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Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)

Photo: If your deaf child is a higher education student, they may be able to claim Disabled Students’ Allowances

If your child is deaf and a higher education student, or planning to be a student, they might be able to claim Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).

DSAs are funded through the devolved governments, and from September 2016 there will be differences between what students can receive DSAs for between England and the rest of the UK. Current students can use DSAs for:

Non-medical support

Specialist equipment

  • radio aids
  • specialised computers and software
  • printers and scanners 

General/other expenditure 

  • photocopying
  • additional study related travel costs incurred due to a disability.

Some deaf students will need to lip-read a lecturer or teacher or watch a BSL interpreter in order to follow a lecture or class. Doing this as well as writing notes is very difficult. To ensure that a student leaves a lecture with the information they need for revision or further study, a notetaker is required.

For new students applying for DSAs from Student Finance England for 2016-17 onwards, DSAs will not normally be available for:

  • manual notetakers (notetakers without specialist training to provide notes for deaf students are not covered by DSAs in England only)
  • proofreaders
  • transcription services
  • alert systems for accommodation owned or managed by a higher education provider.

From September 2016 onwards, higher education providers will need to cover the costs of the above types of support. If it has been identified within your child’s needs assessment that they need support that cannot be funded through DSAs, your child should contact the disability officer of the institution(s) they have applied to attend to check that the required support will be put in place.

If your child’s choice of institution will not provide the support outlined in the DSAs needs assessment, contact our Helpline for further guidance on the next steps your child could take.

Your child can apply for DSAs if they are:

  • eligible for student finance in the UK, and
  • on a full-time course that lasts at least one year (including a distance learning course), or
  • on a part-time course that lasts at least one year and does not take more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent full-time course (including a distance learning course), or
  • on a postgraduate course that is run at a private institution and has been specifically designated to receive DSA funding only.

DSAs are not means tested, so it doesn’t matter how much money you or your child has. Any other benefits they get will also not be affected by DSAs. Your child should be able to get DSAs even if they can't get a full student loan or help with fees. DSA claims can take a few months so it's worth applying as early as possible.

The way your child needs to apply for DSAs varies depending on whether they live in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, but they'll need to fill in an application form.

Your child will also need to have a needs assessment. The assessment identifies what extra study-related needs your child has due to their disability. A fee is charged for the assessment but this is paid for through DSAs, even if the DSAs assessor identifies that no support is required. Before your child chooses which centre they'll have their assessment at, they should find out if the assessors have experience and knowledge about deafness.

Students in England


Students in Scotland

Contact the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

Students in Northern Ireland

Contact Student Finance Northern Ireland.

Students in Wales

Contact Student Finance Wales - in Welsh or in English.

Higher education providers will normally book and pay for student support and then claim the DSAs directly from the funding body. This arrangement means your child will not be burdened with the financial administration involved.

“I filled out the application myself but my Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) and audiologists provided me with supporting documents – a copy of my audiogram and letters from the audiologists and ToD entailing the support I currently have and what I need at university.

“The DSA assessment took roughly two and a half hours. It’s a chance to discuss with the assessor what support you currently have and to hear their suggestions about the support you could get at university.

“My top tip is to make a list of the support that you’d like at university with your reasons before going to the assessment. When I said that I’d like British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for the days my implants failed, the assessor said that I'd be better with a Communication Support Worker (CSW). But I argued that interpreters have a higher level of signing and lectures flow more smoothly with them.

“I also knew I wanted someone to proofread my work at university, so I asked for a proofreader. However, the assessor suggested that I have a Language Support Tutor (similar to a ToD) because they could help me prepare for presentations etc., whereas a proofreader wouldn’t do that.

“After the meeting, the assessor typed up a forty page document which was sent to me for approval. I agreed with everything in the document and it was sent to the Student Finance England (SFE) funding body for DSAs support. After SFE approved it, another document was sent to me and my university about how many hours or funding I’d get.

“In terms of equipment (in my case a radio aid and laptop), I had to contact the supplier that SFE wanted me to buy from and they sent it to me directly. Non-medical support (i.e. BSL interpreters, manual/electronic note-taking) was organised by the university. I have to organise this support half a term ahead of my timetable, stating which seminar/lecture/workshop I need support with.”