What are your top tips for starting University as a disabled person? — Scope | Disability forum
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What are your top tips for starting University as a disabled person?

Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
edited August 2017 in Education
As a new set of students start out on a new path to University, we are looking at the top tips for new students.  Here are a few tips from the community, what else would you add?

Help tutors/lecturers get to know you

Make contact with your tutors so they can prepare to support you and get to know you. They may be unsure how to help.

Get it in writing

Make sure any access and care arrangements are in place and finalised. Get things confirmed in writing by email so you can access them quickly via smartphone if there is a problem

Employing a PA?

Start their induction early so they know what to expect and you can ensure a good match when you arrive at university. Is your DSA (Disabled Students Allowance) sorted? Have you had an assessment to see what support you might need? If not, contact Student Finance England.

Check your benefit entitlement

Have you checked your benefit entitlement? Some disabled students are eligible for other financial help on top of Disabled Students Allowance and DLA or PIP.  For more info try the benefits checker or contact the disabled students helpline.

Expect ups and downs

Remember that even though university is culturally held up as the ‘best years of your life', it’s often just a stereotype. If you aren’t having the time of your life, don’t worry that it means you’ve failed. In reality. very few students breeze through their university life.
male student reading a book


Lots of universities have Facebook groups, where you can get chatting to people on your course or in your halls before you go. It helps to break the ice on your first night.

Disabled students representative

Most student unions have a disabled students representative and if you have any issues it can be useful to talk these through with them.

Student support department

The university should have a student support department with a disability section. The staff are there to support you with any issues you might face and to ensure you have the things you need to study successfully. They may ask for your permission to discuss your situation with your parents.

Special dietary products

Find out where your nearest supermarket is. Do they stock any special dietary products you might need? If not, stock up before you go. It can also be helpful to stockpile anything else you go through unusually quickly, in case there are any difficulties replacing them at short notice.

Pack spares

Remember to pack spares and extra batteries for any equipment you’d be lost without.
female student reading a book

Library access

Check out the library for access, including the locations of accessible workstations. See if there is a library tour you can go on; this can help you quickly find out how to locate journals or use moving bookcases if they have them.

Accessible toilets

Find out where accessible toilets are located around the university. If you can get an advance copy of your timetable and the locations of lectures, you can work out the easiest routes to take.

Stake out your parking spots

If you’re taking your car, find out about blue badges or parking passes, and make a note of where the good parking spots for your accommodation, students union and lectures are located.

Safety buses

Some universities have free ‘safety buses’ which you can use to get home after a night out. Find out if your student union offers these and if so, when and where they are available and what accessibility they have. They can be a real lifesaver if accessible taxis aren’t readily available.

Check out public transport options

Find out what bus routes you may be taking and if it helps, look it up on Google maps or street view, so you can recognise where to get on and off. Check accessibility of the buses and get a bus pass sorted out before you leave.

Disabled students induction

See if the students support service offers a disabled students induction. It can be a great way to orientate yourself around the university and also meet other students who have had similar experiences to you.

Register with the doctor's surgery

Speak to the doctor’s surgery you’ll be registered with at university before you leave and find out what their registration process is, and if necessary book appointments.

Keep essential documents close

Don’t forget to pack any welcome literature from the university – put essential documents in a folder and keep them close to hand. Also essential is a map of the university.

Picture it

If you find using a photo booth difficult, take a stash of printed passport photos with you. You’ll end up needing them for all sorts of things, such as student ID cards, National Union of Students cards and railcards.

Put essential contact details in your phone

Good ones to include are student accommodation services, students union advice service, student support disability services, nightline, 24-hour security, local taxi companies (especially accessible taxi services), any local authority numbers you may need.

What would be your top tip for disabled students? Let us know now!
Senior online community officer


  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    @BeccaShark123 do you have any tips?
    Senior online community officer
  • rcwApr10
    rcwApr10 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Don't wait for your tutors to ask you how you learn best ... be proactive and talk to them about it. Many (understandably) don't instinctively understand what a difference having (e.g.) early access to reading materials, marking criteria can be. There are often uni projects going on working to enhance the student experience for students with disabilities, from disadvantaged groups, etc. Talk to your student support or learning development departments if you'd like to get involved.
  • Nystagmite
    Nystagmite Member Posts: 596 Pioneering
    I remember being allowed (I don't know if all allow this?) to request a meeting with my tutors if I did have any problems.

    A few did ask to have a quick chat with me to see what help I needed from them too.
  • ChronicStyleDisorder
    ChronicStyleDisorder Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Ask for all meetings with tutors and support staff to be followed up with an email regarding what was said. Don't be afraid of asking for changes to your DSA. Label all your equipment with you name and student number. 
  • kellyj17
    kellyj17 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Plan for the worst, and hope for the best! I didn't have full support in place for my exams, when I realised I may need a scribe, it was too late to arrange, and I had to defer. If you don't need as much help as you worried you might, it's fine, but if you need it and it's not there in time that's not good. Since then I tend to work well in advance of ANY deadline; I've actually found it helps to have wiggle room at the end of a project- to reduce stress (which flares my condition)- and to produce better non-rushed work- but mostly in case I'm poorly. Deadlines tend to accumulate if you rely too much on deferring work!
    Don't be afraid to ask for help- the uni wants you to be the best you can be, for your and their sake too. 
    Also, don't rely on DSA to know best; I found their knowledge of best equipment for my condition to be poor. Shop around for advice. A kind lady on this forum recommended a trackball mouse that has revolutionised my work.

  • markitorowlando
    markitorowlando Member Posts: 8 Listener
    I am kind of confused with employing a PA for university because I enjoyed a facilitator for going to university. This is because Personal assistants and facilitators have very different roles in supporting you. 
  • markitorowlando
    markitorowlando Member Posts: 8 Listener
    I am just writing about getting housing benefit to pay for the student accommodation as it was a massive problem for me to sort out. It is absolutely possible to get but you have to know the law which does state that this is your entitlement,  if you are on income support. although it was unknown to the front desk staff in the one stop shop offices and I had to get the management out of the back to deal with this every time. It could be much better now though because this was about 17 years ago. However I thought I'd mention this. One thing more about this you will need get the company to state that they are renting the two rooms as one property as I had problems with this as well.  as I needed a room for my personal assistants as I have 24 hours care support. However the housing benefit officers had issues with this. Because the way the student accommodation worked back then but like i said it could be better now. Back then you rented a room with a shared kitchen and bathroom although the disabled room had ensuite bathroom. However I was applying for 2 rooms which technically to housing benefit was two properties So it was a nightmare trying to sort it out. So I have just put this on in case anyone else has these problems. it is achievable with the right paperwork
  • ps25
    ps25 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Make sure if, like me, your in a wheelchair use a good taxi firm, I had issues with my first firm so changed now no issues, always same person etc.
    Another tip make sure you get to know tutors, I did and they are more willing to do what they can to help, I had exam  rooms moved to better places, plus they want you to pass.
  • purpleape
    purpleape Member Posts: 4 Listener
    I think you've got so many of my biggest points, such a comprehensive post! Just remember DSA can be for so many things and support services are there to support you! Definitely keep communication with as many people as possible, especially student support and getting people who can advocate for you. I'm Welfare Officer at Students with Disabilities Association in Durham University and we work for students and offer support as well as advocating etc and SwDA were the most important help last year and I hope to do the same for everyone else! :) We also have a website with some help documents we've written and things on this site: durhamswda.org
  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 485 Pioneering
    I couldn't live without my electric tin owner!

    I always carry spare juice box for my phone.

    Careful with alcohol. And always party with protection - tis much more fun this way in the long run. 

    Use social media to get to know people before you go.... 

    Don't worry if you feel weird, missing home, not sure if you can cope..... Everyone is feeling that way. Honest. Just ask them. 

    Don't be scared of asking even brand new friends to sit where you can or carry you up to the bar.... You are worth it!

  • forgoodnesssake
    forgoodnesssake Member Posts: 410 Pioneering
    Just wanted to flag up a couple of things: DSA cannot really be for "so many things" any more...it is extremely prescriptive and limited now and we have had an awful time having to justify why my son with quad CP, no speech (AAC user) very poor hand function, power chair user would actually need any assistive technology!!  In the end (11th hour) they have agreed but what a struggle !

    Also wondering what students who access a range of auxilliary services via their GP (ie wheelchair services, dietician, orthotics, orthopaedics, speech therapy, physio, AAC specialist provision) but actually very rarely need to see the GP themselves, do about changing to Uni address GP?  We are fearful that he will lose all these services and go on waiting lists in new area, only to then be off the list here at home as well during long Uni holidays...

  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    Senior online community officer
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
  • the_velvet_girl
    the_velvet_girl Member Posts: 107 Courageous
    Hello Forgoodnesssake, I kept my GP at my parent's home all through uni. I just had to be well organized to ensure I got my medication prescriptions when I was home for the holidays. I used the out of hours GP near my uni once or twice when I was too unwell to travel back home.
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    @htlcy do you have any tips to add from your experiences?
    Senior online community officer
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    @BeccaShark123 do you have any thoughts?
    Senior online community officer
  • melaniethorley
    melaniethorley Member Posts: 138 Pioneering

    hey peoples. I am the new advisor for disabled students considering college or university. I support disabled students with their transtion to university - not just the one where I work. We have social media, videoed workshops, events etc. but all of this provides peer support - the students do all of the work, I just organise. More information and a link to book can be found on our website - www.gre.ac.uk/aap.

    I hope you find it useful


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