What are DSAs and who is eligible?

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) can provide additional support and funding to UK students in higher and further education. It is extra funding designed to ensure a level playing field for disabled students and can be used to pay for specialist software, computer hardware and a range of study support and extra resources. For example, DSAs can help pay for:

  • Specialist equipment
  • Non-medical helper support, such as one-to-one study tuition or specialist mentoring
  • Extra travel costs
  • The cost of extra photocopying or printing

DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own. They are not a loan and are not counted as income when working out whether you get benefits or Tax Credits. Our Inclusive fee is deducted from your general allowance and our support will cover you for the duration of your course.

Who is eligible for DSAs?

Any UK student applying to or attending university with an impairment or long term health condition could be eligible for DSAs. Examples include:

  • Dyslexia/dyspraxia
  • Sensory impairments
  • Asperger's syndrome
  • Physical disabilities
  • Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression

Use our free HE Support Checker to find out if you could be eligible for extra support at university due to a health condition or impairment.

Where does a Needs Assessment fit into the process?

A Needs Assessment is not the first step in the DSA process - first a student must complete the application process which includes checking eligibility, gathering evidence and submitting an application. You can download a document detailing the DSA application process from our website.

Once it is decided that you are eligible for DSA you will need to have a formal assessment of your needs. You can use the form on our website to book your DSA Needs Assessment with AbilityNet. We have centres across the UK allowing you to choose the centre nearest your home or your place of study. The assessment is conducted by a professional assessor to identify all of your needs and can include recommending technology, learning strategies and other support. 

More about the Needs Assessment

The Needs Assessment usually lasts no longer than two hours. You will meet a specialist assessor in a private room and they will ask about your disability and the impact this has on your educational experience. They will then go on to discuss and demonstrate a range of specialist equipment and software, as well as discussing other appropriate support and strategies.

If you'd like to know more about what to expect read our blog about what happens during a Needs Assessment. You can also download a document detailing AbilityNet's Needs Assessment process and timescales from our website.

What happens after the DSA Needs Assessment?

The Assessor will write a report summarising your needs and the recommended solutions within 10 working days of the date of your assessment. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your funding body, for their approval. A further copy is sent to your Disability Advisor at your university (if consent was given). Upon receiving a copy of your funding body notification letter of the provisions you are being funded (if consent was given) we send your contact details to the selected equipment supplier and IT trainer to provide them with the opportunity to contact you to confirm next steps.

How else can AbilityNet help?

Free helpline for disabled people

Our free helpline is for any disabled person who wants advice about technology. You don't need to be a student and you don't need to be in receipt of DSA to speak to us.

Call 0800 269 545 during UK office hours and we will answer your questions about disability and technology. Alternatively you can email us at enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.

Free resources

We have a library of free factsheets about a range of topics that can help you get the most out of your technology. Popular factsheets include Dyslexia and Technology and Autism and Computers, but we also have content on topics such as Voice Recognition.

We also publish blog posts and news stories which may be of interest to disabled students and have a number of other free expert resources including My Study My Way - your guide to every accessibility feature on every computer, tablet and smartphone.

Useful links

For more information and guidance on the DSA and the application process are linked below:

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