Disabled by Society


I hope everyone is feeling okay as the nights get colder and summer comes to an end. As my fifth year started, I was beginning to move into my new house for the year, when I started feeling anxious about something in particular.

 even with the best intentions, our accessibility relies on the understanding of non-disabled people, and this can be scary. 

I don’t wear my hearing aids when I am alone. It is very freeing to be able to take it out at the end of the day, both emotionally and physically. I get listening fatigue at the end of the day and all the sounds can be quite overwhelming. They also feel heavy at the end of the day, especially when my poor ears have to hold my glasses and mask as well! I feel a real joy in being able to shut out the world when I choose to, and being able to tap back in when I want.

This means I don’t feel disabled when I am alone, rather, I am disabled by barriers in society. I am unable to enjoy cinema screenings without subtitles (and when captioned screenings do run, it is once a month at 2pm on a Wednesday!) I cannot enjoy music the same way without lyrics. I cannot hear people in groups, in dim lighting and in crowds. In all of this, my frustration comes from having to trust people and systems that often know and understand little about disability. My accessibility relies on other people, and I have no choice but to accept this.

Back to how this came up in the midst of packing boxes for my new room. Every year at uni, someone has walked into my room, when I have not expected it. I cannot hear any knocking or talking, so the absence of my response leads to people thinking there is no one inside. Though this is not the individuals’ fault, I have repeatedly felt upset, humiliated and helpless. In 1st year, I was in the middle of getting changed when someone walked in. In 3rd year, I woke up to three people in my room. All of these experiences have made me quite paranoid that someone might come in at any time, even when I am sleeping.

In my 4th year, I started using a doorbell fitted on my door, which is connected to a device by my bed that lights up and plays a loud, high-pitched sound. I use the Honeywell Series 3 portable wireless doorbell, bought from Connevans (a really good shop for all disability-related!)


This has been working well for me but the paranoia still has not left me. So when I moved house this year, I was glad to be able to start the year with the wireless doorbell. This is when I realised the doorbell was screwed onto the door of the old room! This led to some confusion, with a staff member about to enter my room one morning. Thankfully, the knocking was loud enough to wake me up from my sleep and I was able to call out to them to stop just before they pushed the door open. Ultimately, the situation was resolved and the doorbell had been successfully fixed to the door of my new room. Although there was no real incident that day, it still upset me that there was little I could do but rely on other people for my accessibility, peace of mind and feeling of safety.

I write this not to blame anyone. My university experience has been amazing, and all of the people above have done nothing wrong knowingly. Rather, I wanted to just talk about how helpless disability can make us feel, and how even with the best intentions, our accessibility relies on the understanding of non-disabled people, and this can be scary. If you ever want to talk to anyone about this, or just want to share your experiences, please do reach out to me. I send love,

Ashna x

Being Deaf

Hello, I hope everyone is doing okay! I am on my summer break at home before I begin my 5th year of medicine. I know I haven’t been updating this blog and I really wanted to get back on this and write more, so here we are!

How it all began

My story began when I was around 5 years old in India, and my teachers would tell my parents that I was not listening in class. We saw a doctor but they told me I had no problems with my hearing, and life carried on as normal.

When we moved to the U.K., the same thing happened and teachers noticed that I was not paying attention. It was then that I was diagnosed with moderate sensorineural hearing loss. I believe this was a big shock for my parents as they had not really known I had been struggling with hearing. I was always a quiet child, and somehow I had picked up on language cues and was able to communicate. We all then performed a series of tests to determine what caused my hearing loss, and the results came back inconclusive.

How it feels

Since this, I wear hearing aids in both ears and rely a lot on lip-reading. My hearing loss didn’t really impact me growing up. In fact, I remember thinking everyone wore hearing aids and I never really felt othered by this. It was only when I reached secondary school and sixth form that I noticed I was struggling to hear in groups and in lessons. This made me really sad and I felt quite isolated, but I had an amazing support system in my family.

My hearing aids do not completely restore my hearing. All they do is amplify all the sounds, but my brain still struggles to process all these sounds. I pick up a few words here and there, and then I use context cues, body language, what I know about the person, their emotional state and everything else to figure out what is being said. If I’m lucky, I figure it out before they’ve moved on to the next sentence! It feels like I have a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but they don’t all quite fit and I am scrambling to sort them out before I am thrown with more pieces.

I have a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but they don’t all quite fit and I am scrambling to sort them out before I am thrown with more pieces.

Where I want to go

So now I am studying Medicine at Cambridge, and my hearing loss has been very challenging in many different ways, but it has also opened up many doors for me. I hope to set up a page where I can share my experiences of being deaf at Cambridge and provide support for other disabled students, as well as it being a personal space for me to see how far I have come!

If you’ve got this far, thank you for your time!

Ashna x

Hello World!

Hi! This is my first post, and I just wanted to introduce myself!

I am 21 years old, and currently in my 4th year of medicine at the University of Cambridge. It’s been an incredible experience, with some amazing highs and some deep lows, but I truly have had the best few years of my life, and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

I wanted to start this blog to talk about a few things:

  • Applying to Cambridge
  • Life as a Medical Student
  • How my deafness impacts me
  • Ongoing and Future Projects

I look forward to building this page! Stay tuned!

Ashna x

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