Tips for attending university with a disability

Heading off to university is always a stressful and challenging experience. When you’re going to be navigating the new waters of academia with a disability, however, it can seem even more daunting. That’s why we’ve put together these handy tips for making sure any soon to be student with a disability can get the most out of the university experience.

Attend Open Days

Open days are a valuable way to find out about a university or college first-hand – you can tour the facilities, speak to staff and current students, and really get a feel for whether you would like to study there. Lots of universities offer virtual open days too, so if you can’t visit in person as a result of the pandemic, you don’t have to miss out. Open days are a good opportunity to speak to current students about their experiences, but you don’t need to miss out if you can’t attend one in person.

Administration

In the last few months and weeks before heading off to university it’s crucial to have all paperwork and admin in order so as not to have to worry about it later. That means making sure that access and care arrangements are sorted and confirmed in writing well in advance of setting out on a university adventure. What might help, too, is to have copies of any paperwork saved on your phone so that it can be quickly accessed wherever you go.

It is also important to look into the Disabled Students Allowance and other benefit entitlements you may be able to claim. The DSA can help to pay for useful things like transport in taxis and adapted desks.

Employ a Personal Assistant

If your local Health and Social Care Trust assesses you as needing personal social services, it may be possible for you to get Direct Payments instead of services provided by the Trust. You could use the money you get as a Direct Payment to employ a Personal Assistant, to help you live independently at university.

If you choose to employ someone, you decide who works for you, when they work and what they do. If you would like more control over the assistance you get, then Direct Payments may be for you.

 

Accessibility and University Facilities

Once you have all your official paperwork well in hand, you can start thinking about your time at university proper. One critical thing to think about is how you can get around campus or the area around the university. It might pay to check transport and investigate blue badge schemes and other parking.

Another really useful but oft-overlooked piece of preparation is to locate the accessible toilets in and around your new university. Once you know where those are and what your timetable is, you’ll be able to plan routes to suit you and your schedule and to make life much easier once you’re actually at university and studying.

 

Explore Accommodation Options

The university should be able to consider your access requirements to provide you with accommodation that is suitable for you. Your requirements could include accommodation that enables an accessible route to campus, en suite room, level access bedroom, individual kitchen etc.

Don’t be afraid to be thorough and ask lots of questions. Being in the right accommodation for your needs isn’t something you should have to compromise on.

 

Every university should have support in place for disabled students. Staff are trained to help and are there to make your experience as enjoyable as possible, so make the most of it.