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Journalism student excels in shorthand exam despite disability that leaves him unable to grip a pen

Alex McKenzie, final year Journalism student, writes by holding the pen in his mouth due to a disability called Arthrogryposis

Journalism student Alex McKenzie
Alex McKenzie in the News Room at the Centre for Broadcasting & Journalism

Alex McKenzie, final year BA (Hons) Journalism student at the Centre for Broadcasting & Journalism (CBJ), has been commended by the Head of Department Carole Fleming for achieving his NCTJ 60 words per minute shorthand certificate, despite his physical disability.

Alex has a condition called Arthrogryposis, a disability that affects the muscle and joints in his arms, wrists and hands. The condition means that his joints are in fixed positions, unable to bend or flex at all, which makes it extremely difficult to hold a pen. At primary school, Alex learned to write by holding the pen in his mouth, and this has now become second nature to him.

Shorthand exams are an integral part of the Journalism course and are essential in order to gain a gold diploma from accreditors NCTJ. This initially made Alex uneasy about attending University, but his determination and tenacity drove him to apply and commit himself to passing the exams. His hard work has certainly paid off, telling us: “After passing the shorthand exam I was relieved, when we first began to learn it I genuinely didn’t believe I would pass any of the speeds so to have the 60 words per minute certificate is great. Shorthand is something I am progressing at and soon I’ll be taking the 80 words per minute exam. At the higher speeds it can be very difficult keeping up due to me writing with my mouth but I am determined to pass the exams.”

The supportive staff and services at Nottingham Trent University have allowed Alex to make the most of his experience here, not feeling disadvantaged in any way. He has found that whenever there are difficulties, help is available. He explained: “The only trouble I have found is that I cannot use the Mojo kits and cameras from CBJ on my own, but there is always someone on my course happy to help. The disability hasn’t affected my time at University at all if I’m honest.”

Course leader Tracy Powell told us: “Alex is a great student, with a really positive attitude towards his studies. His achievement in his shorthand exam is fabulous, and we are all very proud of him.”

Journalism student excels in shorthand exam despite disability that leaves him unable to grip a pen

Published on 12 April 2018
  • Category: Current students; School of Arts and Humanities

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