Supporting disabled students

Disabled Students' Assessment and Support, schools and other services have an important role in the support provided to disabled students.

What type of support is available?

Students can access a range of support services, subject to availability and suitability, without applying for additional funding. These include:

  • receiving handouts and lecture presentations in advance
  • access to campus-based computers with assistive technology (including text-to-speech, mind-mapping and magnification software)
  • the loan of equipment (for example, digital voice recorders)
  • adaptations to University accommodation
  • modified examination arrangements
  • extended library loans
  • information and support from the Disabled Students' Assessment and Support (DSAS) team.

To access a range of other support services, students are likely to need to apply for additional funding, such as Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA). These services include:

  • one-to-one learning strategy support
  • transcription services for blind or partially-sighted students (to convert academic information into accessible formats, including braille, large print, e-text and audio)
  • specialist mentor and/or personal assistant and/or note-taker support
  • sign language interpreters.

Support is available throughout the year, and is not restricted to University teaching terms.

Who decides what support is appropriate?

As part of the application for DSA funding, an individual needs assessment is made which looks at the student's disability and the requirements of the programme they are studying. The needs assessment is carried out at an assessment centre, such as the Leeds Assessment Centre.

A detailed report is produced following the needs assessment, which includes a list of recommendations for support and advice for academic schools.

A copy of the needs assessment report is sent to the disability contact in the student's parent school and should be made available to any colleagues who are responsible for supervising or supporting that student.

Students who are not eligible for DSA will have their support needs informally assessed by a Disability Coordinator from the Disabled Students' Assessment and Support (DSAS) team. Details of any recommendations and advice for academic schools will be passed on as appropriate.

How are students supported in schools?

Each school has a disability contact who is the main link with the DSAS team and who coordinates support for disabled students within the school.

For specific disabilities, there is some general guidance which will help schools to plan their support.

Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties

Characteristics of Specific Learning Difficulties

Each Specific Learning Difficuly (SpLD) is characterised by an uneven skills profile. This often leads to difficulties with academic tasks, despite having average or above average intelligence or general ability.

Different individuals will face very different difficulties, even with a similar SpLD diagnosis.

Many students with an SpLD may experience a visual-perceptual discomfort and disturbance which is sometimes known as Irlen Syndrome. This affects their reading of print on white paper, on overheads and slides, and use of a computer.

Stress and anxiety may also have an impact, as individual students develop and implement their own coping strategies.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is sometimes considered to be a SpLD. However, here at Leeds, we categorise AS as an autism spectrum condition, rather than an SpLD.

What do academic schools need to do to provide equal access for a student with an SpLD?

If a student has a diagnosis of an SpLD and has approached DSAS for support, it is likely they have had a full needs assessment and the school has received a detailed report containing specific recommendations.

There are some standard adjustments that academic schools should make in order to support students with SpLDs and these should be implemented whether or not a student has already had a needs assessment. Many of these adjustments will be beneficial to all students, including those without an SpLD. 

  • Provide students with module handbooks, which include a complete syllabus and reading lists, as well as guidance and information on essays, projects and other course-work.
  • Make sure reading lists are available well in advance so students with SpLDs can devote more time and effort to understanding the material.
  • Structure readings lists to indicate which are introductory texts and which are more advanced. 

Further specific guidance applies to teaching and assessment.

What support does DSAS provide?

No two people are affected by an SpLD in quite the same way. We tailor support to the individual student and work closely with academic schools to ensure the right support is in place. We offer students with SpLDs several types of support. Some of these are available without additional funding and others may be dependent on a student applying for Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) or other funding.

Services not requiring additional funding:

  • Access to campus-based computers with assistive technology (including text-to-speech, mind-mapping and magnification software).
  • Loan of small items of equipment, such as recording devices.
  • Modified examination arrangements, such as extra time or the use of a PC.
  • Assistance in requesting copies of handouts or lecture presentations in advance.
  • Extended library loan facilities, so that the student can keep library books for longer.
  • Access to advice and guidance during the year, including a lunch-time drop-in service.

Services funded through DSA or other funding sources:

  • Computer equipment or assistive software for the student to own.
  • One-to-one strategy support, which usually involves the student spending one hour per week with a Disability Strategy Tutor to assist the student in developing academic strategies – such as note-taking, time management and essay structuring.
  • Transcription services (to convert printed information into accessible formats, such as braille, large print, e-text and audio). 

We encourage prospective students to contact the DSAS team as early as possible in the application process so that we can work together to ensure support is in place from the very beginning of study.

Advice for staff

Contact DSAS for further advice about dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), or to discuss the needs of a particular student. 

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is an autism spectrum condition which is not uncommon; research suggests that around 1 person in 100 has AS. The University aims to provide equal access to learning to students with AS.

What do academic schools need to do to provide equal access for a student with AS?

If a student has a diagnosis of AS and has approached the DSAS for support, it is likely that they have had a needs assessment and the school has received a detailed report containing specific recommendations.

There are some standard adjustments that academic departments should make in order to support a student with AS and these should be implemented whether or not the student has had a needs assessment.

  • Check pre-programme literature: use clear and unambiguous language.
  • Send a book list (with core texts clearly indicated) to the student in advance of their arrival.
  • Invite the student to meet at least one academic member of the programme team before the course starts – staff should clarify their role and provide clear boundaries and guidelines for contact.
  • Contact DSAS as soon as possible for guidance and support.
  • Send the student information about what the first day of school induction will be like and offer support to help them engage with the activities.
  • Assist the student with familiarisation with the school, including student facilities and key staff.
  • Identify a quiet place for retreat – students with AS often find noisy environments overwhelming which can lead to anxiety.
  • Identify where the student can go for help with course-related issues – again, set clear boundaries and guidelines for contact. 

Further specific guidance applies to teaching and assessment.

What support does DSAS provide?

No two people are affected by AS in quite the same way and the specific characteristics of the condition can vary enormously. We tailor support to the individual student and work closely with academic schools to ensure the right support is in place. We offer students with AS several types of support. Some of these are available additional funding and others may be dependent on a student applying for Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) or other funding.

Services not requiring additional funding:

  • Support from a named Disability Coordinator who has specific responsibility for supporting students with Asperger Syndrome.
  • Assistance with the application process for obtaining Disabled Students Allowances, where relevant.
  • Creation of an Asperger Syndrome-specific Transitional Learning Contract to assist the student in making the transition from school or college to university.
  • Assistance in negotiating special arrangements for examinations.
  • Liaison with the student’s department to ensure that any necessary adjustments are made to the methods of learning, teaching and assessment.
  • Liaison with the University Library to agree additional borrowing rights.

Services funded through DSA or other funding sources:

  • Regular study strategy support sessions with an independent specialist in AS – these sessions are aimed at helping the student develop long-term strategies to cope with their condition whilst at the University.
  • Support from a specialist mentor, who will assist the student with his/her general organisation, work planning, time-management and revision. Mentors can also act as the student’s assistant in getting about campus, taking notes in lectures and using the library. A key element of the mentor role is in assisting the student in communicating with their department or with other University services
  • Assistive equipment, which may include a laptop, printer, internet connection or digital voice recorder – training is offered where needed

We encourage prospective students to contact DSAS as early as possible in the application process so that we can work together to ensure support is in place from the very beginning of study. 

Advice and training for staff

Contact DSAS for further advice about autism spectrum conditions and Asperger syndrome, or to discuss the needs of a particular student.


DSAS support and guidance sessions

Students do not need to be referred to DSAS. There are two ways they can make direct contact, in person by visiting the DSAS offices in Chemistry West.

Drop-in sessions

Drop-in sessions take place daily from 9.30 until 11am, and 2 to 4pm. Information will be provided regarding accessing support such as exam arrangements, study skills and mobility support. Advice will also be provided regarding Disabled Students' Allowance.

Students attending a drop-in may then be referred for a guidance appointment to discuss their concern in greater detail.

Guidance appointments

Guidance sessions take place daily during term time.

Students have a 25 minute session with a Disability Coordinator. These sessions should be booked through DSAS reception. Appointments can be made on 0113 343 3927 and disability@leeds.ac.uk