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Going to university as a disabled student

Accessibility at university is a big concern for disabled students who are about to embark on the next stage in their academic journey. As with navigating many other public spaces, there’s always the worry that your new university won’t be able to meet your accessibility needs and you won’t be able to share the same student experience as many of your peers.

While universities are becoming increasingly accessible, there’s still a way to go to making them fully inclusive places. But don’t let that put you off – there may be some challenges you’ll face as a disabled student that your non-disabled peers might not have to face, but your university is obligated to support you as much as possible.

When you’re applying, you can find out which universities offer the best support and facilities for disabled students by looking into accessible universities and what they have in place to help their disabled students feel included.

Applying to university can be nerve wracking, but once you have an idea in your head of where you might want to study and what course you’re interested in, here are some things to know about studying at university while disabled…

The kinds of support you can access

University support is available to students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health issues, long-term health conditions, and more. This includes extra time in exams, providing wheelchair ramps and lifts, having someone to take notes for you in lectures, specialised software or technical equipment, sign-language interpreters, and extra tutorials or meetings with a learning mentor.

When you apply to university, you should disclose all of your disabilities to ensure you get all the help you’re entitled to. You’ll be able to have a conversation with someone at your university prior to you starting to discuss what you’ll need, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction if you’re unsure.

UCAS has some excellent resources to help disabled students through their applications to university and the kind of support you can access.

Apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

You’ll likely be entitled to funds to cover your study related costs such as computers with particular software on them, dictation recorders to tape lectures and seminars, additional costs for trips to student conferences, and more. These funds are in the form of a grant and not a loan, so you won’t have to pay them back when you finish studying.

Don’t put off getting a diagnosis or asking for help, you’re entitled to help and there’s nothing wrong with getting the support you need to live your student life to the fullest.

To apply, you’ll need proof that you’re eligible in the form of documents from a medical practitioner. Once your eligibility is confirmed, you’ll have an assessment to check what your needs will be. After your assessment, you will know what funds you’ll have access to and what your DSA can be used to cover.

Note: DSA does not cover disability-related costs you’d have if you were not attending a course, or costs that any student might have.

Learn more about DSA.

Join your university’s Disabled Students Network (DSN)

The DSN is a support and social network for disabled students, a great place to meet students sharing a similar university experience to yourself and perhaps facing the same accessibility issues.

As part of your Students’ Union there will be an elected officer or officers responsible for representing the disabled student population and helping support them. They’ll typically run accessible events and campaigns and are often a friendly face to turn to if you need any help.

You could even run for a position while you’re at university to get more involved in making sure disabled students’ voices are being heard and that the university is moving towards becoming more accessible and inclusive!

Driving your accessibility vehicle to university

If you drive and are a blue badge holder, you will most likely be able to take your personal vehicle to university with you and park in an accessible and convenient place adjacent to your accommodation and lecture halls. Universities may have their own system of disabled parking permits for their staff and students, so it’s worth finding out before you go.

If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible vehicle to take to university with you, we specialise in WAVs (including leasing through the Motability Scheme) and have lots of options to help you find something that suits your style, your needs, and your budget. Contact us if you need any help or advice or just want a friendly chat to learn more.

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