Ni Gallant: Applying for Disabled Students Allowance

Posted on May 31, 2012



So I realised yesterday that about a month ago now I actually volunteered to write another article for the Limping Chicken. But what with exams, audiology appointments and general university organisation stress I totally forgot…

I decided all that time ago that I wanted to write a post to really cheer up all those parents of deaf children, or deaf children/teens themselves, who have at some time in their life spent the inevitable millions of hours agonising over and then fighting for the correct support for their deaf child.

I do personally know how this feels…

As my deafness is progressive I didn’t reach a point where I needed any more support than a Radio Aid and regular ToD contact until the beginning of my A Levels. We were told by the County that they didn’t statement young people over 16 as this was a waste of money… We were then told in a separate meeting that they wouldn’t consider funding a note-taker unless I had a statement.

Anybody can see that that kind of policy is never going to work…

Recently, however, I began the long and complex task of applying to universities, organising interpreters for interviews which involved a group discussion task and then filling in the endless forms for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).

At first applying for DSA seems like another horrible process where you have to prove that you’re “deaf enough” by collecting reams of medical evidence which spells out exactly what your needs are in terms of academic support. This can get a little complicated if like me you see ENT at one hospital, audiology at another and your GP in a totally different town!

After your application had been received and Student Finance have decreed that you are indeed a deaf young person and therefore entitled to support you are invited to attend an assessment – and this is where I really started to panic…

I know so far that I’ve made this whole process sound truly awful, but really it is nothing at all like the process of applying for a statement! There is paperwork but not in the same way as before, and although there is an assessment it’s more like an informal discussion about your needs and nothing to be worried about at all!

At the time though, I was really panicking about my assessment meeting. I’ve sat through too many horrible meetings with adults whilst we fought for support during sixth form and I can comfortably say that I never want a replay!

On the day of the appointment I was feeling really nervous as I had come down with an ear infection the day before and had no hearing aids in. At such short notice there was apparently no way to organise an interpreter and so I was steeling myself for the total exhaustion of having to spend an hour lip-reading a person I’d never met before.

I have to say that all my fears, worries and panic attacks were totally unnecessary! Yes, it was a pain having to lip-read a new person – but this was the most deaf aware person I’ve ever met! He spoke clearly, didn’t talk while he was writing and made sure I understood everything that was going on, even repeating himself half a million times at one point…

And as for the support, I should never have worried about it. As soon as the introductions were over I was told that as I had a Radio Aid and full time note-taker at school already these would just be continued on at university. I even got to pick the make of radio aid I wanted!

The only thing we had to discuss was whether I wanted to use an interpreter at university. In fact, I felt like the only person I had to convince about this was myself! I went on and on about how my course was mainly group work, with placements etc and how I felt I would really struggle and would definitely benefit from an interpreter. The guy needed no convincing! He just wrote it down straight away!

Talk about VIP treatment!

So, to all the parents and deaf young people who have had to fight to get the right support for you.

Carry on! Because eventually it will get so, so much easier.

I just wish someone had been around to tell me that if I stuck it out and reached university I wouldn’t have to worry about people not understanding what I needed in terms of support for learning!

Ni is a deaf teen in mainstream school. This year she was on the NDCS Youth Advisory Board and as well as this she runs a Youth Group for Worcestershire deaf teens called “Deafinity.” She started writing a blog (www.nigallant.blogspot.com) a couple of months ago about life from a deaf teenagers perspective and says that “somehow what I said resonates with other young people – so I carried on!”

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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Posted in: features, ni gallant