student on computerCome A-level results day, some students will find their results are not what they expected, and they can no longer take up the university place they planned. Thousands will find a new place through the Ucas Clearing system – some 57,000 students did so last summer.

There are lots of things to bear in mind when applying to a course you’d not considered before, from location to degree content – but what if you also have a disability or learning difficulty to take into account?

Every university has to comply with the equality act, explains Rachel Challinor, student life support manager at Salford University. This means, whatever your needs, all institutions will have a team of experts ready to provide support. But Challinor advises that before signing up to a degree programme, students should do their research to see exactly what’s on offer.

“Find out how the course is actually taught and think about whether it will suit your particular learning style – the same course may be taught in very different ways across institutions.”

She recommends that wherever possible students visit the campus to see first-hand if the facilities can accommodate their needs: “Is the library service accessible? Can you get ebooks? Check out the student union: is there a disabled students group? What emotional support is on offer?”

It’s also important that students contact the university disability team as soon as possible, says Barbara Furnival, deputy head of disability services at the University of West England (UWE). “They shouldn’t hesitate to talk to us and see what’s available – whatever their disability, we’ve probably dealt with it before over the years.”

UWE reserves specially adapted rooms – for example, rooms suitable for students with hearing impairments – for applicants entering through Clearing.

Tailored support
The type of support students require will vary greatly according to their specific disability – and some provisions will take longer to put in place, she adds. “We don’t tend to get wheelchair users coming in through Clearing, but we could do – and we’d support them if we did.”

Once students have selected a course, they are advised to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), a pot of money that helps pay for any additional costs that might be incurred as a result of their disability.

DSA assessments can take months to complete, says Furnival, who adds that applications should be sent off promptly. “If students get in touch, we can help guide them through the process.

“We also have funds available which means that we can put interim support in place until their DSA comes though. Students don’t need to think that they’ll arrive and there’ll be no support in place.”

The Guardian