(for students referred to the Higher Education ACCESS Centre, University of Dundee)
Applications for the DSA require students to estimate the cost of any equipment and personal support needs. The Higher Education ACCESS Centre has particular expertise in providing a professional, impartial, study needs assessment service to support applications for the DSA. An Access Centre needs assessment aims to identify the most appropriate equipment and personal support to enable disabled students to undertake their chosen course of study. An Access Centre assessment cannot be obtained without prior written approval of the student's funding authority e.g the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) or Student Finance England. If you are unsure of your equipment and/or support needs you are advised to indicate this in your DSA application and to ask for a referral to an Access Centre. If the referral is approved, the cost of your Access Centre assessment will be paid by your funding authority.
Applications for the DSA must be sent to your student funding authority. If you are a Scottish student, you should use the appropriate DSA application form provided by the Students' Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). This can be downloaded from SAAS' website. If you are not a Scottish student, you should contact your student funding authority for advice on their DSA application process. All applications for the DSA must be endorsed by a member of staff at your institution. They must also include recent diagnostic evidence (e.g. a doctor's letter) explaining the nature and extent of your disability. For dyslexic students, an up-to-date assessment by a Chartered Psychologist or PATOSS qualified professional is usually required.
The student's funding authority will contact the Access Centre if they require an Access Centre assessment. Note that the Access Centre referral must be made in writing by your funding authority. As soon as this referral is received, the Access Centre will contact you to arrange an appointment. You should expect to be offered an appointment within four weeks of the Access Centre receiving a written referral request.
The Access Centre assessment begins with a discussion between you and the assessor for approximately one hour. During this time, you will be asked for details of your disability and course of study, and asked to consider how your disability affects your studies. Previous equipment, support and strategies for learning will also be explored. Following this discussion, you will be invited to view and trial various items of assistive technology. This may include, for example, technology that enables the user to dictate text directly into the computer (voice recognition software) or technology that enables the user to hear the text they have typed read back to them by the computer (screen reading software). This stage of the assessment process typically takes another hour. At the end of the equipment trial, the assessor will discuss with you the equipment and any other support, such as Non-Medical Personal Help, that is to be recommended in the Access Centre assessment report. Equipment training requirements will also be discussed at this stage.
You should expect to receive a draft needs assessment report within two weeks of your Access Centre appointment. You should read the report carefully to ensure that you are happy with its contents. If you are happy with the report, you should sign and return the tear-off reply slip included with the report. If you are not happy with any aspect of the report, you should contact the member of Access Centre staff who undertook the assessment as soon as possible. Once a final version of the report has been agreed, the Access Centre will send a copy of your report to your funding authority. With your permission, a copy of the report will also be sent to the person responsible for disability support at your institution. One additional copy will be kept in your Access Centre file. No further copies of the report will be distributed without your prior written consent.
Your funding authority will write to you to advise of the outcome of your DSA application. Response times from funding authorities for DSA applications can vary from one week to several months. The average response time is four weeks. If no response has been received within one month of the Access Centre sending your report to your funding authority, you are advised to pursue your funding authority for a response. If a negative response is received from your funding authority, the Access Centre will negotiate with the authority on your behalf. As soon as a positive response has been received in writing from your funding authority, equipment ordering can be undertaken and any non-medical personal help can be arranged.
You may receive a cheque from your funding authority to cover the cost of the recommended equipment or this may be paid directly into your bank account. Alternatively, your funding authority may prefer to liaise directly with the equipment suppliers. If you are sent funding for the equipment, you should contact the suppliers listed at the back of your Access Centre report, or any other suppliers you choose, to order the recommended equipment. If you wish to make any changes to the specification of the equipment you must obtain the approval of your funding authority before doing so and be willing to pay any difference in cost yourself. Once all the equipment has been purchased, you must send a copy of the equipment receipts to your funding authority as proof of purchase. Any unspent funds must also be returned.
Non-medical personal help is usually arranged by the student in consultation with the person responsible for disability support at their institution. The cost of non-medical personal help is usually provided in arrears by your funding authority on the production of receipts detailing dates when support was provided, the number of hours worked and the rate of pay per hour. These receipts must be dated and signed by you and your non-medical personal helper. It may be possible for your helper to be paid directly by your funding authority (ask funding authority for details), and some institutions offer support with the recruitment, training and payment of helpers. Students at Dundee University should contact Disability Services for further advice.
Insurance and installation of equipment purchased through the DSA is highly recommended and the cost of these will be included in the Access Centre's quotes from our recommended suppliers. Training with equipment is also highly recommended to enable you to utilise the assistive technology to the full to support your studies. Note that training obtained through the DSA is restricted to the assistive technology that has been recommended to support your disability (e.g. voice recognition software) and does not include training with software or equipment that is used on your course (e.g. MS Office software). This training should be available through your institution. Training with the recommended assistive technology can be provided by the equipment supplier or by the Access Centre and the cost of this will be included in your report where required.
We encourage you to contact us should you experience any difficulties with ordering equipment or arranging training through our recommended suppliers. You should also contact the Disability Adviser at your institution of study if you need further advice or need to change any aspect of your support. We are always interested in feedback on our services and to hear how you are getting on with the recommended support. You can do this by emailing: email@example.com Should you wish to make a complaint about any aspect of your Access Centre assessment, please follow our complaints procedure.