Aiming for University

Aiming for University with a disability or learning need and Gap Years.

Disabled Students allowance for Level 4 and higher courses only. This can be used to pay for support workers, note takers, equipment, like computers and dictaphone or support services, like mentoring or study skills.  It also ensures you get, if needed, extra time in exams and/or rest breaks. 

At an Assessment for DSA, you meet an Assessor to talk about how your disability affects your study and life.  You show medical evidence.  They write a report and recommend support and equipment with a budget and recommended suppliers tailored to your needs.

There are Quality Assurance Standards, meaning there are minimum qualifications, training and experience for different roles.  So, study skills must be offered by a Dyslexia Specialist Teacher.  Specialist Mentors must have professional qualifications in Autism and a degree for Autism Mentoring or Mental Health qualifications for Mental Health mentoring, such as being a health professional, like a Nurse or OT or have Postgraduate Psychology.  They need professional body membership like BPS.  Further, you can see how Specialist mentoring works for Steven at DMU.

Mentoring should help you settle into and get involved in university life on campus and in the local area, as your mentor will introduce you to service, support and ideas that should help you maximise your time.  They will provide tailored support for your needs, working with you to remove potential barriers and help you develop suitable strategies.  They will help you find a balance that manages your condition, enables you to do well with your studies and enjoy university life.  They will help you find solutions to any difficulties, provide continuity and support and help your social skills and study.  They help your wellbeing and set targets to keep you on track and motivated.           

You can find out about education reasonable adjustments from fact sheets by the Disability Rights UK.

If you need personal assistance at university and would qualify for personal budgets and direct payments, you can still get this support at university.  Going to university when you have care needs can feel overwhelming because you will be in a unfamiliar environment, without your normal support network and experiencing many changes, meeting new people and learning, possibly being more independent, but you can access support that will put you in control.  You can learn about the experiences of two university students.  Details of both assessment centres and the DSA QAG (Quality Assurance) can be found here.  There are many students with Dyslexia and other disabilities at university - you will not be alone.  Also, if you think you may be dyslexic, you can get a dyslexia screening test through your university.

All UK Universities have a Disability and Dyslexia support service that is there to put your DSA recommendations in place and support you.  They are inclusive supportive environments that see you for you and not just your condition.  They listen and support you how you want to be supported as an adult and it is up to you what you declare to them, but they are there to help. This is a short video from YouTube of the experience of students with disabilities using the service at Sheffield University.  https://youtube/axl1BmxOX1Q.

If you have sight issues or are blind, you will find your DSA will fund a computer with specialist software.  You will be trained how to use other help, like mobility sessions to help with orientation as you get used to your university campus.  You can also get note taker support, documents in alternative formats and exam arrangements, like a scribe and reader, arrangements if you wish for a guide dog and materials in advance, like lecture notes.  You can also get help, like with adaptions to accommodation if this is needed.  

Jasmine Metcalfe is a student at Swansea University, studying English Literature and English Language talks about her transition from a specialist blind school to University in this YouTube video.  https://youtube/SY2o3cEDzm0.  The RNIB has a section about University life covering accommodation and other support services.

If you are deaf or having hearing issues at university, you can get support, like BSL interpreters, hearing loops in lecture theatres, library support, language 1:1 support, exam arrangements, transcripts for audio, alternative assessments, note taker or electronic note taker, Roger Pen (specialist microphone), audio recording equipment, arrangements for guide dogs, DSA Allowance and more.   The National Deaf Children’s Society has a section on Higher Education and what to expect if you are deaf.  It covers things to consider when selecting a university, issues like applying and the university interview, the Disabled Students' Allowance and what to expect from disability services at universities, as well as what to expect once at university, for example, with assessments and exams.

Different charities also sometimes put resources together for those with the condition, to go to university with lots of useful information, help and case studies, for example, Action for ME have produced.

Bath University Autism Summer school

If you have Autism, you can try out university at this summer school and see what university may be like and what support you would get at university.

My Plus Students Club.  Supports disabled graduates and university students with study, work and careers options, helping them manage their disability effectively.


Helping disabled students and graduates get work.

Which Explore Disabled Access Issues when selecting a university.

You will also find, in addition to the Disability Support Service at your university, that will help you, that there will be a Disabled Students Representative as part of your Students Union, who can help you with disability related issues if needed.

Independent Gap Year Advice:

This organisation explores gap year options, including options for those with disabilities, such as international companies that buddy you with someone without a disability to help remove potential barriers. v

National Network of Assessment Centres

These are where people can be assessed for Disabled Students Allowance, a fund for Higher Education students with disabilities to pay for support and equipment.

Brain HE

A very comprehensive website with lots of links and resources, like videos and case studies of people with Neurodiverse conditions and their experience of High Education and adult life.  It is for those with conditions like Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, ADD, Autism, and more.

Leonard Cheshire Change 100

A student and graduate programme for University students with disabilities or long-term health conditions on track for at least a 2.1 who have disabilities, to gain paid work experience with one of 130 leading employers over the summer holidays.

Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship 

6-9 weeks paid placement for university students and graduates.  They are looking for those with a disability as part of diversity.

UCAS have put together a list of virtual campus tours for different British University’s see

If you want to gain more qualifications post school or college but want more practical experience and to work a popular option is the degree apprenticeship . Lots of organisations in different trades and industries are offering these. This video is about degree apprentices with the BT. You would qualify for in work support to help you overcome disability if needed such as from the Access to Work DWP grant.

 Ideal Flatmate have produced a good guide on Student Mental Health at University.