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Disabled access at university – top tips on what to look for

Having a disability won't stop you having a great experience at uni, but finding out about disabled access and facilities before you actually get there will help you with the transition…

We asked DisabledGo, a disability organisation that produces online access guides for venues including universities, for some pointers on how to find out how disability-friendly different universities are.
 

Check the university's access guide

These can usually be found on university websites, or by visiting the DisabledGo website, and provide information about accessibility features of key facilities on campus (such as sports and academic buildings) as well as accommodation, including where ramps, lifts, doors or induction loop systems are available.
Universities often have complicated buildings and landscapes due to their size and age. Routes into a building are often well signposted, but circulation around and between adjoining buildings can be lengthy and complicated. A good access guide can help you assess the state of access you can expect to find. Richard Beaty | Head Of Surveying - Disabledgo

Access guides are a good starting point, but might also prompt additional questions:
  • Does the guide cover all that you consider to be important? Is the students' union covered as well as academic venues such as lecture halls?
  • Does it go into the detail you require? If your wheelchair is a particular width, does it say how wide the doors are, or what side transfer the toilet is? What's the level of lighting like if you rely on lip-reading?
  • Where is the accessible accommodation (if the university offers this) actually located? Will you be amongst your peers or at a different site?
  • What about getting around? Does the university offer transportation services such as wheelchair accessible buses between campuses? Where will you (and won't you) find Blue Badge holder car parking spaces?
Make a detailed list of what you need extra clarification on, to follow up directly with the university.
 

Connect with the university

Most universities will have an equalities officer or manager to contact with specific queries about university access in advance. You can also ask them about arranging a site visit.

The university students' union is also a good go-to place for extra information and advice about accessibility at the university most unions have an elected disability or access officer who will be able to give you a student perspective on things.
 

Pay the university a visit

A site visit can be used to identify potential problems before you start uni, so the university can get them rectified. You don’t want to spend ages waiting by a door that was unexpectedly too heavy to open, for instance, when that could have been flagged up as a problem on a site visit.

Under the Equality Act 2010, all universities have to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people can access their services.
Visiting a university well before you get your A-level results shows universities you’re interested in applying and can give you a sense of their attitude towards disability, both in terms of physical access, but also perceptions of disability. Rupy Kaur | Student - University Of Manchester

Will you have someone with you who is able to help you get around on the day, even if it’s just opening doors for you? Either way, try and picture yourself as a student at that university, getting around independently - have a think about whether what's accessible for you with somebody else would equally be accessible for you on your own.
 

Ask about extra support

Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) are grants to help you meet the extra costs of studying that you incur because of your disability. DSAs could help you pay for a computer, for example, or a note-taker at lectures. You don’t pay DSAs back and it doesn’t count as income see www.gov.uk website for more information on eligibility and applying for a DSA.

I enjoyed university so much that I stayed for eight years and got three degrees. It’s a challenge undertaking studies when you have a disability but it’s definitely worthwhile. Good luck! Gregory Burke | Founder - Disabledgo


Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from DisabledGo.com, a website offering detailed access information for disabled people about thousands of venues across the UK including universities.
 

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