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What support is available for young people with disabilities at a university?

Universities provide confidential advice, guidance and support services to students with disabilities, long term health conditions and specific learning differences. 

Who can get disability support at university?

Students who have a disability, including those with but not limited to:

  • autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome
  • dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties
  • mental health conditions
  • mobility impairments
  • sensory impairments
  • unseen disabilities and medical conditions

This list is not exhaustive – student services at the institution may be able to provide support for difficulties lasting twelve months or more.

What types of disability support could be available?

Universities can offer financial and study support for students with disabilities.

Financial support:    

For UK students only study support can be funded by Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).

DSA is paid in addition to the standard student finance package that is available if students are studying full-time or part-time. DSA is not means tested and does not need to be repaid.

If you are an EU or international student the DSA is not available to you, so please do make contact with the Disability Service at your university well in advance of starting your course so they can help.

You can get help with the costs of:

  • specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability
  • non-medical helpers, for example a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or specialist note taker
  • extra travel money to help you attend your course or placement because of your disability eg taxi
  • other disability-related study support, for example having to print additional copies of documents for proof-reading.

Applying for DSA

These are the steps you can expect to take when applying for the Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA):

  1. Fill in your DSA application
  2. Provide evidence of your disability
  3. Book and attend a study needs assessment (only after being asked to do so by the Student Finance organisation)
  4. Wait to hear if your application's been approved
  5. Once funding has been approved, order your equipment and arrange non-medical help, etc.
  6. Your DSA will be paid as agreed (i.e. to you as reimbursement or directly to the supplier).

Proof of eligibility

When you apply for DSA, you'll need certain types of documentation to show that you're eligible. This is the documentation you can expect to provide:

Disability or long-term health conditionA copy of a report or letter from your doctor or consultant — Student Finance England can also accept a disability evidence form.
Mental health conditionA copy of a report or letter from your doctor or consultant — Student Finance England can also accept a disability evidence form.
Specific learning difficultyA copy of a 'diagnostic assessment' from a practitioner, psychologist, or suitably qualified specialist teacher.

Study support:

There is a wide range of support available at universities, depending on your course of study, particular needs and the university. The best thing to do in the first instance is to look at the website of the university to find out what support can be provided.

Disability Advisers are normally located in Student Services, Student Support or similar teams.  Try to visit campuses to double check that it is fully accessible for your child's specific needs, and book a meeting with a Disability Adviser. If you are planning for the years ahead or don’t have an opportunity to travel to institutions, you can have a discussion with a Disability Adviser over the phone.

The Disability Service offers a confidential service and can discuss with you what support could be available in specific circumstances and how to access it.

For more help with applying for DSA

1. Disability Rights UK have lots of useful information about what you can get and how to complete the forms and appeal.

2. UCAS have information about applying for DSA

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