Making your CU accessible - epilepsy
There are over 450, 000 people in the UK with epilepsy, which is a tendency to have recurrent seizures. Some seizures may be highly visible with convulsions and loss of consciousness, others may be much less noticeable. A seizure occurs when excess electrical activity in an area of the brain causes a temporary disruption in its function.
Many people with epilepsy do not want others to know of their condition because they have experienced negative attitudes in the past. However, if there is a basic understanding of the condition and how it can be managed, people with epilepsy can take a full part in CU activities. Many of them will be resilient and resourceful, having learned how to manage their condition and will be well aware of their abilities and limitations.
- The person with epilepsy knows his or her needs best. Allow people with epilepsy to decide what to do and to dictate the pace themselves; don’t try to stop them participating in activities they are comfortable with.
- Always ask the person's permission before telling others of their epilepsy. Don’t forget, the person with epilepsy may not have told fellow students that they have the condition.
- Make sure that a few of people in the CU know what to do to ensure the safety of a student in the event of them having a convulsive seizure, i.e. remove anything nearby which may cause injury, ensure an ambulance is called unless an authorised person determines that this is not necessary in any given instance, and stay with the student to reassure them.
- When the student has regained consciousness following a convulsive seizure, ask her what she wants to do next. People recover from seizures at different rates, and some time in a quiet room can often be a real help to recovery.
- After someone has had a seizure at CU they may be embarrassed or feel that people will avoid them in future. Make sure they are reassured that they are still accepted at CU, but do not fuss over them the next time they come.
- Be aware that a seizure can sometimes include incontinence. To protect the student’s dignity, be prepared to cover the person if there is anything suitable to hand, and above all remove onlookers from the vicinity.
- Some people have photosensitive epilepsy which means they react to flashing or flickering light. Always try to avoid using flashing or flickering lights for effect. If this is not possible (for example, if you have a visiting theatre group) clear prior warning must be given.
- Some of the passages on healing in the gospels can be misconstrued to suggest that people with epilepsy are demon-possessed. This is extremely offensive and should be avoided
- Assume nothing - always ask.
www.epilepsy.org.uk - Epilepsy Action provides further information.
This resource is part of our Accessible CU series, created especially for Christian Unions by Through The Roof, a Christian Disability charity. To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.