1 July 2015

DSA Support at Uni

So I did a fun post speaking about what I learnt at uni (mainly to do with drinking) so I thought I'd do a more serious post for anyone with a chronic illness who is planning to or thinking about heading to uni and the support you can get through the Disabled Student Allowance


There is no way I would have made it through uni without the support systems I had in place. It was hard as hell even with them sometimes so I can't imagine what it would be like without. I went for a DSA assesment and explained to the lovely lady what was actually wrong with me and everything I struggled with. She also suggested a few other things I might find difficult. She then gave me solutions to all my problems. However, this was 4-5 years ago and I think they are less willing to give stuff now because of cuts etc but if you are prepared and make sure you go armed with a list of what you struggle to do they should be able to help.

- Note taker - This was a life saver and I could not have coped without one. I was lucky that my note taker also became one of my best friends which was amazing but she also provided so much support. She was with me in all of my lectures so I didn't have to injure myself to take notes and could focus on listening (or trying not to fall asleep). She also went to my lectures when I was too ill to go so I could still have notes.

- Practical Assistant - My degree was lab based and I struggle with the fiddly parts like opening bottles etc and I also drop things so I had an assistant (also my note taker) to help me. She also wrote down my results and jotted down important things so I wouldn't forget later.

- Laptop & software - I was given a laptop so that I could take notes in lectures as well as my note takers and so that I didn't have to battle to hand write anything. This came with speech recognition software (which is really amusing to start with whilst it gets used to your accent) so on bad hand days I could still work. I also got software which would read to me and one I could brain storm on and one that I could use to change the colour of screens for my eyes.

- Dictaphone - A godsend in lectures. I could record my lectures and then listen back when I needed to revise (that is until mine magically disappeared).

- Extra time & a computer/scribe in exams - Exams are horrific for anyone but mix in brain fog, poor concentration and pain and they are hell. Extra time and not having to frantically scribble helps so much. I would recommend a computer over a scribe because dictating an exam is so difficult. I would have done so badly if I had to write my essay based exams

- Height adjustable desk & memory foam desk chair - Because I was going to be spending so much time at my desk I got specialised equipment and it helped so much. I could move the desk depending on if I couldnt get out of me wheelchair that day or needed to stand because of my back and the chair is so comfy it made hours of dissertation writing less painful.

- Proof Reader and Essay Help - This is usually for dyslexic students but because of my poor concentration and brain fog the DSA lady suggested it. They help with planning essays and how to lay it out and then proof read for any silly mistakes

- Library assistant & extended loan - I had an assistant to help me get books from high shelves and carry the heavy ones for me. I also got an automatic 2 week extension on my loan time.

- Printing allowance  - I was given a printing allowance as I struggle to read on a laptop screen and I have to print so much to make notes and give to my note taker to take notes etc.

- Assignment extension - I was given an extension on assignments without needing a Drs note or being docked marks for handing in late.

University's are usually pretty good at providing the support you need and they are so much better than schools. University isn't for everyone but don't let your disability or illness be the only reason you don't go.


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