How do I make sure my accessibility needs are met when I start University?

It is important to contact your University Disability Support service as soon as possible. They will be able to discuss what adjustments might need to be made to ensure you can access your course, the university facilities, and be able to live independently whilst at university.

As well as talking to you to find out more about your vision impairment, the disability support officer will also review your Disabled Student Allowance needs assessment report to see what support your assessor has advised and details of the support you have been allocated.

If you are moving to a University away from home, it is important to find out who will be providing your mobility training. It varies from university to university, but in most cases, DSA will only cover the cost of mobility training around campus, not offsite. You should therefore contact your local social services department (this will be the department nearest to your home address, not your university). Its worthwhile looking into this as it can be frustrating not being able to find your way around your new town or city.

Top tips for students with vision impairment:

  1. Talk to your university or college's disability service as early as possible - most offer really great support. Ensure your needs are known and make sure you ask for help if you are struggling.
  2. Engage with your college or university's accessibility and inclusion department to discuss what kinds of technology you might require, and about receiving course work in alternative formats.
  3. Make contact with your student union as quickly as possible. If you require specific support, make them aware of this. Find out if there is a disability students officer and, if so, get in touch to inform them of what you need. You might also contact your union president.
  4. Discuss with accommodation services what kind of support you require. For example, getting to the laundry room to do washing.
  5. Learn the routes to classrooms and other important places before the semester starts. Your mobility officer or disability service can help with this.
  6. If you have a guide dog, explore places near your college or university that you could allow your dog to be off-lead.
  7. Make sure you know who to raise concerns with if you think you are being unfairly treated, or don't have the support you need.
  8. Ask your secondary school to pass on any information relating to your visual impairment, and ensure your disability service knows about any other medical conditions you have.
  9. Get to know your classmates. It can take a few weeks to settle in and make friends, and not all students are party animals. So if you don't want to go out at night, you could try chatting to classmates on social media or online game nights.

Further information can be found on RNIB's Starting University webpage.

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