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Tips for Students with a Disability

University Life for Students with a Disability

Deciding if university is for you is not an easy decision for anyone…It can be particularly difficult if you have a disability.

You might feel like you are on a roller-coaster of emotions as you leave home for the first time but it could be one of the best things you ever do.

Image of someone on a rollercoaster

Ten years on from my graduation I now run a successful business and can’t imagine what I would be doing if I had not gone to university. Studying at university gave me many things apart from my degree including a sense of independence and lifelong friends.

It is no secret that I was apprehensive about going to university but on reflection it was one of the best decisions I ever made. You need to consider various things when looking at higher education.

What to consider if you have a disability and want to go to university

My advice if you are a student with a disability may sound simple but these steps will really ensure you make the most of the opportunity.

  • Do your homework –Ensure that the course content, style of delivery and outline suits both your needs but will also add to your career prospects. Make sure the course right above all else.
  • Visit the Area - Take a tour of the town or city where you will be based and think about the practicalities of how you will get around. Do you like the location? Does it feel suitable and safe?I would recommend visiting the area several times before making a decision. You could be living in the area for at least three years so make sure it is right!
  • Accommodation-This is where you will be living on a daily basis. You need to ensure it will be suitable for your individual requirements.One of the things I liked about my student accommodation was that although it was an accessible flat it was shared with students who did not have specific needs which allowed for greater integration.
  • Student Support –Each university has an obligation under the Equality Act to meet the needs of students with a disability. Arrange to meet the staff at the university and talk about extra support you might require.Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification if you are not sure.
  • Students Union -Each university will have a Students Union. Now apart from being able to offer a fantastic discount card and cheap beer they are also a great place to go for advice and support.
  • Most unions will have an in house disability adviser or be able to signpost you to someone who can help. Find out more by clicking here
  • Additional Requirements –Check out the laundry facilities and think about how you will manage the housework elements of independent living. Perhaps you will need to employ an agency to help with washing and ironing, cleaning and shopping or perhaps you could ask another student to help you.Don’t be scared to ask for help or seek additional support if you need it. Remember you can always call home if you get into a real mess!
  • Disabled Students Allowance- Think about how you will fund your time at university and any additional costs you might incur. You may be able to apply for the disabled students allowance to pay for things like travel costs, photocopying and a note taker. I’d recommend looking at the details of what support you could be eligible for here
  • You might be able to buy copies of textbooks to keep at home which may be easier than going to the campus library.
  • Travel –Think about how far away from home you want to be and how easy it will be to go home if you want to visit your family.I loved being independent and living in a new city but even I liked to go home for a good homemade meal and bit of time with family. Perhaps it would be worth applying for a railcard. Details of the Disabled Persons Railcard can be found here the current cost for a three year railcard is £54 and entitles you to a 1/3 saving on most rail fares across the country.
  • Make friends -Ensure you take part in as many social occasions as possible and make friends as soon as you can. I still speak to some of the people I met on my first day at university every week and I have attended several weddings, birthdays and have even become a godfather to one of my friends children. Your social circle at university is extremely important!
  • Medical/Hospital Needs -Find out how you will keep your wheelchair or scooter serviced, can you order your shoes from the nearest NHS hospital or any medication you might need.

Provided you do your research and pick a subject that you have a real passion for I can guarantee that you will have a wonderful time.