Kate West is a neurodivergent (autistic and dyslexic) scholar of visual culture and Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. She researches visual, material and aural cultures of crime and their interplay with different temporalities from the eighteenth century to the digital age.
Kate West completed her fully funded DPhil at Green Templeton College and the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, after completing her LLB (First Class Hons) from the School of Law, University of Edinburgh. In january 2019 she created d y s l e x i c A C A D E M I C, a digital space where learning-different academics respond to the resounding silence in the academy surrounding our learning differences including but not limited to dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism spectrum disorder, Irlen Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, synaesthesia, and aphantasia, as well as our co-occurring mental health differences including but not limited to obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. The podcast is coming soon. Kate gave the annual disability lecture for Oxford University in 2020, called #WhyDisabledPeopleDropOut. By being openly neurodivergent, Kate finds she both has students coming to ask her about getting assessed and also that there was a lack of best practice guidance in universities on how to refer students for neurodiversity assessment.
In this conversation Kate talks about:
Her advocacy on charging dyslexic students continuation fees when they go beyond 3 years
The lack of support at PhD level for Neurodivergent students.
A neurodiverse academy: how universities shouldn’t be ‘back-dooring’ accommodations, but considering what they are as an educational space and place that produces knowledge with neurodiversity in the conversation from the start.
The disability mantra ‘access for one is access for all’
“I didn’t read ever because I couldn’t but I didn't realise that not reading was a thing [...] But at the school I went to, a state comprehensive, there wasn't much written work actually - even when it got to Scottish equivalent of a-levels. [...] I had all my offers from university, so I just quit. I had my places when I was 17, so it was easier top drop out than to get the support - and then I went off to university and couldn't read - I find reading almost impossible.”
“How could there be this blind spot when it comes to postgraduate research? How can we not see that a neurodivergent student is not going to complete in 3 years if I get a ⅓ more time on my undergraduate examination- why don’t I get 4 years instead of 3? Why do I have to pay thousands of pounds when I don’t hit that three year benchmark? Why do my supervisors not understand what dyslexia is? Why have they never supervised a dyslexic student?”
“I got my diagnosis quite quickly and they also said at that point we think there is ADHD and autism. I was so overwhelmed by it all. I had had a difficult time at university because of the deferrals, I felt like a failure because I thought this is why I can’t continue and this is why I will never graduate because I am dyslexic. I thought dyslexia was synonymous with not being particularly intelligent. I mourn for that person not knowing what dyslexia was then, and I mourn therefore for neurotypical society because they tend to think in those terms. [...] Once I got my extensions and supports in place I went from scraping past in first and second year to graduating at the top of my degree group [...] that changed my life because I realised that support, when things tend to one's needs, the flourishing that can take place is unstoppable.”