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What is the Disabled Students Allowance?

Learn about what the Disabled Students Allowance is, who is eligible, and how to apply.

The DSA explained

The Disabled Student Allowance, or DSA as it’s more commonly known, is a grant to help eligible students with any extra essential costs that you may have as a direct result of your disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

This means that you can get extra funding each year, on top of your Student Finance, to cover the costs of any equipment and services you need as a student with disabilities.

This short video explains what the DSA is in a little more detail.

Who can apply for the disabled students allowance?

You are eligible to apply for a DSA grant if you have a disability that affects your ability to study, such as a:

  • Learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD
  • Mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression
  • Physical disability, such as if you’re partially sighted or have to use crutches
  • A long-term health condition such as cancer, or chronic heart disease.

To qualify you must also:

  • Be a UK resident
  • Be an undergraduate or postgraduate student on a course that lasts at least a year (including part-time, Open University and distance learning courses)
  • Qualify for Student Finance
  • Be studying on a full-time or part-time course that lasts at least one year

Unfortunately you’re not likely to be eligible if:

  • You're an EU student and only eligible for tuition fee support
  • You're getting equivalent support from another source, such as your university or a social work bursary (including the NHS Disabled Students' Allowances).

This is a guideline on the general criteria for DSA applications in the UK. To see the specific eligibility criteria for your part of the UK, visit gov.uk

What support is available through disabled students allowance?

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) can help to cover the aspects of studying which your disability impacts, including both the physical and mental demands of university.

DSA funds can be paid out in various ways, but it will either be paid to you as reimbursement or directly to the company providing the equipment or service.

Depending on where you are based in the UK, the amount of DSA you could be entitled to will vary. The total amount you'd receive would be based on how much your disability advisor recommends for you, following your study needs assessment.

You DSA fund will allow you:

  1. Help with day-to-day costs of studying that are related to your disability. For example, photocopying costs.
  2. Specialist equipment such as a computer* or disability-related software. Any equipment bought must have been included in the report from your Study Needs Assessment.
  3. A non-medical helper like a British Sign Language interpreter. This person can’t be a friend or family member.

Your DSA fund will also cover a non-medical helper allowance. This is to help pay for support workers (such as readers, sign language interpreters, or note-takers) and other non-medical assistants you need to benefit fully from your course.

*You may be able to get a new computer if you don’t already have one, or if your current one doesn’t meet the required specification. You’ll need to make a contribution of £200 towards the cost of any computer.

You may also be able to cover travel** allowances with your DSA funding. This helps with any extra travel costs you may have to attend your university, college, or placement because of your disability. The amount you get will depend on your disability.

**For 2022 to 2023 there are some exceptions for students who may need more travel support.

How to apply for the disabled student allowance

Applying for DSA starts with a form to fill out. You can find the relevant form on the Student Finance website for your part of the country. Depending on which Student Finance body you apply through, and your student status you can either apply online, or on paper.

You can apply for DSA before your place at university is confirmed.

The length of time that the application process takes can vary across the UK. It could take up to 14 weeks for your DSA support to be put in place, so it's best to start your application as soon as possible. There's so much to think about when starting university, from making friends to deciding where to live – having your DSA sorted ahead of your first day of freshers will make a massive difference.

Which organisations can you apply for DSA through?

Here's where to apply for DSA, based on whereabouts in the UK you're from:

England – Student Finance England (SFE)

Scotland – Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

Wales – Student Finance Wales

Northern Ireland – Student Finance NI.

Applying for DSA - the process

These are the common steps you can expect as your complete your DSA application:

  1. Fill in your DSA application
  2. Provide evidence of your disability
  3. Book and attend a study needs assessment (only after being asked to do so by the Student Finance organisation)
  4. Wait to hear if your application's been approved
  5. Once funding has been approved, order your equipment and arrange non-medical help, etc.
  6. Your DSA will be paid as agreed (i.e. to you as reimbursement or directly to the supplier).

Proof of eligibility

When you apply for DSA, you'll need certain types of documentation to show that you're eligible. This is the documentation you can expect to provide:

Condition: Physical or sensory disabilities, long-term health conditions and mental-health conditions

Proof of eligibility: A disability evidence form or a photocopy of a report/letter from your doctor or consultant

Condition: Specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia)

Proof of eligibility: A photocopy of a diagnostic assessment from a practitioner psychologist or a teacher with a relevant specialist qualification

What happens at a DSA study needs assessment

A study needs assessment can sound scary or daunting. Just remember they’re there to work with you to establish how much extra support you need at university to help you make the most of your course. In this short video, Louise Warriar, DSA Assessor explains what you can expect to happen at a study needs assessment.