Advice for Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability and you’re studying on a course or looking to get into work, there is lots of support available. From information about financial help to details on back-to-work schemes, you’ll find it here.
Read on to find out more.
I’ve got a disability, what help can I get?
Colleges, universities and other course providers have to make it clear what help they offer to disabled students. They do this by publishing a disability statement. This should include details of:
- admission procedures for students with disabilities
- who’s in charge of support for students with disabilities
- what support equipment and facilities they provide
- what access to other facilities is available
- their general policy
It’s illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in education, training and other services in England, Scotland and Wales. Colleges and universities should offer interpreters and note-takers, and have physical aids such as ramps.
All colleges should have a Learning Support Adviser. They can advise on courses and the help available for students with disabilities.
Visit the college first to see if their facilities and equipment meet your needs. If you need support that’s not currently available the college may be able to provide it specially.
Can I apply for financial support if I do a further education course?
Your Local Education Authority may offer you help towards the cost of travel.
Discretionary Learner Support helps students who may struggle to make ends meet at college or university. Colleges and universities set their own rules on who qualifies but students with disabilities often receive help.
If you don’t get any help from the Discretionary Learner Support you could apply for an educational grant.
Can I apply for financial support if I do a higher education course?
Students studying higher education courses can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). DSA is non means-tested and can be used for:
- specialist equipment
- a non-medical helper’s allowance
- help towards the additional costs of travelling to your institution
- a general allowance
DSA is available for postgraduate as well as undergraduate courses and you don’t have to pay this money back.
The Access to Learning Fund is for students who run into financial trouble on their higher education course. If you’re a student with disabilities you’ll be one of the priority groups.
I need help with my English and maths
If you need help with your English or maths, you may be able to learn in your own home if you’re unable to attend classes. Your local course provider will advise you.
Are there any residential colleges? (RTCs)
Residential Training Colleges (RTCs) offer vocational training to people with disabilities, especially those who are finding it difficult to get a job or find suitable local training.
RTCs provide you with accommodation and specialist facilities, such as medical and counselling support. All centres are different and offer different courses, although most lead to National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). There are over 50 training programmes available in a wide range of jobs such as book-keeping and accountancy, information technology, fork-lift truck operating, secretarial skills and adult teacher training. Some also offer courses running alongside the vocational training, such as English and maths, and skills for independent living.
Many of the trainees at RTCs were previously employed and have had an illness or accident leading them to need to re-train and make lifestyle adjustments. The training is free and your entitlement to benefits is not affected.
Other specialist colleges cater for specific disabilities – your local Disability Employment Adviser should be able to put you in touch with these.
Could I study at home?
If you’d prefer to learn from home, open learning and home study providers offer courses in hundreds of subjects. Some providers, such as the Open University, also have specialist advisors for students with disabilities. They may offer support on the occasional time when you need to attend a tuition group.
How could Access to Work help me?
A programme called Access to Work offers support, including alterations to improve workplace access or reading assistants if you’ve got a visual impairment. Your local Job Centre Plus will be able to advise you what is available.
What is Work Choice?
Work Choice helps people with disabilities whose needs cannot be met through other work programmes, Access to Work or workplace adjustments. This might be because you need more specialised support to find employment or keep a job once you have started work.
If Work Choice is for you it will be tailored to meet your individual needs. It will focus on helping you achieve your full potential and moving towards being more independent.
Can I get advice on the equipment and support I might need?
National Network of Assessment Centres have assessment centres based in colleges and universities in England, Scotland and Wales. You can be assessed to find out which support equipment would be best for you. Your college or university may refer you to this service, and you can use your Disabled Student’s Allowance to pay for the assessment.
Where can I get further help and advice?
Disability Rights UK provides support and information for students with disabilities.
Their helpline can give you advice on education, training and employment. Call 0800 328 5050 – lines are open Monday 9:00am to 1:00pm and Thursday 9:00am to 1:00pm.
They also publish two guides – ‘Into Apprenticeships’ and ‘Into Higher Education’ – which you can download for free from their website.
- Disability Rights UK (products and publications)