University is a massive change in your life. New digs, new people and a new schedule—there’s a lot to take in! We understand how daunting this transition can be, especially if you have a disability or an illness.
Don’t fear — these days, most universities offer disability support, so if you do have a condition, such as dyslexia, you can get the relevant provisions through Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).
What is Disabled Students’ Allowance?
DSA is a fantastic scheme funded by the government that offers grants to a range of people who have learning or physical disabilities or health problems. These grants can help fund your needs while at university and they can cover a new Mac or PC, printers, headphones that include noise-cancelling features, top-of-the-range note-taking equipment that can record and organise your lectures plus an array of cutting-edge software and the latest apps.
So, applying for DSA is worth it, right?
Before you apply, it’s important to find out if you are entitled, so below we have created a guide to the different conditions that can receive DSA.
Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities that people face in the UK today. Usual symptoms include: difficulty reading, writing or spelling, poor handwriting and phonological skills, problems with short-term memory and organisational skills.
Dyspraxia is a condition that’s often associated with dyslexia and it affects the person’s spatial and coordination skills, which include difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing and the individual can struggle constructing essays and analysing complex visual arrays, e.g. multiple choice questions.
People who suffer with dyscalculia will have difficulty understanding maths concepts, such as quantity, values, carrying and borrowing and the relationship between numbers. Usually, this condition is associated with dyslexia and dyspraxia and there is a wide range of support and assistive technology that can help.
People who suffer from visual stress have difficulty focusing and reading documents. With people who have visual stress, they may find that that they lose their place when reading, that the print “jumps” around and patterns are hard to look at.
If the individual suffers from blindness or visual impairments that can cause difficulties within daily activities, such as reading and writing, there are a wide range of support and assistive technology, such as speech recognition tools that can help you write essays and fill in forms, or our high visibility keyboards, which can help make writing easier.
Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is also associated with dyspraxia, as the individual with the condition has a short attention span and can be impulsive, have trouble staying motivated and easily stressed out.
There are other disabilities and conditions that you can claim DSA for, such as: hearing impairments, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression or long term health conditions, such as chronic heart disease or HIV.
For more information you can read the government’s criteria for claiming DSA here
Applying for disabled students’ allowance (DSA) could mean that you’re entitled to new equipment and cutting-edge software that will help you get the most out of your studies, plus you will receive support such as assistive technology training sessions and if needed, specialist tuition. So, if you have a condition that could be entitled to DSA, it’s important that you get assessed.
If you are planning on going to university and need to be assessed, you can do so before the course begins, which can be easier as funding for your assessment, equipment and support may not be available until the second term of your course.
This could mean that you may need to fund the initial assessments yourself, so if you wish to be reimbursed you will need to get in contact with your university early so you can have an approved assessor.
Arranging a Diagnostic Assessment
Applying for DSA can be a lengthy process, however you will be able to get support through your university’s dyslexia or disability support advisor. Your advisor will be able to offer a list of qualified assessors who will examine your condition. When being assessed, the test could include oral language, phonological skills, reading fluency, writing and spelling, plus skills that could include social capabilities and articulation.
Sometimes you may have to fund your own assessment, however in most cases your university will fund it.
Discussing Your Diagnostic Assessment
We understand that sometimes your diagnostic results may leave you with more questions than answers, that’s why it’s integral that you discuss it with your Disability Support Advisor.
They should be able to help with any questions you may have, so you are able to fully understand the report and the implications of how your condition will affect your course.
Once your DSA eligibility is confirmed, you should arrange a needs assessment. This will cover what equipment and support you will need during your course. It’s important that you understand your diagnostic assessment so you can clarify your requirements.
The assessor will then calculate the costs of what you need by consulting with Student Finance (SF) or Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), who will then decide on the best supplier for your requirements.
Once you have received your needs assessment report, we advise that you discuss it with your disability support adviser, as they will be able to see if your needs have been fully addressed and ensure any appropriate revisions.