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Disabled Student Advice Part 1

May 13, 2024

* This post is written by one of our volunteer content creators. *

So you’re thinking about going to university…congratulations! Getting this far is a huge step for anyone let alone someone with a disability or chronic illness. I graduated from the University of Brighton in 2022 and whilst it was most definitely not an easy ride as a disabled student, I am so proud of my achievement and would encourage more disabled people to enter higher education. There are so many things to consider so I’ve popped together a few blog posts with the hope this helps you going forward.

Choosing A University:

You may have a rough idea of where you might like to go, or you may have done hours of research into exactly where you want to be. If you’re anything like me, you might have made the last-minute panic on results day that you want to go to university and called your mum whilst you’re on holiday panicking and asking what do I do now? Don’t panic, you have cleared, and the universities want students to fill the spaces on their courses, so they want you to come to their university when you contact them. When looking at places through Clearing, be clear on what your access needs are, whether they are physical, cognitive, or mental health support.

Don’t just look within the university building, Brighton is a very hilly town, and this was something I did not know before I moved here, my health has deteriorated over the past few years which we did not expect it to, which has meant I am now experiencing physical access needs with needing a powerchair due to the steep inclines across the city. So thinking about the future and perhaps doing a little future-proofing based on your own health needs and where they could be by the end of your degree but also the general accessibility of the buildings and the city will give you a good overall idea of what the university’s attitude is like towards disability accommodations.

A great way to work out whether a university is ‘right’ for you is to assess how accommodating you feel their disability department is to you and whether they direct their talk mainly to you and not to your parents or carers/family/friends when you come to visit. It’s okay to ask what experience they have with students with similar needs to your own and how they dealt with any additional challenges students may have found themselves up against due to their disabilities which arose later on in the year, as this can help you decide whether you feel you would be supported well at a particular university.

You shouldn’t feel worried about sharing your access and support needs with potential universities and asking about the accommodations you know you will need to succeed, whether they will be from the accommodation, student support or perhaps your subject department, e.g. needing the PowerPoint for the lecture the day before so you can make notes alongside the slides, or needing additional time for assignments as you won’t have the capacity to write assignments whilst attending lectures. (Often this is a good way to make friends too because you can be like hey, I have the notes or the PowerPoint I’ll send it to you - wink-wink conversation starter!)

People say you’ll have a ‘feeling’ when you know it’s the right place. For me that was true- I felt calm and at home being able to envision myself at my university. In contrast, the university I got into with an unconditional offer up the road was Russell Group University, which on paper is a 'better university', but it did not feel right for me.


An important thing to think about before choosing what to study sounds obvious but if you love your chosen subject! If you don’t love it now, you most definitely won’t like it when your degree is over!

Once you’ve settled on the subject you want to study, you need to consider a few factors specific to you and any support you may need. How accessible is the course for you? Are there certain elements of the course including modules or placements that may cause additional challenges due to your disability? Is this something you may need to talk to a course leader about to ask more questions or perhaps speak with the disability department about? Do you have any health barriers that might make studying this course difficult? What might you need to help put you on an even playing field with your peers?

Reasonable Adjustments:

Reasonable adjustments are the way the UK ensures the law is kept for disabled people. The Equality Act 2010 calls the arrangements that your education provider makes to meet these needs reasonable adjustments.

An education provider must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled students are not discriminated against. These changes could include providing extra support and aids (like specialist teaching assistants or learning equipment).

Questions To Ask Your University:

1 - What are your policies on extensions if a student is in hospital for example?
2 - What support could I be eligible for when it comes to accessing, studying, and succeeding within the university?
3 - Is there anything I need to know regarding access issues in this city/ town? (For example, Brighton is very hilly!)
4 - Where should I go in the event of a medical emergency on-site?
5 - Do you have any current disabled students who may be up to speak to me?

Accessing The Community:

Accessing the community is a huge part of student life, as I know all too well that getting out of the house can be incredibly challenging with health struggles. Having helped to access the community should not be an embarrassing thing at all. I am not ashamed to say I have had carers throughout university called PAs and if you feel this is something you may need. The university student services, and disability department have a duty of care to help you with knowledge on this.

If there is something that you enjoy doing at home with friends, look to see if there is something similar in your new university city. If you find something that helps with your disability, keep the consistency, and try to continue doing it at university. For me, I love to swim, but as my health has deteriorated it has become more difficult. I have hydrotherapy exercises which I do in the pool, so I contacted local charities to find out about local swimming pools, emailing to find out the temperature of pools and their disability facilities, be that parking, changing room and toilet access and fees. Having a constant routine that can be altered to adapt to my health needs and deadlines whilst at university has been really beneficial.

Joining Facebook groups to find good local support has helped me access my community a lot more. I am in a lot of local groups in Brighton where I have met amazing neighbours who help me when I need it. Similarly, if you can’t find a group that suits you - set one up! You might be moving to a new place where no one knows you, what’s the worst that can happen? Feel free to message me if you have any questions about this!

Asking for help becomes a lot easier when you get to know your neighbours. During the pandemic, I had a lot of people on local pages get me shopping, prescriptions, carry my things, clean my house, do DIY jobs, and even give me a free mobility scooter! Knowing you have a range of people to call upon if you’re injured or need help helps put your mind at ease. Remember it’s not just students who live in your city - I even regularly have a catch-up with an 80 year old lady up the road. I’ve had neighbours help me with simple things such as carrying my wheelchair into my car and helping me pack it before driving home for Christmas. Strangers can be lovely.

Freshers Week:

Freshers are first-year students and Freshers Week is a two-week period where new students settle into their universities and get to know one another. It’s madness and for some is the most memorable few weeks of their university experience. For others, it’s incredibly anxiety-provoking. You might think you’re too old for freshers if you’re not 18 or if you don’t drink you might not be up for it, but I promise you should do something! My flatmate was 8 years older than us; she came out and had fun!

Check out my blog post over at to see 10 things to remember during fresher’s week.


Firstly, something I think it’s important to know is that you are always able to move. Nothing is set in stone. If you are not happy somewhere - try it for a little bit and if it isn’t for you, you can always try something else. In my first year at university, I moved to halls after the first semester, and everyone thought I was bonkers doing it! In hindsight, it was the best thing I ever did as I’ve met some of my best friends doing so! Finding the perfect Accommodation is difficult for everyone, let alone a student with a disability.

When choosing your accommodation, things to consider include all the normal things such as distance to your campus, housemates, bathroom type, etc. Only a disabled or chronically ill person may have to hyper-focus on certain aspects due to their health, for example, we may have access needs and need a level ground floor flat with no stairs or you may need a room away from the kitchen or with certain lighting. Living in university accommodation can be difficult but as a disabled student, you should have a ‘first choice’ on accommodation and therefore be able to visit and choose what works best for you. Most universities also have accessible housing in some halls of residence. If you’re not into halls, (which is cool, I didn't originally want to live in halls) thinking about the location of your accommodation and housemates is incredibly important so getting to know the town and your modes of transport is particularly useful.

Medical Support:

Having good medical support as a disabled student is vital to ensure you thrive at university. If you need care support outside of your studies, it would be a great idea to talk to your university and the council to see what support can be put in place. You want to make sure this is all in place before you arrive, the process can take a very long time to find yourself in a comfortable position knowing you have the correct support. Adult social care can provide direct payments from the council to support you with any care needs.

You may want to transfer specialist doctors and consultants to your new town, or they may be in London like mine where you may like to keep them in your home town, or you may like to wait a few months until you are settled to do this. Finding a good GP in the area is the most important for ALL students, particularly those with more complex health needs. Now the university will encourage you to sign up for their GP, my advice would be don’t pick the university’s GP just because that’s what all the students do! Take time to pick a good well reviewed and clinically suitable GP. You’ll likely visit your GP with more complex needs and much more frequently than some of your housemates! Similarly, lots of students from different areas of the country are coming together with bugs- freshers flu is real I’m sorry.

Perhaps wait a few months until you’re settled as a transition period to your new town before moving your doctors. Chatting to your doctors about your move to university, even joining local Facebook groups and asking for reviews of good GPs for chronic illness can be good. Most importantly ask yourself what you would like to get out of your experience. Remember nothing is set in stone. There are always options out there to help you. So never hesitate to ask for help before you find yourself desperate. I know this is easier said than done, but admitting you need support only makes you stronger!

If you made it this far, well done, it’s been a long one! If you aren’t too sure what help you could be eligible for in terms of support, look out for my next blog to find out what financial and academic support is available. Also, check out some of the links below which are all catered towards supporting new university applicants living with disabilities:

• The Complete University Guide
• University & Chronic Illness Survival Guide
• Ask Jules
• Diversity & Ability
• Live You

Thanks - Lauren

A pink banner with information on the writer of this blog - Lauren! Along with an image of Lauren standing in front of a lake. She is wearing pink coat and smiling directly at the camera.