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Ellie's DSA experience

University of Lincoln student, Ellie Evelyn, found the help she needed through the Disabled Students Allowance's. Here, she answers some of the questions many students who are thinking of applying for DSA might be wondering. Chatting with one of Yorlinc's assistive technology trainers, Nick Metcalfe, in her own words Ellie talks us through how she found the whole process and more...

"If you feel like something is wrong at uni, just go have a test. It’s just a small bit of your time, you can get so much more help and it will enable you to do so much better than you even thought you could. Just do it and do it as soon as possible, there could be waiting times and you don’t want to let it pass you by, you want to get help as soon as possible."

Nick: Do you remember when you first heard about the Disabled Student's Allowance's?

Ellie: Yeah, it was when I went to the student wellbeing centre at my university to ask about extra time in exams and extensions to deadlines. I received these in sixth form and I wasn’t sure if I was still entitled to this at university. The University then explained about Disabled Students Allowance's and that you can get a range of things that can be helpful for studies. Not just extra time like I wanted but also programs that would help in lectures too.

N: Once you found out about the Disabled Students Allowance, what were you expecting from it?

E: Mostly I was just expecting some extra help. Someone to explain how to go about working in lectures and seminars and how to use my time best. Initially, it really was just human support that I was looking for, like I had at sixth form but the other stuff was a huge bonus.

N: How did you feel about the assessment?

E: I wasn't sure what to expect at the time. I didn't get diagnosed until I got to university, so I’d never had an assessment that was so in depth before. I guess I was just surprised by how thorough it was. I’d say it was more of a conversation, not really what I was expecting.

N: Do you wish you had applied sooner?

E: Yeah, I definitely wish I’d looked into it when I first started university. I left it until the second term and by then I’d missed out on the opportunity to get extensions for deadlines. Also, to have other aids in place like the computer programs that have helped me with the way I work. It is a regret that I didn’t do it as soon as I could have.

N: Did you do any research on the kind of support available before you went for your assessment?

E: No, I actually didn't, after the university had told me there was more support available than just extra time, I just figured I would wait for the assessment to explain and go into more detail about the kind of things that are available. I didn’t want to be researching the wrong things or have any expectations.

N: From the support you have received, what would you say has been the most beneficial?

E: I think the training on all the software, getting to know all the different programs that are available through the DSA and knowing exactly how to use it. I can pick and choose what I need for what subject. Some are more beneficial for some modules than others. I now know exactly what I want to use and when I want to use it. Also, aside from the training of the actual software, I have to say having the sessions one to one with the trainer made it feel a lot more centred to me, which you lose sometimes at university because there's so many of us in the lectures. So when you’re already struggling with dyslexia, anxiety or whatever it is that you have, finding help from just one person rather than lots of different people, it makes it feel a lot easier and makes learning feel a lot less scary.

N: Would you say the whole process was more difficult or easier than you anticipated?

E: It was relatively easy, I always felt relaxed going into the centre, it was never a difficult experience. I think that’s down to everyone making you feel welcome. With the training especially, it's very much your own approach to it. You can say, ‘I don’t want to do this or I want to focus on this today.’ It’s very flexible around you and how you learn. It never felt rigid like I had to just do one thing.

N: Having gone through the process, would you recommend it to other students?

E: Yeah I definitely would. Especially if you were like me and didn’t realise why you were struggling so much and got diagnosed later on. It's not anything to feel ashamed about. There are people there to help you and they don’t make you feel like it's something to hide or make you feel uncomfortable, so no matter when you find out about the type of disability you have, it's something you should do at any point through Uni. The quicker the better.

If you haven't applied for DSA yet, what are you waiting for? Visit the gov website to see if you are eligible and apply today!

Edited by - Victoria Cawthorn, Assistive Technology Trainer and Laura Cunningham, Social Media Editor

23rd August, 2021