I was one year into my PhD when my chronic illness surfaced. It has been and continues to be a huge adjustment. I’ve had to learn new ways of organising my work, of doing the basics like writing, reading and researching for my degree. All this alongside managing my symptoms, looking after myself generally and having time off sick. It’s been a huge learning curve. I’ve had support provided through my university and funded by the Disabled Students Allowance that has helped with some of these adjustments. Not everything I have been offered has turned out to be helpful. There’s also a cost in time and energy of pursuing support, getting assessment done and learning new software that needs to be weighed against the benefits you might gain from getting extra support. I feel that it has been worth it in my case. The support I have in place helps me to get more out of a good day, and to keep going a little longer on a moderately bad day.
Funding for adjustments:
If you are in Higher Education in England you may be able to apply for the Disabled Students Allowance to help pay for adaptations.
If you are in Further Education your college is able to claim back funding for support it provides.
Under the Equality Act 2010, they must make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled students being placed at a ‘substantial disadvantage’. They receive money from the EFA and/or SFA to meet the costs of reasonable adjustments. In colleges this is usually called Learning Support and it is provided in a way to enable them to be flexible in the way they support all their students.
There may also be adaptations your college or university can make that don’t require funding, such as accommodations to your schedule, deadlines, providing PowerPoint notes in advance or help using the library.
Some of the adjustments I have in place:
Adjustments provided by my university:
- Library books will be found and kept at the desk for me
- Adaptive software:
- Lectures will be in lower floor rooms
- Study coaching
- Voice recorder
- Chair adapted to my needs
- Longer loans on some library books
- A budget for taxis
Other places to look for ideas or find assistance:
Disabled students helpline Disability Rights UK
Factsheet ‘Adjustments for disabled students’ Disability Rights UK