Woman sat at desk on a Skype call in a wheelchair

Support every disabled student should be aware of!

Many are entitled to further support as a student, but do you know where to find it? As someone with experience in both physical and mental health issues, I will cover how to apply for your entitlements and the benefits of having them.   

DSA

If you are a university student in the UK with mental health issues, a physical disability or learning difficulties, you are most likely entitled to Disabled Students Allowance. This covers any equipment, software, or accessibility requirements you may need. This can be on its own or in addition to any student finance you get. The type of support and how much you get depends on your individual needs – not your household income. 

Personally, DSA has been hugely helpful for me, and I have been given a printer, software (for recording lectures, reading texts to me, a speech-to-text converter and easier on-screen reading), a bed desk and the ability to use a laptop in exams. Here is some of the software DSA funded for me:

Graphic user interface on a laptop - several programmes are shown.

You can get help with the costs of: 

  • specialist equipment, e.g. a computer (if you’re assessed as needing one and do not already have one; for a new computer, you’ll need to pay the first £200)
  • non-medical helpers, e.g. a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or specialist note taker 
  • extra travel to attend your course or placement because of your disability 
  • other disability-related study support, e.g. having to print additional copies of documents for proof-reading 

Your needs assessment: 

Once your eligibility for DSA is confirmed, Student Finance England may ask you to contact an assessment centre to work out what help you need. The assessment process itself is straightforward and it typically doesn’t take long for your eligibility to be processed. All you need is evidence of any conditions or needs from a professional. 

Do not book your assessment until Student Finance England asks you to. The assessment is paid for through any DSA entitlement you may have. After the assessment, you’ll get a report listing equipment and other support you can get for your course. Do not buy any equipment until you’ve been assessed – you will not be reimbursed for it!

How DSA is paid: 

Money is paid either into your bank account or directly to the organisation providing the service or equipment. You’ll find out how your support will be paid to you after your needs assessment. 

Learning Support Plans

The University of Lincoln – as with most education institutions – offers all students with additional needs the opportunity to create their own personalised learning support plan (LSP) or Personalised Academic Study Support (PASS). This can be done whether you get DSA or not – all you need is evidence of your additional needs from a professional. Support can include a mentor, the ability to use a laptop in exams, extra time or rest breaks in exams, the ability to sit exams in a separate room, deadline extensions, and short-term counselling. Your course tutors will also be made aware of your LSP. 

Student Services state that evidence must clearly detail your diagnosis and include information on how this affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities. It must also include specific reference to how it impacts your ability to fully engage with your academic studies. A PASS plan can be created if you have suitable evidence for a disability, mental health condition, impairment or specific learning difference (such as dyslexia or dyspraxia). They cannot be created for short-term injury or illness.

To create your Personalised Academic Study Support plan, you will need to email your evidence to the Student Wellbeing Centre at studentwellbeing@lincoln.ac.uk and have chat with one of the advisors via a drop-in session.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can help you with some of the extra costs if you have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability. The amount you get depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself. You’ll be assessed by a health professional to work out the level of help you can get. 

The assessment process for PIP is gruelling and you can’t live on the proceeds if you do actually succeed with your application, but it has been hugely helpful for me since I applied aged 17 as it has given me some independence and helps enormously now that I’m a student. You need a wealth of evidence, and you have to prove to your assessor that you struggle with daily activities. I thought it would be worth mentioning here as it isn’t means-tested and is unaffected by student finance. You can also appeal PIP decisions if you don’t agree with them.  

PIP also factors into the government Motability Scheme, which provides accessible transport, including leased wheelchair accessible vehicles, cars, mobility scooters or powered wheelchair.  

Council Adaption Grants

Local councils can also provide adaption grants for your property, though UOL should provide you with accessible accommodation if you live with them throughout your degree. This means that student halls are available for your entire time as an undergraduate if you are disabled. Council grants are a bit of a postcode lottery but are certainly worth a try if you need adaptions in your home. Your local council can also provide an occupational therapist to assess for other accommodations required.

I hope you have found this helpful! Remember, you can contact Student Services for more help and advice.

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