Our Right to Study
Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) provides a vital grant to support students with a disability to meet the additional costs involved with studying at university. Without this financial support many blind and partially sighted simply wouldn’t be able to study.
While DSA has the potential to support students to engage with independent study, we are concerned that the system is extremely complicated, confusing and time intensive – and as a result – failing many students with vision impairment.
Our Right to Study campaign calls on the Department for Education (DfE) and the Student Loans Company (SLC), which administers DSA, to take urgent steps to ensure that DSA works for students with vision impairment.
Why we are concerned
Applying for and accessing DSA can be an extremely complicated, confusing and time intensive system.
Some of the issues raised include:
- Assessments are often conducted by assessors that do not understand the needs of students with vision impairment, and therefore the right support and equipment is not recommended
- Students starting their course, and having to wait for an unacceptable amount of time for equipment and Non-Medical Help (NMH) – which sometimes does not materialise
- Students having to pay out significant amounts of money to purchase equipment that they require to enable their studies. Either because of a poor assessment, or because of the expensive nature of specialist equipment the DSA equipment budget does not sufficiently cover costs.
- Students not being able to independently complete forms, because of inaccessible systems.
The impact is that some students are having to repeat modules or are taking longer to complete their degrees because the right support is not in place. Unfortunately, we have evidence of some students dropping out of university as a consequence.
What we have been doing
In January 2019 we launched our report Our Right to Study, in partnership with RNIB and Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at parliament.
Since then, our campaign has gone from strength to strength and we:
- Sit on the Disabled Students Stakeholder Group (DSSG), which advises and supports the Student Loans Company (SLC) and the Department for Education on the provision of specialist support to disabled students
- Have met with the SLC and students to discuss the barriers in accessing information and forms to apply for DSA
- We have been influencing the reforms to DSA and the way in which assessments, technology and training will be contracted and delivered
- Have fed into Lord Holmes ‘report into the Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA)’
- We have supported our Student Voices volunteers to share their experiences and survey other students on experiences of DSA
- Contributed to The Commission into Higher Education’s report ‘Arriving at Thriving: Learning from disabled students to ensure access for’
What we are calling for
We would like to see a simplified DSA system that enables blind and partially sighted students to access the support they need.
We support the reforms to DSA which we believe will simplify the system for blind and partially sighted students. However, we believe that there must be safeguards in place, please read our statement on the DSA reforms.
We support the recommendations set out in Lord Holmes ‘Report into the Disabled Student’s Allowance’ and echo that:
“We have a brilliant scheme intended to level the playing field and reduce inequalities. Let’s make sure the DSA is working as it should and enabling students with a disability to thrive in higher education and beyond.”
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