Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) are grants that help to pay for extra equipment and support that you may need as a direct result of your disability, on-going health condition, sensory impairment, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty. The entire process may take up to four months, so you need to apply as early as possible.
DSA is not available to apprenticeship learners. You may be eligible for Access to Work which you can discuss with your apprenticeship employer.
Applying for a DSA
The process for applying differs depending on the UK nation you live in. Our article How to apply for Disabled Students Allowances has all the details.
Students who have received a DSA and have reached the limit of that allowance can contact the Disability Support Team to explore additional routes to support and funding available through the Open University (OU).
If you’re a non-UK resident or you're not eligible to apply for DSA, you can apply for OU support using the Disability Support Form. An adviser will discuss which equivalent OU schemes best suit your needs. For more information, and options for completing the Disability Support Form see Timescales for getting disability support.
For non-UK students, further details are available from Disability support for international students.
An overview of DSAs
- Funding is provided by the funding body relevant to your nation, for example Student Finance England or Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
- The allowances aren't means tested or dependent on your income or savings and won't affect your state benefits.
- You get a comprehensive assessment of your study needs.
- It could help pay for specialist equipment and assistive software, a study support helper and additional costs such as printing costs and travel costs.
- DSA supplements any adjustments made by the OU.
- Both undergraduates and postgraduates can apply.
- As a part-time student or postgraduate you do need to apply each year.
How is the DSA money paid?
The allowance for specialist equipment and non-medical helpers, such as sign language interpreters and mental health mentors, is paid directly to a recommended professional agency by your funding body. You may be asked to sign and confirm you’ve received the support before the agency can submit an invoice direct to your relevant funding body for payment.
DSA can’t be used to pay for personal care such as help with washing and dressing.
Full details of how payment is made is provided by your funding body.
When you first apply for a DSA, you'll be asked to attend a Needs Assessment. This is an informal meeting to talk about software, ergonomic equipment and study support you may need. You should make a note of the make and model of any computing equipment you use, especially if you are unsure if it will be suitable for OU study.
An assessment centre will get in touch by email once they have been referred. Respond to the email as soon as you can to arrange the assessment.
10-14 days after the assessment you'll be sent a copy of the report. You'll need to sign it and return it to the assessment centre.
If the award is approved, you'll receive a Letter of Entitlement listing the items and support they have approved.
If study support has been recommended as part of your DSA, we'll refer your details to an agency that employs specialised support workers for students. They will contact you directly to arrange support.
If you want to source your own study support, contact us for further advice on how this can be done.
DSA funding for residential school
If you're attending a residential school or day school, you should contact the Disability Support Team. They'll discuss the school activity and the venue and help you identify any necessary adjustments or additional requirements, for example a specific diet, larger font materials or a non-medical helper.
DSA funds can only support compulsory study-related sessions, not optional or social events, or personal care at residential school.
Extra information for students in Scotland
As all OU students need a computer to study, SAAS will not normally approve computing equipment. A DSA will only pay for additional items or support that arises because you are studying with a disability, health condition or specific learning difficulty. You may be able to apply for Discretionary funding to cover the cost of computing equipment if you're on a low income or benefits. You'll find details of this fund for students in Scotland in Scholarships, bursaries and grants from the OU.
Sharing your information with DSA funding bodies
The DSA application process requires us to share your personal information with third party funding bodies such as Student Finance England, Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland (SFNI) or Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
We'll share information such as your title, name, date of birth, personal identifier, qualification, module details and academic year to confirm your registration with the OU. This will enable the funding body to process your DSA application. During your studies we may discuss with the funding body your ongoing award and support provision to ensure you have access to the correct services to support your studies.
The information provided will be used and managed in line with the Student Privacy Notice.