University Tips Blog
A headshot image of the author, Sarah Hanson

by Sarah Hanson

Widening Participation Scholarships Officer at the University of Liverpool

posted on 6 Nov '23

A guide to the Disabled Students Allowance

Starting a higher education journey can be really exciting, but you may have concerns about how you’ll manage and the support you’ll get. This worry is particularly pronounced for those with learning difficulties, mental health issues or disabilities who may be used to comprehensive support at school through your Education and Health Care Plan (also known as EHCP). It is important to be aware that there is a wealth of support available at university, including the Disabled Students Allowance, also known as the DSA.

The Disabled Students Allowance is provided to help with extra costs you might incur as a direct result of a disability. All the support provided by the DSA is based solely on your needs, so it’s not dependent on household income and you don’t need to pay back any funding or return any equipment you receive.

DSA can support you with a wide range of issues, including:
• Specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or ADHD
• Mental health conditions, such as anxiety or anorexia
• Physical disability impacting mobility or dexterity
• Sensory impairments, such as sight or hearing loss
• Social or communication impairments, such as autistic spectrum disorders
• Long term health conditions, such as cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome

This may help you with a range of support measures, including:
• Specialist equipment such as assistive technology or ergonomic equipment
• General allowances such as fridges for medication or printing costs
• Non-medical helper support, including specialist note takers or a BSL interpreter
• Travel, such as private taxi transport

Applying for the DSA

You can apply for DSA online as part of your student finance application. You’re required to upload medical evidence, such as a diagnostic report, after which you’ll be invited to book a needs assessment. During this appointment you’ll work with an Independent Needs Assessor to agree the support you’ll need from DSA, and after the appointment you’ll receive an Entitlement Decision Letter (DSA2), confirming the support you’ll receive with instructions on how to move forward.

Many students are put off applying for DSA because of worries about being treated differently, or wanting a fresh start at university. But this support can be vital to you succeeding and achieving your potential. You should start the process as soon as possible, to ensure support will be in place for the start of the term.

Alongside support from the DSA, universities and colleges will also offer a package of support, such as specialised transition days, disability coordinators to support you directly, or peer mentors. You can find out more about this support via university websites, or by attending open days and speaking with their student support teams.

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