The Disabled Students Allowance covers any extra costs related to education as a result of your epilepsy.
You can apply for a DSA at almost any point, but try to do so before you arrive, as support will be put in place much more quickly.
The DSA does not cover everyday student costs, such as course fees or accommodation. Nor does it cover any support that doesn’t relate directly to your education.
*Changes to Disabled Students Allowance from September 2016*
The Government has announced changes to DSA that will apply to new applicants for the 2016/17 academic year. Students who are already in receipt of DSA will remain on the existing system of support for 2016/17.
Higher Education providers have a legal obligation to make "reasonable adjustments" so that you are not put at a disadvantage because of your epilepsy.
This means that Higher Education providers will be expected to offer support that was previously covered by the lower cost elements of DSA. Some of the key points are:
- Manual notetakers and study mentors/buddies will now be provided.
- Electronic notetakers and specialist study skills support will continue to be funded by DSA.
- Higher Education providers will be expected to bear the costs of specialist accommodation provided by them or their agents .
- Printers, scanners and digital voice recorders will no longer be funded by DSA as standard.
- Standard computer peripherals and other accessories will only be funded by DSA by exception.
- Laptop carry cases will continue to be funded by DSA as standard.
Applying for DSA
Contact your student or disability support service. They will help you obtain and complete an application form from the relevant funding body.
You will also need to send evidence that you have epilepsy with your application. A letter from your doctor usually suffices.
Once you have received your letter of approval you will need to book a needs assessment at a centre that’s most convenient for you. Find your closest assessment centre and enter your postcode.
The assessment will be a chat about how your epilepsy may affect your education and any areas you think you may benefit from additional support.
What support is available?
There are three areas in which it is possible to receive the DSA. What you receive will be dependent on your assessment and what recommendations are made for your support.
Specialist equipment allowanceThis allowance offers help with equipment such as:
A dictaphone: this may be helpful if your medication makes you tired or makes it harder to concentrate during lectures. It might also be useful if you have absence seizures during classes.
They gave me a dictaphone and it’s brilliant. If I have an aura in the middle of a lecture and I have to stop, it keeps recording.
A laptop and printer: having to spend late nights in the library can cause stress, which is a common trigger for seizures. This option allows you to work at your own pace and in your own environment.
I’d often get scared having to go the library at night, in case I happened to have a seizure. My seizures are brought on through stress and tiredness so exams were even more of a hectic point, so it was suggested I have a computer at home
Computer or laptop with an anti-glare screen: these may be useful if you have photosensitive epilepsy.
I’ve been given a laptop with an anti-glare screen. We had a family laptop that didn’t have the anti-glare, so I couldn’t use it for long periods of time.
Software to adjust the lighting and colour on a screen: some people with photosensitive epilepsy find that their seizures can be triggered by large contrast differences. Being able to reduce this may be helpful for some people.
The support officer knew about things like changing the colour of the screen. She gave me some software, so it wasn’t always a white background.
Dictation software: this may help you if you have photosensitive epilepsy. It allows you to make notes or write essays without having to look at a computer screen for extended periods of time.
Non-medical helper’s allowanceThis allowance can be put towards the costs of non-medical helpers such as:
A note-taker: someone who can take notes for you if you find it difficult to concentrate or have absence seizures. They can also take notes when you unable to attend lectures for medical reasons.
I’ve got a note-taker for when I have a seizure, so I’ve got more detailed notes. So if I had an absence then I’ve got everything.
I’ve been provided with a note-taker if I need it. If I have a seizure in the morning and I can’t go to a lecture, I just have to inform my university and it is able to send the note-taker to take any notes I might miss.
A mentor or tutor: the role of this person can vary from providing help with effective studying methods to emotional support as well.
I have a mentor. She’s there for both study support and emotional support. It’s been good to have her at times.
I’ve got a mentor who I can go and see, and he goes over work, work strategies and he helps me quite a bit.
I get weekly meetings with a study skills tutor and she gets to look over assignment work. She helps me with study skills and concentration skills. A large effect of my medicine is it makes concentration difficult and it affects memory as well.