably a little socially awkward to begin with. Having lived with a disability all my life, it’s something that I’m passionate about and I talk about at length. Maybe it started to rub people up the wrong way but I started to feel isolated from my initial friendship group.
The work too was proving difficult. Some people get concepts straight away and some people have to study hard to understand. I’m of the latter group of people, so I put my head down and studied.
However, while I was working hard to better understand digital marketing, I could feel myself withdrawing myself socially from people at the university. Thankfully, help was soon at hand. I was accepted for a guide dog and Carlo joined me at university early in my second year and became a big hit on campus.
Carlo changed everything. More people would start conversations with me and want to know about my guide dog. Lecturers would welcome him into the lecture theatres with beaming smiles and even go out of their way to place dogs within their lecture slides to give Carlo something to look out for.
I looked for a platform to talk about the issues that I had faced as a visually impaired person and once again, DMU delivered for me – this time through its radio station, Demon FM. I formed strong friendships here and through my show, One Man and His Dog, I shared a lot of laughs and even interviewed guests about rights for disabled people.
My coursework too was also flourishing at this time. Having taken a placement year and started my own business enterprise, the marketing concepts I was learning about just seemed to click. I could now see how the theory was put into practice in the real world and it made studying so much easier for me.
Finding out I was going to leave university with a First was such a rewarding moment. It makes me look back to my primary school days to see how far I’ve come.
Carlo accompanied me to my graduation and even got a little robe. It was the perfect ending for my journey at DMU.