Disabled students

Here are a few things to consider before going to a conservatoire, to make sure everything is in place for when you start.
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Talk to conservatoires about your needs

Here are a few things to check with the disability coordinators and advisers at any conservatoires you're interested in.
  • Does the support available meet your individual needs?

  • How does the conservatoire 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 conservatoire, 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.

Disability Rights UK publish a comprehensive guide to applying to higher education, and getting support – Read Into Higher Education


Funding for disabled students

You may be entitled to Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) for physical or mental impairments, long-term or mental health conditions, or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. This funding covers the cost of the support you need – e.g. specialist equipment and nonmedical helpers – like a note-taker or reader. You won’t automatically get a DSA – you'll need to prove you’re eligible.

  1. You’ll need either a letter from your doctor or consultant confirming your impairment or health condition, or a diagnostic assessment of your learning difficulty from a psychologist or specialist teacher.
  2. Then you apply for DSA through your regional funding organisation – Student Finance EnglandStudent Finance Northern IrelandStudent Awards Agency for Scotland, or Student Finance Wales. It can take up to three months to arrange, so apply early.
  3. If you’re eligible you’ll then have an assessment to work out what you need – find an assessment centre near your course provider on the DSA QAG website.
  4. Once everything’s arranged, the money will be paid directly to your service/equipment providers, or to your bank account.
  5. DSAs can take up to three months to arrange, so make sure you apply for one as early as possible.

The Disability Rights factsheet funding higher education for disabled students has lots of handy details about support and finance.


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.


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.

  • 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.


Accessing study materials

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

  • Conservatoires 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 a conservatoire

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.

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