As the Department for Education’s recent report shows that 60% of disabled students were unaware of Disabled Student Allowances, pressure is to be put on educational institutions to do more in promoting the service that can provide up to £30,000 for student support.
From assisted computer software to weekly counselling sessions, the service is undoubtedly well-equipped to make university achievable for students with disabilities such as anxiety and autism. So why the significant lack of applicants?
Research has shown that the current systems used to promote the service – student booklets and school faculties – are counter-productive. Such lack of understanding has reportedly led staff members to advise students against disclosing their disabilities, in the belief that it would diminish their application or invite future discrimination.
Communication is key
Tina Sharpe, Disability Services Manager at De Montfort University, has suggested that clarity and representation is crucial in demystifying the already ‘complicated’ DSA application process. Students with mental health issues were ‘unsure’ of whether their anxiety or depression qualified as a disability, leading to the withdrawal of applications.
However, if pointed in the right direction, students can access a range of services suited to their needs. For example, students can utilise innovative software designed to soothe symptoms of depression, such as finding it difficult to concentrate.
With 31% of students finding the application process difficult, the DSA application process has come under fire for being too demanding and unsympathetic, as it relies solely on the motivation of students to complete their application. But if schools and universities across England take on a more active role in the application process, their students will have a better chance of receiving the support they are entitled to.