A round up of tech support options for students

This blog has been updated. Originally published 06/01/21. Amended 25/07/22

Student in a wheelchair on pathway

"It was refreshing for someone to finally understand what I'm struggling with.”
The new autumn term will be here before you know it, and with Covid-19 still a consideration, we don’t fully know what to expect. Disabled students can have additional barriers to overcome when starting university. If lectures move to online, for example, although there can be benefits for disabled students, there also can be difficulties in accessing online teaching resources and making sure that you are able to take part in online sessions in an accessible manner.
If you're a student looking for information about support that might help with your studies or need information about support for disabled students, AbilityNet has some really useful resources for you.

DSAs assessments

You may also need to book a Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) assessment. These are now available online, from a variety of different organisations. 

AbilityNet began introducing video-based online DSAs assessments in 2020, in response to Covid-19. Students who have taken these online assessments with AbilityNet report a very positive experience.

  • "I was anxious before our assessment as I have such difficulty expressing the pain and stress I go through, It was refreshing for someone to finally understand what I'm struggling with. And now I'm confident of starting my masters degree with the support I will be receiving."
  • "The video assessment ran very smoothly. There was good use of technology to share screens which allowed software demonstrations. My assessor was very welcoming and professional."
  • "The whole team was brilliant as well as my assessor. I felt very at ease and was helped the whole way through which is not something I’ve always experienced when sorting stuff to do with my disability."

Some other results of the survey include:

  • 100% would recommend AbilityNet
  • 4.92 out of 5 satisfaction with the experience 
  • 90% found it more convenient to have an online assessment than a face-to-face assessment

Some of the reasons given for preferring online assessments to face-to-face assessments:

  • "Online, I feel more comfortable and open in my home environment and it makes managing my disability easier."
  • "Talking about these issues is hard so it was nice for me to be in a safe environment."
  • "I struggle to focus face-to-face due to ASD"
  • Other reasons provided include less anxiety via online assessments, and online there is less need to make mobility arrangements, there is no travel cost, and it takes less time from the day as travel time required to get to the appointment is not a factor.

Many higher education students do not get the extra support they need to succeed in higher education, including extra help from their university and the Government's Disabled Students' Allowances.

You can also use AbilityNet's free HE Support Eligibility checker tool to find out if you could be eligible for extra support at university due to a health condition or impairment.

The check is entirely anonymous and you do not need to give us any personal information.

Impacts of Covid-19 on disabled students

In 2021 the Disabled Student’s Commission (DSC), released a report that explores the impacts of Covid-19 on disabled student’s experiences. Based on a survey of students, they sought to understand the student experience, regarding the transition to university, remote learning, mental health, and the support that was given.

“Missing out on friendships”, and “many struggled to adapt to an online learning environment, with little support and guidance offered on the use of platforms and learning materials”, are just some of the points raised in this research. 

Inclusive and Accessible Learning and Working in a Post Covid World. Recorded on 19th July 2022

Watch the webinar recording

A student-facing guide is also available from the Advance HE website. The guide contains considerations for disabled students when applying to university in light of Covid-19. It is a practical toolkit written by the Disabled Students’ Commission (DSC), the independent and strategic group funded by the Office for Students (OfS).

Four students sitting at a table using different tech devices, smiling

The booklet includes a number of questions, framed in a positive way, for students to ask of their disability and wellbeing service to help pre-empt any barriers they may encounter when putting in individual-level adjustments before the start of their new academic year.

Get expert tips for online learning 

AbilityNet also regularly holds webinars, and these sessions include tips on how to make online learning more accessible.

You can access webinar playbacks on how to manage your mental health whilst studying, along with how to access online study options. Also, find out about free and low-cost solutions to help you when you are studying.

If you want to talk to our Advice and Information Officer please feel free to do so. His name is Alex and you can contact him on 0800 047 7462.

Do you work in a university or college setting and need to know more about online accessibility? Here are some training options from AbilityNet:
How to use assistive technology in higher and further education: Watch on demand or book as in-house training 


How AbilityNet can help

Transitioning: How to prepare for university

Factsheet: How to get support from Disabled Students' Allowances

Adjust your computer for changing needs using My Computer My Way

Watch recordings of FREE AbilityNet Live! webinars and sign up for new ones 

Find out more about AbilityNet's Digital Accessibility Service