How to prepare for university with a disability

Getting ready for university life can be tricky. Knowing all the things to get ready before you go will help make the transition a lot easier. Most people start thinking about university well over a year before they end up going. There is certainly a long build-up awaiting results, confirmation of places, putting support in place, arranging suitable accommodation and finally, starting university.

Independent Living Support

Students who require daily personal care or assistance to live independently and who are based in Northern Ireland should contact their social worker from their local health authority to discuss the options available to them. It is likely that your Social Services team will carry out an assessment of your care needs. While you are participating in the assessment make sure it is based on living independently in a university hall of residence or rented accommodation without parental support.

Once Social Services have conducted the assessment they will prepare a report recommending the type of support or care package that you will require, the cost of this support and how it will be funded. It is extremely important to note that organising a support package can take months. It is vital therefore that you contact your Social Worker as early as possible to allow the funding to be organised and the appropriate support package to be in place from your first day at University.


Disability Student Support

Universities in Northern Ireland have a dedicated Disability Support Service which is made up of specialist advisors who provide information and advice on disability issues and facilitate access to study for all students.

There are normally a wide range of individual adjustments and study support available for disabled students, and the advisor will help you determine what support is appropriate for you.

Your disability advisor outlines recommendations for individual support in a Student Support Plan. The advisor will advise you on implementing certain support such as:

– Getting in touch with tutors, mentors or other support workers

– Arranging delivery of technology and training

Again, it is very important that you contact the team as early as possible to get things started.



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, and other benefits which may be available include a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or a Personal Independence Payment (PIP).


Transport and Access

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 bus routes and timetables, look into the existence of special ‘safety buses’ and to 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.


Equipment and Provisions

It’s absolutely vital to be properly assessed for any disability equipment or lifestyle aids which can help to allow for more independent living at university. The correct chair or other aid, after all, can provide a much greater range of freedom whilst on campus or at university in general.

Getting all of that in place, after all, will leave you far less reliant on others and far more able to concentrate on learning new things, meeting new people and getting the most out of university.