Here in the UK, we have the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) fund, which is available to help neurodivergent and disabled Higher Education students with additional technology and support to enable them to thrive in their studies. If you have not come across the DSA before, you can read more about it here.
However, DSA funding is only available to students who are UK residents and, within that group, only those who can provide a diagnosis to support their eligibility. Dyslexic students, for example, need to provide a full diagnostic assessment from an Educational Psychologist or Specialist Teacher to meet the eligibility threshold. Whilst some Higher Education Providers (HEPs) help with the cost of this, many students find it a barrier to them accessing additional support.
The disparity that arises between those ‘with DSA’ and those without can create a support gap that falls to universities and colleges to bridge. This can affect, amongst others:
- International students
- Students without a formal diagnosis (or waiting for one)
- Those waiting for their DSA funding to be approved (the process can take up to 12 weeks currently)
Additionally, the DSA is only available to those students on a Higher Education-level course and not to those studying in Further Education, even if they are at the same institution.
The Office for Students specifically highlights attainment gaps, that is “gaps in continuation and attainment rates for groups of disabled students. For example, 90.2 per cent of students who do not report a disability continued their studies into 2019-20, compared with 87.0 per cent for students with a mental health condition. Students with a social or communication impairment were 4.8 percentage points less likely to graduate with a first or upper second-class degree than their peers who do not report a disability (78.8 per cent compared with 83.6 per cent).”
You can read more about the Office for Students’ analysis of access and participation plans here.
One of the ways in which HEPs address these gaps is through funding individual Assistive Technology software licences, often known as ‘site licences’ or ‘seats-based licences’, that can be provided to a student and then reallocated to a different student when no longer needed over a specified licence period, usually one to three years.
Many of the exhibitors at the Dyslexia Show provide licences directly to Higher Education Providers and will be on hand to demonstrate how their software would work in a college or university setting. Register today to visit them at the Dyslexia Show.