DSA (Disabled Student Allowance)

STORIES (5)

As I have written in previous blogs I have dyslexia, which was diagnosed at the age of 26 whilst I was studying for my Masters which can be found here…

https://historytiglet.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/dyslexia/

At the same time I was also suffering from an awful lot of pain and tiredness which meant I could spend whole days in bed and could at times not even grip my own hair brush. I had been forced to leave my job and was playing musical consultants looking for a diagnoses of what was wrong with me. I was eventually to be diagnosed with JHMS (Joint Hypermobility Syndrome) after several long and difficult years which enabled me to return to work in a new career helping other. Meanwhile, I have always loved studying and so returning to university to complete my Masters seemed a good way of filling my time constructively and preparing for a new career.

However, I could not hold books for any length of periods, I could barely hold a pen to write and using a computer was highly painful. I could not have completed the quantities of reading needed for my course and the countless 2000-5000 word essays without the help I gained through my DSA support.

It was also discovered at this time that I had dyslexia, which also entitled me to additional help and support.

Thanks to DSA I received: a new laptop, stand and mouse etc; specialist dictation software to type my essays for me and to read the text aloud to me (to help with both proof-reading and to prevent me having to sit in front for laptop for hours reading journals); I got a printing allowance and book allowance to enable me to print, copy or buy the many journal articles and books I needed but could not hold a pen to make notes from; I also had specialist helpers, I had a note-taker and I had a library assistant both to carry and copy heavy books for me but to also help me with the hours spent in the local archive for my dissertation research.

This is why I was so horrified to hear of the proposed government cuts to DSA.

The ordinary Government announcement can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/higher-education-student-support-changes-to-disabled-students-allowances-dsa

This was supposed to be implement in September 2015 but was put back a year as the Government realised many universities could not be ready in time. It is also being challenged in the High Court.

See here in the Times Higher Educational Supplement:

https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/dsa-cuts-plans-face-high-court-scrutiny/2018892.article

Yes, funding needs reviewing. Yes, clever uses of technology can help. For example, having the lecturer notes in advance (and on blue paper) is fantastic. However, in seminars the students and lecturer debate and ask questions. There are no notes to be handed out but excellent information is exchanged and developed. A note-taker is vital for instances like this.

This Government is supposed to be about helping hard-working people. Students with health conditions and disabilities have already had to overcome all sorts of hurdles to get to university and will have a harder time at university even with the additional support in place. The support I received meant I was able to complete me Masters but I was still in additional pain and stress whilst studying for it. I would have quit without the help I received.

I encourage all the students I teach that have disabilities and that are hearing to university to apply for DSA. As I explain to them it is simply there to give them a fair playing field.

These students are worth investing in, they have had to learn to overcome difficulties to be imaginative and resilient. They will make excellent contributions to society.

Thanks to DSA I am now using my enhanced subject knowledge and confidence to teach at FE level. I think I have proven myself a worthwhile investment.

Why should future students be denied these chances? They will repay them by their contribution to society in the future.

Surely all young people are worth investing in?

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