Students with disabilities

Preparing for higher education

It's important to make sure you've applied for the right funding and that the right people know what you need.

That way everything can be in place for when you start.

You can watch videos in the box on the right to find out more about disability support. There's also a BSL video guide.

Guidance for students with disabilities

How to apply for support and how your universities can help. Click the next tabs above for more videos.

Advice from disability officers

Hear what disability officers say about the support available and why it's good to tell your universities.

BSL video for students with disabilities

Use this signed video to find out how to declare any disability and why it's a good idea to do it.

Talk to course providers about your needs

Here are a few things to check with the disability coordinators and advisers at any course providers you're interested in.

  • Does the support available meet your individual needs?
  • How does the course provider currently support other students with a similar impairment?
  • Can anyone help with applications for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)?
  • Will you need to provide proof of your disability – if so, what is required?
  • If you find it hard to talk to the course provider, can you nominate someone else on your behalf?

You can get contact details on course provider websites or prospectuses, or on the DSA-QAG website.

Alternatively, you can download Applying to higher education 2015/16 – Information for disabled students – Disability Rights UK's factsheet. It has lots of handy details about accessibility, choosing courses, support and finance. 

Changes to Disabled Students' Allowances have been announced for new 2015 entry students – read the written ministerial statement.

Accessing facilities

Check lecture halls, libraries and living accommodation are accessible.

  • Discuss your needs with them before you apply, and check what support is available.
  • It's a good idea to visit them too – seeing the facilities for yourself and talking to staff.
  • That way you can make sure you'll have everything you need when you arrive.

It is a huge change and takes a lot of getting used to, but I now love living away from home and my new-found independence."

Catherine Alexander studying: BA (Hons) English at Lancaster University

Accessing your course

Choose the right course for you, as some courses might be more challenging than others.

  • Think about the learning objectives, what you'll have to do to get the qualification and what professional requirements you need for your future career.
  • Consider structure and materials too – for example some courses require lab work, or art degrees need extensive visual analysis of paintings.
  • Don't be put off by any assumptions about your impairment though – most subjects and professions can be made accessible with appropriate support, and the Equality Act gives employers a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make sure disabled people aren't at a disadvantage.

I think if you are deaf, you are much more in charge of yourself. You have to take the first steps and that can be pretty challenging because deafness no doubt causes a lack of confidence. But if you build the larger part of the bridge towards other students, work closely together with the people who want to help you, then it is worth it and I can absolutely recommend having the courage and taking the step towards university."

Fred Suter studying BA (Hons) Modern Languages at University of Southampton

Accessing study materials

See if the study materials are available in the formats you need.

  • Course providers might have large print, Braille, e-books, audiobooks and digital talking books.
  • Online reading software can be useful too – increasing font sizes, changing background colours and converting text to speech.

Assessment arrangements

Ask about alternative study and assessment methods if you need them.

  • Assessments are a regular part of life in higher education – if you need additional support or time, tell the disability coordinator as soon as you've registered for a course.
  • Course providers can make other arrangements, ensuring your work can be assessed in the same way as other students – solely on merit.
  • For example a student with a physical impairment might be able to take exams at home.

Assistance at university

Check what facilities there are for personal carers.

  • Whether you choose to live on or off campus, you may need to consider getting additional help and support in your daily life – e.g. for cooking, cleaning or transport.
  • Start making arrangements as far in advance as possible to make sure you have what you need.
  • In some cases it can take a year or more to get everything in place.

See what you have to do if you need to arrange communication support.

  • Communication support workers, signers or note-takers can help you get the most out of your course.
  • To cover the costs of this you can apply for Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs). We recommend you start applying for it six to nine months before the course begins.