What are DSAs and who is eligible?

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) are grants to help meet the extra course costs students face because of a disability.  For example, DSAs can help pay for:

  • specialist equipment
  • non-medical helper support, such as 1-1 tuition, mentoring, note-taker
  • extra travel costs
  • other costs such as photocopying, printing and books

DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own.  You don't have to pay DSAs back and they're 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 a disability or Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) could be eligible.  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

Full details about DSA eligibility can be found on the UK Government website.

Where does a DSA Needs Assessment fit into the process?

AbilityNet can provide free advice and support in various ways but we also provide personalised assessments for any student who is eligible for DSA.

Once your funding body has sent you correspondence confirming you are eligible for DSA they will ask you to book a needs assessment.  This a confidential session conducted by a professional member of AbilityNet staff to identify all of your needs in relation to your course. This can include recommending technology, learning strategies and other support. 

The recommendations are produced in the form of a report which is then sent off by the Needs Assessment Centre to your funding body.

More about the Assessment

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

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 (only 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 also send your contact details to the selected equipment supplier and IT trainer to provide them with the opportunity to contact you rather than having to wait for you to contact them, as stated on the letter you receive.

How can AbilityNet help?

DSA Needs Assessments

Once it is decided that you are eligible for DSA you will need to have a formal assessment of your needs. AbilityNet has DSA Assessment Centres in London, Brighton, Newcastle, Birmingham, Kingston Upon Thames and Coventry.

You can choose the centre nearest your home or your place of study.

Free helpline for disabled people: 0800 296 545

Our free helpline helps any disabled person who wants advice about technology. You don't need to be a student and you don't need to have a DSA grant - just give us a call and we will do what we can to solve your questions about hardware, software or specialist equipment.

Free factsheets

We have a library of free factsheets about a range of topics that can help you make the most of technology. Popular ones include Dyslexia and Computers and Autism and Computers, but we also cover things like Voice Recognition and Tablet Computers.

We also publish blog posts and other information which may be helpful to students.

Useful links

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

Read more

For a summary of the DSA Needs Assessment processes download the document below.