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Which Universities Offer the Best Support for Disabled Students?

When the time comes to pick your university, you will be faced with a plethora of choices.

It can be overwhelming at first and there are many factors to consider.

Which course best suits your academic needs?

Which city most appeals to you?

Which university’s social scene do you feel drawn to?

When you add disability support into the mix, the decision gets even more difficult. Students with disabilities have a lot to consider in addition to the standard student queries. Potential students must know in advance that they be will offered the support they need, and whether the university they choose has accessible features.

On top of this, other factors must be considered, including:

  • Is the town or city accessible/wheelchair user friendly?
  • Does the university offer accessible accommodation?
  • How helpful is the establishment’s disability office?
  • Will socialising be easy? How accessible is the Student Union and any campus facilities?
  • Will I get the financial support I need from this university?

When it comes to finances, students with disabilities can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs. Separate from your normal student finance income, you will not need to pay DSAs back.

Furthermore, your DSA allowance is calculated regarding your individual needs rather than your family income, and the loan can cover anything from specialist equipment, to non-medical helpers, to extra travel costs you will face due to your disability.

Once you have your finances covered, it’s time to choose the perfect university for you. Some institutions go the extra mile for their students with disabilities, such as:

Brunel University London

Award-winning disability and dyslexia services like the one at Brunel University are leading the way in improving disabled students’ experiences. As well as exceptional advice and support, Brunel offers new innovations such as a Sensory Room, which was unveiled in 2018. The room has been designed to “[offer] students with complex needs a place to go in order to limit or enhance their senses – giving a boost to their wellbeing and their capacity to learn.”

The innovative project was designed by Emma Peacock in 2016/17 as her final-year project for her BA in Industrial Design and Technology, and it has proved a fantastic enhancement to the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Service.

In addition to the sensory room and impressive accessibility services, Brunel also champions sport for people with disabilities. Wheelchair Basketball is the fastest improving Sports Club at Brunel and funds are constantly funnelled towards disability sport at Brunel.

University of Worcester

Another University that offers an impressive service to its disabled students is the University of Worcester. The staff go above and beyond to arrange specific academic support to suit their students’ every need. Examples of the available support include: arranging note takers, academic support tutors, library assistance, or interpreters and transcribers. As well as this assistance, the university offers training and awareness raising workshops to reduce stigma around disabilities, and assistive technology wherever it is needed.

University of Leeds

At the University of Leeds, there is a wide variety of assistance offered in relation to both academic and social life. Working with AccessAble, the university has created detailed guides aimed to give disabled students accurate descriptions of facilities available. The Campus map also indicates all of the accessible bathrooms.

When you’re not in classes, Leeds offers options for accessible socialising and wheelchair friendly accommodation. A full list of adapted accommodation can be found on the website, featuring many halls of residence offer specially designed rooms with en suite adapted bathrooms.

Furthermore, the award-winning Student Union is fully compliant with The Equality Act (2010) and it boasts designated disabled viewing areas and FOC ticket system for personal assistants for all of their events. The city itself is accessible to all, with wheelchair ramps and stairlifts in Leeds common.

Thanks to accessibility services, the DSA, and government reforms, more students with disabilities are enrolling in university than ever before. According to the Guardian, “94,120 new students with a disability enrolled at university in England in 2017/18 – that’s up by more than 6,000 on the previous academic year and by some 26,000 since 2013/14.”

And further research from the department of education stated, “69% of students with a disability felt confident about completing their course and 68% felt confident about passing.” These statistics inspire optimism for the future. If other universities follow some these examples and keep working to enhance the experience of students with disabilities, these figures will only increase, and the student experience will keep improving for all.

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