Disabled Students' Allowances — Scope | Disability forum

Disabled Students' Allowances

Richard_Scope Posts: 3,106

Scope community team

On your way to university? If you have a disability, you could get extra support towards some of the extra costs with Disabled Students' Allowances.

Who is Eligible for DSA 

Full-time and part-time undergraduate students can apply if: 

·         you are studying an eligible full-time undergraduate course (including a distance learning course) and you are personally eligible for maintenance support for that course; or 

·         you are studying an eligible part-time undergraduate course (including a distance learning course) and are personally eligible for part-time support. 

·         PCGE courses attract support, including DSAs, as if they were undergraduate rather than postgraduate courses. 

You are not eligible for a DSA if: 

·         you are an EU student and are eligible only for support with your fees 

·         you are an International student 

·         you are a sandwich course student on your full-year paid placement 

Postgraduate students are eligible to apply if they study a recognised taught or research postgraduate course. All postgraduate courses should last for at least one year and lead to a master's degree, doctorate, postgraduate diploma or certificate, for which the entry requirement is at least a first degree or equivalent. 

Some postgraduate students won't qualify for a DSA. If you are receiving a bursary or award from a research council such as the AHRC, the NHS or the GSCC, you should contact the provider of your bursary or award for advice on any extra support you may be entitled to because of your disability. 

If you go on to postgraduate study after completing an undergraduate degree, any amount you received through the DSA for specialist equipment as an undergraduate is considered. 

Eligibility for a DSA is not affected by an age limit and, if you are aged 60 or over, you may be eligible even if you are not eligible for a student maintenance loan. 

You can check your eligibility by using this Eligibility Checker 

What Evidence Do I Need to Provide? 

If you have a disability, mental health difficulty or other condition which affects your study, you will need to provide supporting evidence, such as a letter from your doctor or specialist. If you have more than one medical or other condition, then you should provide evidence for all of them. 

If you have a specific learning difficulty (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and AD(H)D), Student Finance England will require a full diagnostic assessment which has been carried out since you were 16. They may ask for an update of a previous assessment to see what the likely effect of your specific learning difficulty will be on the skills you need for higher education. 

Student Finance England or the NHS will not meet the cost of diagnosing your disability or specific learning difficulty. If you need help with such a cost, you can apply to the Access to Learning Fund once you have registered at the University.  

How Do I Apply for DSA? 

You need to apply through your funding body and medical students can apply through your NHS BOSS account. Below are links to the DSA pages for the various funding bodies: 

·         Student Finance England  

·         Student Finance Wales  

·         Student Finance Scotland  

·         Student Finance Northern Ireland  

·         NHS DSA guidance  

What Happens Next? 

When the DSA awarding body has sent you confirmation that you are eligible for DSAs, you will have a Study Needs Assessment to identify what your additional requirements are and how they can be met. That Assessment of Needs is carried out at regional Assessment Centres. 

Based on the Assessment of Needs, DSA will write to you to let you know of any support and services they will fund you for, a DSA2 or Entitlement letter. This letter will also detail the suppliers of equipment and you must contact them to arrange delivery. 

Are you a disabled student? Have you received DSAs? How did you find the application process? Tell us below!

Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead

'Concerned about another member's safety or wellbeing? Flag your concerns with us.

Want to tell us about your experience in the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 


  • April2018mom
    April2018mom Posts: 2,868 Connected
    My university encouraged me to apply. I used the money to pay for a proper assessment and a calculator. It was worth it. 
  • forgoodnesssake
    forgoodnesssake Member Posts: 406 Pioneering
    edited July 2019
    Hmm, how long have you got!  The process was tortuous and the provision frankly laughable.  It';s fine if you need a few basically off the shelf bits of IT/AT and maybe if you also need VERY specialist academic support.  But as an example my son has quad athetoid CP, power chair users, no speech so uses AAC, can't self feed, turn pages, use any sort of standard keyboard etc.  And after comprehensive DSA assessment, and appeal, through no fault of the actual assessor, he got a lap top and 2 monitors, a specialist joystick and a few bits of software which he can;t actually use but were all that was in the "catalogue".  He also gets one hour per week of academic time-management type mentoring.  That's it.  Everything else has to be supplied by the uni, or us or his personal support package.  Luckily uni have been pretty good.  But there are especially huge gaps in the system for those who need to use a range of Assistive Technology, as the expertise is just not there within DSA for that, and they do not actually have a mandate to provide anything other than basic introductory training for the bits of hardware or software that they supply (via a small limited number of companies who are asked to tender for the package once it is agreed..)  In particular they could not do anyting about a suitable adapted scientific calculator (he is studying maths) or a suitable keyboard.  Luckily his dad is very tech/AT savvy so could do lots of it...BUT it was hours and hours and hours of work for him testign and sourcing the correct software and then making it work in combination with the other things my son needs to use; there is NOTHING within DSA to assist with this.  In terms of suitable keyboard we know what is currently out there and none of it meets need and so we are still using old Intellikeys (with fixes that dad had to do) which we have sourced on ebay.  And so on and so on. 
    I actually went to a Westminster Higher Education Forum day looking at DSA last year and it was pretty clear that the only person in the room who thought it was working fine was a pretty ill-informed civil servant who was, unfortunately sort of in charge of it!  There were many examples, from different cohorts of people, of just how un-fit for purpose it is.  And actually it reminds me that he did say that they were about to start a review of it (spring 2018) but I am not aware of anything happening.
    I should add that, as a fine-print reading sort of person, I have been through the detailed DSA guidance (not so easy to find the real detail and in particular the PC spec guidance etc) more than once with a fine tooth comb to try and find any way to get him (and the uni) more support, particularly with the ongoing AT side of things, and there is absolutely nothing.
  • Ilovecatsmiaow
    Ilovecatsmiaow Member Posts: 1 Listener

    I am a current student and I already receive DSA.  I have recently developed a new condition and just heard today that it has been approved as a added disability by the DSA and that I will have a new needs assessment to take into consideration the new condition.

    I was just wondering if anyone has any experience of the types of things that can be funded through DSA specifically applicable to people with severe rheumatological joint problems in the hands. I don't yet have a definite diagnosis but it's something to do with inflammation / autoimmune condition that type of thing. It primarily affects my hands but also I have pain in other parts of my body.  In terms of my day-to-day living I rely on carers to do many tasks that require using my hands. This condition developed around Christmas time and I have not been able to attend my course since the end of last year but I am keen to get back to my studies as soon as possible.

    My current DSA package is based on my mental health conditions and includes
    various IT equipment items
    specialist computer training for the computer things and equipment
    taxis to university
    specialist mental health study mentoring
    general allowance which covers printer consumables ink paper photocopying. (It used to cover additional books as well but I think they got rid of that bit?)

    Does anyone know what types of things they typically offer to people with hand problems etc? Or know of list of items from which the assessors get to base their recommendations on that I could consider my thoughts on in advance of the next assessment? I've had two needs assessments for the DSA previously a few years apart and there were quite different - with the first assessor being more open to positive suggestions and discussions than the more recent one. I think I will be allocated the same assessor of though I will specifically discuss changing with the assessment centre to see if this is possible.

    I actually find that living with a mental health condition and a physical health condition can often put me in a position of conflict regarding doing what is best myself. For example I find that for my hand problems using technology that talks to me and I can talk back to is actually very helpful, however when my mental health conditions get tricky it can be the last thing that would help me quickly because I hear voices. This is true in many aspects of my life beyond studying as well. So any general comments on any of this would be appreciated.

    I feel like a complete expert my own mental health and a complete novice when it comes to the physical health aspects! They are both ****.  But in different ways.
  • zebedee
    zebedee Member Posts: 7 Connected
    Hi @Ilovecatsmiaow, I have recently been reassessed for additional conditions and although at the beginning of my degree I was given a Penguin mouse I have just been awarded another mouse as it was still giving me problems by causing pain in my fingers (I have polyarticular arthritis and a few other conditions that affect my hands) I also have Dragon naturally speaking due to problems with my hands and have just been awarded the Spellex Dictation Gold: Legal (yes I am doing a law degree) and a larger screen due to having to do that much reading and my print allowance has been doubled as you can imagine the amount of legal stuff I have to print off as I am just about to embark on the equivalent of year 3 of a degree but part-time it is year 5. I have also had awarded ClaroRead and MindView to help with producing pieces of work and so when I have a migraine I can get ClaroRead to read anything back to me that I need reading.

    I suffer with anxiety and depression and since developed physical disabilities which affect mobility and can affect concentration due to pain.  I am with the Open University who have been fantastic and have loaned me a dictaphone for the duration of my course and also provide all my books comb-bound and that includes all the online only materials due to having difficulty with my hands, this is so when I have days I am stuck in bed I do not lose study time and also the books lay flat so I am not battling with them and therefore making the pain worse.  I also have a keyboard which is the soft touch keys such as what you get on a laptop but even then I have problems with typing manually as I would miss whole sentences out by typing as with losing feeling at times in my hands did not realise I was not pressing the keys hard enough.  There is a lot of help and you can avoid using things such as ClaroRead on your bad days with your mental health and get someone to read your work for you and give comments on it.  MindView can help with organising your essay and assist in not missing anything out that is important to the assignment and can be transferred into the word document itself so you address each bit and delete the point as you write about it.

    Hope this helps.

  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you everyone for sharing this, very helpful!

    I'm unsure of a complete list of equipment, but they do aim to support everyone's individual needs. Even if this changes over the course of their studies. :)

  • innocent21
    innocent21 Posts: 35 Connected
    edited June 2021
    My brother was lucky because he got the university to pay for a dyslexia assessment for free that would normally cost £900 or £2000 because of the lack of doctors and psychologists who are qualified to diagnose it.

     After getting a proof of diagnosis as a letter, he got free stuff. He got desktop pc, widescreen monitor, a keyboard and mouse, a headset, Dragon Naturally Speaking text to speech software and screen reading software. I think it was by Clarosoft.

     When I went to a DLA assessment and claimed I had a language processing disorder due to being autistic that was different from dyslexia, they said that they don’t offer anything for that because an autism diagnosis doesn’t prove the existence of a language processing disorder and that there are so many different types of them that are so varied that they can’t decipher which type I specifically have. I was just given glasses that I don’t need as my eyesight is good so I threw the glasses voucher in the bin as they would just cause eye strain or blurry vision.

     They didn’t say that they don’t think I have it, just that believing me doesn’t allow it to be acknowledged by the assessment criteria. He said that they were regularly audited by the government to make sure they don’t give away free stuff to people who by government regulation and company protocol don’t qualify.
  • innocent21
    innocent21 Posts: 35 Connected
    -He also got a flowchart program for free called Teched Inspiration.
  • littleacorn
    littleacorn Member Posts: 255 Pioneering
    My daughter is dyslexic and doing a degree. She gets support for childcare for going to uni and her placement but as her coursework takes her extra time to complete she cant do it with her young children around. Should she be given addition finances to suppkrt childcare costs because of this? Hermoney this year is less than last year and does not include additional money to complete her work?
  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 2,014 Pioneering
    Hi @littleacorn

    Really sorry about the delayed response. I have only just stumbled across your post. I am hoping your daughter has already received the support she needs. However, if she hasn't and for anyone else who may have a similar question, the recommendation would be to look into Student Finance England's Childcare Grant. If you are interested, you can find more information about it at https://www.gov.uk/childcare-grant. I hope this helps  :)
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her.
  • littleacorn
    littleacorn Member Posts: 255 Pioneering
    She had found some support but unfortunately she has just found out that they have decided to withdraw the extra time she had been allocated to complete her assignments saying her needs assessment states that it should be for exams. Her course is graded on assignments only with no exams so surely it should be allocated for this?
  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 2,014 Pioneering
    Hi @littleacorn

    I am really sorry to hear this. Honestly, this is usually a decision made by individual universities. I would recommend your daughter to speak with the disability/accessibility team (or equivalent in her university) about her needs and previous support which has helped her. Some universities do indeed allow extensions on coursework for students with particular special educational needs and disabilities or health needs  :)
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her.
  • littleacorn
    littleacorn Member Posts: 255 Pioneering
    She has actually contacted the deputy CEO and is awaitnig a reply as she was getting no answers from disability assessment needs team.
  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 2,014 Pioneering
    Hi @littleacorn

    Oh no, I am so sorry to hear this. It sounds really difficult for both of you. Please may I ask if your daughter tried to contact the disability team within her specific university? They tend to provide the support that DSA does not if deemed appropriate and within their remits  :) I hope this helps! 
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her.
  • littleacorn
    littleacorn Member Posts: 255 Pioneering
    Yes she has contacted them but is not really been given a response.
  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 2,014 Pioneering
    Oh no @littleacorn. I am really sorry about this. This is frustrating :( Could she escalate to senior leadership?
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her.
  • littleacorn
    littleacorn Member Posts: 255 Pioneering
    It has been done. Awaiting a response from deputy Uni Principle
  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Member Posts: 5,499 Disability Gamechanger
    I had my  assessment for a disabled students allowance I had a new lap top a electronic computer table a chair made to size and could choose colour  a foot rest  voice enabled attachment  different binded books and lots of other bits and pieces including a table with wheels if I am using my laptop downstairs and a lap table so it was worth applying for 
  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 2,014 Pioneering
    Hi @littleacorn

    So sorry to hear that. That sounds really frustrating. After all, your daughter at least deserves a response. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us @lisathomas50. I agree that DSA is worth applying for! I have DSA myself too  :D
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her.