Boyzone's Shane Lynch is urging UK higher education students to check whether they are eligible for extra funding as part of AbilityNet's DSA Claim It Campaign. Shane has described his experience of living with dyslexia and the impact it has made on his life - as well as the amazing sense of relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed.
Many students live with conditions and impairments that limit their abilities, but don't realise that they can claim Disabled Students' Allowances to cover the cost of specialist hardware, software and study support, including travel expenses.
AbilityNet's CEO Nigel Lewis explained that figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggest that as many as half of eligible students did not claim DSAs in 2013/14:
"Disabled Students' Allowances are a lifeline for many students, even if they don't think of themselves as disabled. They can pay for specialist software and hardware as well as extra learning support to ensure that students complete their studies successfully - our DSA Claim It Campaign aims to make sure that everyone who is eligible gets the help they need."
"One big problem could be that people just don't know that it exists. Many parents, teachers and students still don’t know that students with a disability such as dyslexia are eligible for DSAs at university or college, or they don't realise that DSAs are a direct grant that doesn’t have to be paid back.”
"It could also be that people are too embarrassed to ask for extra help, or think it will count against them. That's why it's great having Shane's support for our campaign, as he knows the difficulties that conditions such as dyslexia can bring and can show how much can be gained when you ask for help."
DSAs have been a vital part of helping disabled people achieve success in higher education for many years, meeting the cost of extra learning support, specialist software and hardware and even travel expenses. Students with hearing impairments, visual impairments and mobility impairments are eligible for DSA, as are students with a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, mental health conditions such as depression and health conditions such as diabetes.
Who is eligible for DSAs?
As Nigel explains there is no specific list of conditions that are eligible, and many people don't know they can apply:
"AbilityNet has a specialist DSA service that assesses students once they have been told they can get the grant. In the past year we've helped people with conditions such as ADHD, Anxiety, Aspergers, Autism, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Diabetes, Dyslexia and many more. There is no one size fits all solution - our experts review the person's study needs and identify personalised solutions."
"We're also concerned that people think that DSAs have been stopped. there is a lot of uncertainty about their future but for the time being they are available and people should find out whether they are eligible."
Abbie C* is a first year student who received DSAs and passed on her advice:
“Get it. It's worth it and will help you throughout your studies. You shouldn't worry about disclosing your disability or learning difficulty because by doing so, you'll get all the support you can possibly think of and makes your experience at university a lot more fulfilling."
Find out more about DSAs
*Abbie asked for her identity to be kept confidential.