What is the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)?
The Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) fund is a Government grant for UK students enrolled on full-time higher education courses.
Our company, iansyst, is a registered supplier under the Quality Assurance Group (QAG) for the DSA. The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) Quoting System will give you access to the ‘one stop shop’ solutions we can provide regarding equipment and training. However the exact rules governing just what the scheme grants are quite detailed. Here we cover the finer points of what the DSA means for you the student or you the professional.
The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funding is available for UK students with disabilities (including dyslexia) who are undertaking full time courses in Higher Education. Part-time students, studying on a designated part-time higher education course are also eligible for DSAs, as are post graduate students. Nursing and Midwifery Diploma students are also eligible – there is specific information for Healthcare students. Open University students also have their own scheme. There is a very similar scheme in Scotland. The award is intended to cover any extra costs or expenses a student may have to meet whilst studying, that arise because of a disability. DSAs do not depend on your or your parents’ income and there is no upper age limit.
The rates of allowances for 2012/2013 (unchanged from 2011/2012) are as follows:
- Specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,161 for the whole of your course – the same for part-time students. For dyslexic students this can mean computer, scanner, general purpose and specialist software, speech recognition software, text-to-speech software, mind mapping software, a digital voice recorder, note-taking software, note-taking hardware, an electronic dictionary or spell checker,, a reading pen or portable scanner, coloured overlays etc, insurance and course-long support for the equipment, according to your individual needs.
- Non-medical helper’s allowance: up to £20,520 per year of your course – up to £15,390 for part-time students. For dyslexic students this can mean training to use your specialist equipment (although can be included in the equipment allowance); extra help to deal with study skills, reading skills, work organisation, grammar, spelling and numeracy difficulties; but not extra tuition for your course.
- General disabled student’s allowance: up to £1,724 for each academic year – up to £1,293 for part-time students. For dyslexic students this can mean extra photocopying, recording tapes (for lectures), coloured paper or even extra books if your dyslexia means that you cannot read books in the library in the normal way. As with the non-medical helpers’ allowance, part-time students are eligible for an allowance of the equivalent percentage to their course.
These rates are the maximum you can get. They are meant to cover people with a high level of need, so most dyslexic students will get quite a lot less than the maximum. You will only get enough money from the DSA to cover the cost of the equipment or support that the LA or funding body agrees that you need.
We are happy to quote for and supply any of the equipment and supplies we have mentioned, including the computer system and training on the system, as a “one-stop shop”. This has the advantage that you are dealing with one supplier who is responsible for making sure that the different items all work together. We also specialise in understanding the specific needs of people with dyslexia and other disabilities.
We have taken an active role in setting up a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for DSA Suppliers; now known as the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF), so that you know what to expect from those of us who offer specialist services to meet the needs of students with DSAs. Our Chairman, Ian Litterick, was the first DSA suppliers’ representative on the DSA Quality Assurance Group (QAG). We aim to offer an even better standard than that set by the SLA. Here are more reasons to insist on getting your computer from iansyst who run dyslexic.com. Legally the grant is yours so you have the right to influence and even choose who you buy services and equipment from. In practice, if you are happy, it is easiest to let the funder (formerly the LA ), but increasingly Student Finance England – the Student Loans Company – pay the bills directly.
If you think you might qualify:
You should first have a look at the government’s Disabled Students’ Allowance web page where you can also download Bridging the Gap (320KB PDF). This leaflet gives full details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply and is the definitive source of information on the DSA. If you are eligible you should contact your local authority (or other funding body), or if you know which University or College you are going to, contact the The Disability Officer there, who will also be able to help you through the process. Disability Officers go under a lot of different titles (Special Needs Advisor, Student Services, Welfare Officer, Learning Support etc). As the process can take time, the sooner you do this the better. You could do everything directly yourself, using the sources of information below, but the Disability Officer should make it much easier for you.
You need to show your Funder recent evidence of your disability or dyslexia (typically an Educational Psychologist’s report or recent update). You will then normally go to an Assessment Centre or Access Centre who will assess your needs for equipment, software and support, taking into account the needs of your specific course. There is a Quality Assurance Framework for DSA assessment centres and assessors and the DSA Quality Assurance Group has a list of members that have registered and which you can use. It is worth shopping around from this list for an assessment centre for three reasons:
- to find one which is convenient for you whether at home or at University;
- to ask how long you will have to wait for an appointment (at peak times this can be quite a few weeks);
- to check that that they are one of the many centres that recommend us (if you would like to get your equipment from us). Even if they don’t, you do have the right to choose where you spend the grant that you are given, within reason, but it is easier if the assessment centre already use us.
Many Universities and Colleges have their own web information about DSAs and about how they support disabled students including those with dyslexia. Some with particularly good information include:
- The Open University, which has many disabled students and is particularly disability conscious. It also has a series of short explanatory videos. These are very good, but please bear in mind that some of the information is specific to OU students.
- Bradford University’s Disability Office offers a good deal of support and information, including a web page specifically on dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, and another specifically on dyslexia screening.
- For Scots, Dundee Access Centre has a good general information page on the DSA in Scotland.
- Since Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities has ceased operating, its information services are continuing within Disability Rights UK, who have downloadable information files on the DSA, and is a useful organisation to be in touch with.
- The BDA (which you might like to join as a supporter) has a web page Help for Higher Education Students.
Support for students on undergraduate medical and dental courses is on the same basis as for other higher education students. Otherwise different arrangements apply although they can result in similar grants. The latest information we can find is: Financial Help for Health Care Students.
To apply for a DSA as a part-time student, your university should have copies of Student Finance England’s form and Guide; so the best strategy is normally, as mentioned above, to get in touch with your Disability Officer. Otherwise get the form and Guide from Gov.uk. Your institution has to certify the form, confirming your attendance, etc. You then send the form to the Funder with supporting evidence about your disability/dyslexia as outlined in the information pack. Student Finance England has an on-line form, but you still need to send them a signature on paper.
For OU students part time means taking undergraduate-level courses that amount to at least 30 credit points in the first year (60 points in Scotland). The OU has its own DSA administration system, and nice, clear information about it. It also has a series of short explanatory videos.
Full and part-time disabled students including distance-learning students, whose courses have an entry requirement of at least a first degree and last for at least one academic year, may be able to receive funding. 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. Your university Disability Officer should know about the procedure; you can also get information from Funding Postgraduate Study.
The Student Awards part of the Scottish Executive, operates a very similar DSA scheme. It will normally give you the money to spend directly yourself. You can, if you wish, shop around and buy cheaply here and there. However, there are very good reasons to buy everything from the same place. Here is why you might like to insist on buying from us. We are really experienced in the rather unusual technology you are likely to be using. High street shops rarely know anything about it and cannot offer the same level of support and warranty.
Students on some courses outside Higher Education may also be eligible for a DSA.
Students who get the FE National Dance and Drama (DADA) Awards are eligible to apply for DSA. Manchester LA administers the scheme for all students in England and Wales and the rules are the same as those for HE students.
DSA Students keep it up longer! Official!
Don’t be afraid to claim the DSA! The National Audit Office Report on Student Retention reported (Summary p12, 2007):
We found that students receiving an Allowance are much more likely to continue their course than other students self-declaring a disability and, indeed, than students who are not disabled. Although the number receiving an Allowance has increased, at some institutions an Allowance is obtained by less than 10 per cent of self declared disabled students studying full time or at least more than half time, and at other institutions over 70 per cent obtain an Allowance.
They suggest that perhaps students who have the persistence to obtain a DSA are also more likely succeed in their studies.
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Article last updated: 10 May 2012.
Thank you for this excellent article. I have been surfing the web for over an hour trying to find a comprehensive explanation as to how the DSA could help my son and I now have a much clearer idea!
Mandy Y. 30 September 2006
My daughter, now 21, was assessed for DSA immediately before she started at University in 2006.
This assessment was done at the University, and was a half day process. I accompanied her to the Uni but remained outside of the assessment until the final questions session, (this was questions about my daughter’s history which she felt I may recall better than her!).
She was diagnosed with Dyslexia whilst doing her A levels (despite my asking for assessment from age 9!) so we had a recent assessment from an Ed Psych and the Uni assessment was purely to see what they could offer her in terms of help to support her in her course. She was studying Drama, so they provided her with a digital voice recorder so she could record practical sessions, as well as lectures and seminars – this device also helped her to record her own thoughts prior to writing essays. She qualified for a desk top with pre loaded software, such as Read and Write Gold (THE best software for her, as it makes sure you mean their or there, weather or whether …) the computer was installed by iansyst and the guy spent half a day with her to ensure it was right. She was also given access to free dyslexia tuition, invaluable at exam or assessment time, coloured overlays and a bar magnifier.
I can’t speak highly enough of this service, and of the DSA in general, once you jump through the first hoop, they made it easy to claim, to reclaim in subsequent years and the proof that it works … my daughter has received a 2:1 hons degree which we would not have imagined possible 3 years ago.
Gill in Yorkshire 14 July 2009