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Friday 17 September 2021

Graduate uses skills to champion disability rights

First-class Melanie aims to make positive changes

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) graduate is using the skills learnt during her studies to be a voice for disability rights.

Melanie Kennedy-Diver, who has cerebral palsy, decided to study for a BA (Hons) Politics, Philosophy and Society degree to combine several areas of interest and to be a voice for people who may struggle to stand up for their rights.

The 21-year-old, from Fleetwood, who graduated from UCLan this week with a first-class degree said: “I’ve had a physical disability from birth and have faced challenges accessing public services, education and even support due to my disability.

“I want to be a voice for people who may struggle to stand up for their rights. Even before coming to UCLan, I had an interest in disability politics and many people encouraged me to continue with it. It was a conversation with one of my sociology lecturers that helped me. I’ve been known for what my politics lecturer calls my ‘fiery nature’ and the lecturer encouraged me to use my frustration about the way society treats disabled people to try and make positive changes. 

"I want to be a voice for people who may struggle to stand up for their rights"

Graduate Melanie Kennedy-Diver

“After that, I became more involved with the UCLan Disabled Students Society and started paying more attention to current affairs. My dissertation looked at disability stigma and austerity, which I think was a first for the politics department.

“Outside of the course, several of us from the Society contribute to Hold the Lift! which is an online disability newsletter that shares our experiences of disability, our opinions about films and political topics related or indirectly related to disability.”

Despite having to manage health complications associated with cerebral palsy, such as pain and fatigue, Melanie made the most of every opportunity available during her studies, including spending a semester studying in Canada.

“I studied at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ontario” she said. “I loved the range of subjects they offered, made some great friends and found the disability support exceptional both at the university and in the area itself.”

Melanie is already looking at her next steps and is hoping to study for a Masters, with a long-term aim of studying for a PhD and going into research.

The former Fleetwood High School and Blackpool Sixth Form College pupil added: “I’d just like to thank my lecturers and friends for their support over the past three years. They have encouraged me to do more than I ever thought I was capable of and now I feel more confident about the future.

“Most of all, I want to thank my father who has been with me through some very difficult times and has supported me on both my university journey and in my future choices. I don’t think I would’ve graduated without him.”