For those with long-term health conditions, DSAs can be a lifeline, writes Jess, a sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who blogs about her experiences. Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) is available for students with a range of debilitating medical problems, including diabetes, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease. But how can tech help deal with the symptoms of these kinds of long term health conditions?
How computers and IT can help
When using technology, those with CFS and fibromyalgia will particularly have to factor in their pain and fatigue levels. DSA could help by providing sufferers with ergonomic equipment to improve comfort and enable longer studying periods.
A broad range of equipment can be recommended under DSAs. As well as the more obvious items such as a pc and printer it may include things like a mini-fridge and whiteboard for your room, kitchen equipment and lightweight keyboard.
Money also may be provided to cover the delivery cost of internet shopping and travel or a parking permit - useful shortcuts for saving energy. In some circumstances DSAs will cover your taxi fare if your condition prevents you from using public transport.
Felixibility to accommodate change
Some long-term health conditions are volatile in nature and need flexible solutions. Luckily, DSA accommodates this.
Jess was grateful to find that as she became increasingly disabled, the amount of funding available for her increased up to the maximum allowance. She felt able to continue studying in the knowledge that her Disability Adviser could apply for additional funding when her condition deteriorated.
She says DSAs gave her the confidence to pursue her education despite her illness.
The equipment provided for Jess helped her enormously. She was given a lightweight laptop to allow her to work from home, with software that enables anything on screen to be read out- vital on fatigue-heavy days or light-sensitive days when the screen has to be so dark that it is almost illegible.
Her ergonomic fully-adjusted chair and laptop stand mean that working for extended time periods causes as little pain as possible and her printer allows her to avoid reading on a screen. Finally, her voice recorder means she can review lectures she was too tired to engage with at the time, or missed due to illness.
Nathan is a student at the University of West England studying a BA in Business Enterprise. He has cerebral palsy, but is able to run his own website business and meet class deadlines due to extra support from DSA. He is provided with twenty hours of library time per week with a helper, to whom he can dictate his work.
More information about DSAs
Any student who is eligible for Disabled Student Allowances can be given extra support to ensure that they succeeded in their higher education. For more details check out our guide to DSAs.
How AbilityNet can help
AbilityNet’s website includes a range of blog posts explaining tips for easier computing, aimed at those with long-term health conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia amongst others.