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Students with disabilities


This page applies to Academic Year 2015/16.

You can also find information regarding the financial support available in 2014/15.

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 Education and Library Board (ELB) 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 ELB 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 ELB. This will ensure that they are satisfied with the evidence you provide.


Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)

The 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 Education and Library Board 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 Board. 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 Disabled Students' Allowances 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 Education and Library Board 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 ELB.


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 Student Finance NI 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.