If you know a young person with a disability, mental health condition or learning needs, this is well worth a read!

Disabled people are around 3 times as likely not to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people, and around half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification*, but there is a fantastic amount of support in place to make higher education accessible that we wanted to tell you about.

For a start, Unis have disability coordinators and advisers in place and so, for today’s guest blog, we spoke to Sarah Parnell, the Support Coordinator at University Centre Weston (UCW). Here’s what she told us about the sort of things on offer …

Firstly, having a disability, mental health condition or learning difficulty is no reason at all to miss out on getting a degree!

Accessible classrooms

If you decide to pursue higher education, you will learn in accessible classrooms, in a variety of ways. The days of endless lectures in stuffy or freezing cold lecture theatres are thankfully long gone.

Uni tailored to you

We’ve learned over the years that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply to support. So, at UCW, we tailor what we offer to the individual we are trying to help.

When students on the autism spectrum or with specific learning needs require one-to-one sessions with specialist instructors, that’s what we give them.

When students are struggling with study skills, we invite them to group workshops or arrange individual tuition.

And there’s funding support available

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)** enables students with disabilities to receive extra support – either in person or with assistive technology. It can also help with travel and other general costs related to your disability.

The amount you get will depend on your mental health condition, disability or learning difficulty rather than your income. And it is then either paid direct to you or to the organisation that is providing the service or equipment to help you.

You can claim the DSA via Student Finance as well as your student loan. However, you don’t have to repay it – and if you think you might be eligible, you don’t have to wait until you have a confirmed place at Uni before you can apply.

At UCW, when a student is eligible for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), we walk them through the application process and then deliver DSA and Quality Assurance Group-approved support on an ongoing basis.

Clear about the support on offer

As well as this extra funding for individuals, the government also funds bodies to make sure Unis offer fair access to students from all backgrounds.

In recent years, the sector as a whole has seen huge increases in students with disabilities, mental health conditions and learning difficulties.

And Unis are now also far more open when it comes to telling applicants about the support they offer to help students achieve their ambitions.

And finally …

Wherever you choose to study, you’ll also be taught by lecturers and specialist support staff who want to nurture your love of learning and encourage you to be a successful independent learner.

If you’re unsure about what support might be available, call the Uni, check their website, and try to get along to an open day so you can find out more about the facilities and services available. They may already have accessible course books, for example.

And if you would like to know more about the support that we offer at UCW, please get in touch!

Thanks to Sarah and to the team at UCW. @UCWeston www.ucw.ac.uk

And there’s a fantastic UCW video here – http://www.ucw.ac.uk/students/support/

* Disability facts – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures

** Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas

And there’s more on the Disability Rights UK website under Funding higher education for disabled students 2017/18.

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