Guide to University for Disabled Students
There is more to think about when going to university if you are disabled. There will be ups and downs, but you have every right to enjoy university as much as the next person! Use our guide for information and advice.
Research and choose carefully as changing university after you’ve started can be difficult. Talk to your parents, friends, careers advisers, teachers and other support staff at your school, as they may be able to help you make decisions. Think about:
- Course practicalities How physical is the course you are interested in? Will there be laboratory or field work? Make yourself aware, but don’t let it put you off – the right university will make sure you can study the course you want.
Travelling into campus every day may be difficult, but there are flexible degree options such as part-time courses or distance learning.
See more information about choosing a course.
- Accommodation Are the rooms and facilities suitable for you? Are there lifts without restrictions? Will any adapted accommodation available fit with your current routines?
Don’t be afraid to be thorough and ask lots of questions. Being in the right accommodation for your needs is not something you should have to compromise on.
Read more about where to live at university.
- University facilities Are academic and social facilities accessible in regards to your specific needs? Most universities will have an access guide on their website which should help with your research. Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and really focus on how you will be able to take part in university life. This will help with your comfort in the future.
Try and attend open days to see if you’ll be able to access the facilities in an easy way.
See more advice on choosing a university.
- Disability support service Every university should have support in place for disabled students. Staff are trained to help you, and are there to make your experience as enjoyable as possible, so make the most of it! You can phone and talk to them (before choosing and attending a university) about your situation and ask what they can do for you.
It really is important to attend open days. Try to visit all of the institutions you are interested in to see if they suit your needs. This way you can see the facilities first-hand and will have peace of mind before beginning the course. Attending an open day is the only way to get a feel for how easy it is to get around before starting.
You can get in contact with universities before attending an open day so that any arrangements you may need for visiting can be made.
Some things to look for:
- Will the course teach you in a way that is suitable? Different universities have different teaching styles.
- Are all academic and social facilities accessible?
- Is there appropriate accommodation available?
- Is there a support group for disabled students?
If the course or university doesn't feel right for you, then keep looking! Search for open days and read related advice.
Do some research before Results Day in case your exam results aren't what you're expecting. This could mean finding universities that ask for higher and lower grades than what you're predicted, seeing what disability support they offer, and questioning whether you could see yourself there.
Check out the disability services at the places you are interested in, and get in touch if you have questions. Find out if they can accommodate your specific needs. If there’s time, you could even make a couple of visits.
Keep your research findings in one convenient place so you can refer to them if necessary on Results Day. Make key decisions so that you have less to worry about if you have to go through Clearing. For example, would you rather attend a campus or city university? Would you like to live at home or move away?
Clearing and Adjustment
If you didn’t get the grades you needed to get into your Firm or Insurance Choice universities, or you did better than expected, use our What to do on Results Day chart for help with Clearing and Adjustment.
When you find a vacancy that appeals to you, get into contact with the university as soon as possible. Speak to the university's disability support team and ask them questions to find out if it would be an ideal place for you to attend.
If possible, attend an Open Day for students using Clearing or Adjustment before you accept the place.
Some universities will reserve specially adapted accommodation for disabled students who go through Clearing and Adjustment. If not, then the support team should be able to help you find an alternative. Read more about Clearing.
It may be tough, and extra work, but it is best to prepare in advance so that your experience will be smooth and enjoyable. We’ve put together a list of things to think about to help with your transition into Higher Education:
- Speak to people Get in contact with the admissions team, support staff, lecturers, tutors, and the disabled student representative. There will be protocols for disabled students in place, but if you get to know staff a bit before moving to university, you will feel more comfortable asking for help when you get there.
Many universities have Facebook groups where you can get in contact with others in a similar situation. This may help you to meet friendly people and break the ice before starting at university.
- Take advantage of your benefit entitlement You may be entitled to have more financial support than what you receive for your Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA), so make sure to check.
Also, you may be able to receive useful equipment to make things easier for you.
- Pack enough equipment Always have spares of any equipment that you may be lost without.
- Check out facilities and access If you know the whereabouts of facilities you’ll need beforehand, it will take away the stress of finding them on your first day. Look out for include lifts, accessible toilets, parking spaces, library and workstation access.
Do research, ask relevant people, see if you can attend the university again before starting.
Look into the public transport. Are there good transport links to campus, student housing areas, the city centre and other places you might visit? Is the transport accessible for you? If not, will your DSA be enough to cover taxis to and from university?
Also, remember to register with the doctor and other services you may need!
See more about preparing to go to university.
Disabled Students' Allowance
When you have a place on a course, apply to be assessed for your DSA as soon as possible, so that financial help will be there for you. This will help cover costs related to your disability, including costs for equipment and physical support.
- DisabilityRightsUK.org (free UK helpline number: 0330 995 0414 – open 11am to 1pm Tuesdays and Thursdays).
Next page: Mature Students' University Guide