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Students with disabilities

This page applies to Academic Year 2016/17.

You can also find information regarding the financial support available in 2015/16.

Assistive Technology provided from the Disabled Student Allowances

In the near future Microsoft will be offering a free upgrade to Windows 10. Please be advised if you install this upgrade you may invalidate any warranty that has been provided with your equipment. If you were not provided with a laptop or PC but were provided with assistive technology, please be aware the software may not work with Windows 10. Before downloading this new software please contact the supplier of your equipment for clarification. These details were provided with your DSA Approval letter and the warranty pack supplied with your equipment. DSA funds will not pay for any costs to remove Windows 10 nor for any repairs to your equipment should you invalidate your warranty.

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)

There is extra help available if you have a disability or specific learning difficulty, and this is set out below. In order to qualify, your EA regional office must be satisfied that your disability will mean that you will incur extra costs while you study.

  • If you are physically disabled, or have mental health difficulties, you will need to provide medical proof of this, e.g. a letter from your doctor or an appropriate specialist.
  • If you have a specific learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia), your EA regional office will need evidence of this. If your diagnosis was carried out before the age of 16, you will normally be asked to undergo a ‘top-up’ assessment to provide an update on your current performance in reading, writing and spelling.

Before you send in your application, you should check what evidence of your disability will be needed by your EA regional office. This will ensure that they are satisfied with the evidence you provide.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) are supplementary allowances available to students who may have extra expenses, as a direct result of their disability, arising from attending a higher education course. The allowances are meant to help disabled students benefit fully from their course; they are not based on household income.

There are four elements of DSA support:

  • Non-medical help: for students requiring non-medical personal assistance e.g. readers for blind students or sign-language interpreters for deaf students;
  • Specialist Equipment allowance: for help with the purchase of equipment necessary because of the student's disability e.g. computer, Braille printer, Dictaphone, Specialist Software etc.
  • General allowance: for general expenses arising from attendance at the course e.g. extra photocopying, special dietary requirements etc.
  • Travel allowance: extra travel costs you have to pay as a result of disability and not normally for everyday travel costs. You will have to pay the equivalent to the public transport rate towards your travel.

The maximum rates for students undertaking full-time undergraduate courses are:

Non-medical Personal Helper (per annum) £20,938
Specialist Equipment Allowance (whole course) £5,266
General Allowance (per annum) £1,759
Travel Allowance No upper limit

The maximum rates for students undertaking part-time undergraduate courses are:

Non-medical Personal Helper (per annum) £15,703
Specialist Equipment Allowance (whole course) £5,266
General Allowance (per annum) £1,319
Travel Allowance No upper limit

To apply, you must first make contact with the DSA officer at your EA regional office to determine your eligibility for Disabled Students' Allowances.

You should then contact the officer at your university or college who deals with student disabilities and/or learning disabilities (most institutions have a designated disabilities advisor). This person will make arrangements to assess your needs, arising from your disability, in following the course.

The application for DSA will then be made through your adviser to the Education Authority. It must be supported by evidence of the disability (e.g. from a doctor or educational psychologist), recommendations on the form of support needed and costs.

You can apply for DSA during the course as well as at the beginning and, in certain circumstances, your application can be considered before you start the course.

DSA is paid directly from your EA regional office to you or to the supplier of specialist services. You do not have to repay this help.

For further advice and information please contact the DSA Officer at your EA regional office.

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) for postgraduate study

For full-time and part-time students, including distance-learning students, with disabilities. You can receive one allowance of up to £10,469 to help with the extra costs you incur as a direct result of your disability whilst you study. Courses must have an entry requirement of at least a first degree and last for at least one academic year.

Your income, or that of your family, has no bearing on how much you can get. You can apply at any time before or during your course. If the course is part time, you must complete it in no longer than twice the time taken to complete an equivalent full-time course.

You are not eligible for a postgraduate DSA if:

  • you are receiving a bursary or award from a research council, the NHS, the General Social Care Council or if your university or college provides support that is equivalent to DSAs, you will not be eligible for a postgraduate DSA from your EA regional office.

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.

Disability Advisors

There may be occasions where a student doesn’t attend a booked Non-Medical Helper (NMH) session and/or does not give more than 24 hours’ notice of cancellation, due to illness, or unforeseen circumstances. There may also be occasions where a student does not attend a booked session and could have cancelled the session with more than 24 hours’ notice.

In such scenarios the cost incurred to the NMH provider may still be met through the student’s DSAs, subject to the Education Authority’s approval.

You can read the DSA Non-Medical Helper Cancelled Sessions Policy to find out what this entails, and what form you need to return to the Education Authority.