The Disabled Students’ Allowance, or DSA for short, is a government grant given to disabled students to help pay the extra essential study related costs that arise as a direct result of disability, mental health conditions, or specific learning difficulties.
Who is eligible?
You can apply for DSA if you have a disability. This definition of disability includes:
- long-term health conditions
- sensory impairments
- mobility issues
- specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD)
- Autistic Spectrum Disorders
- mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD)
You must also be an undergraduate or postgraduate student, qualify for student finance, and be studying on a course that lasts at least a year.
You aren’t eligible for DSA if you are an EU or international student. The University or your department should be able to offer your support, so get in touch with the Disability Advisory Service to find out what they can do for you.
What can DSA pay for?
DSA can help with disability related costs that arise from study. These include:
- specialist equipment
- e.g. back supports, dictaphones, voice recognition software, laptops (although these require a £200 contribution from the student), hearing equipment, screen reading software
- non-medical helpers
- e.g. note-takers, lip-speakers, BSL interpreters
- extra travel costs incurred as a result of your disability
- e.g. taxis to and from lectures
- other disability related costs of studying
- e.g. photocopying or printing charges, access to trained mentors (who can help with organisation of work and study skills, for example if you have a SpLD, or a mental health condition that makes study challenging.
Some of the responsibility for costs related to studying with a disability have been passed onto universities, but this should not affect the scope of the help available, and will be organised in the process of applying for DSA.
Do I need DSA?
It is a common misconception that DSA is a limited pool of money, reserved only for those who ‘need it most’. Students are often discouraged from applying because they do not think their disability or condition is serious enough to warrant support, or that in applying they will be taking money away from other students. There is no limit on the amount of students who can be supported through DSA, and it is there to help anyone who could benefit from it. Remember your ability to access your studies is just as important as everyone else’s, and it is much better to look into DSA now and come to the conclusion that you can manage without, than to exclude the possibility and realise later that you could have really benefitted.
How do I apply for DSA?
You don’t have to declare your disability to the university in order to receive DSA, but it can be more difficult to implement the support you need without their help. The Disability Advisory Service can give advice, process your application, and coordinate your study support. You can get in touch with them directly by calling them on 01865 280459, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment (NB: this will email the reception, not a disability advisor). You also can get in touch with your DSA college disability advisor directly, or the member of staff at college who is responsible for disability support. Their emails can be found here.
You can apply for DSA before your course starts, after you have applied for DSA. If you have already started your course, you can still apply throughout your course. The application process can be quite long, so it’s important to get your application in as early as possible so that you can more quickly access the support.
You can download the DSA application form here.
If you have any questions about DSA, or would like to talk to someone with a similar condition or access needs to you, drop an email to email@example.com and we’ll do our best to help.
– Written and edited by Sam Pugh