Accommodation for disabled students or those with individual needs

If you’re a disabled student or have different learning needs, and are thinking about your university accommodation options, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. ​​​​​​​In this guide, we look at the different housing choices for students with disabilities, arranging for adjustments where necessary, and the funding options available to you.

 

What are the accommodation options for students with disabilities?

The majority of students either live in university-owned accommodation, like halls of residence, or in a house or flat they rent from a private landlord. Alternatively, some students choose to live at home during their studies.

University-owned accommodation

Every university should have accommodation available for disabled students, and they should also have student disability services. In the first instance, it’s a good idea to get in touch with them to find out about your accommodation options, as it’s their job to support you in finding the right space. Talk to them about what you need from your accommodation and they’ll help you to find the best solution, or help to arrange for adjustments.

If the accommodation you’re given isn’t suitable for your needs, speak to your disability advisor again. They may be able to solve the issue by moving you to different halls or making adaptations to your current accommodation. Your university has a legal obligation to think about how to accommodate students with disabilities and make reasonable adjustments to remove the barriers you face in education. This covers everything from study skills and accessing lectures in your preferred format, to making specific adjustments to your place of living if it’s in university-owned accommodation.

Private accommodation

If you choose to rent privately, it’s important to know your rights. Letting agents and landlords cannot legally discriminate against you for being disabled, meaning they can’t:

  • refuse to let a property to you on the grounds that you’re disabled
  • say that pets aren’t allowed if you need a guide dog or other assistance animal
  • evict you for being disabled

As with university accommodation, a private landlord is legally obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments to prevent disability discrimination’, and they must provide auxiliary aids if you ask for them. So any extra services or equipment you need for the property on account of your disability should be covered by them.

Some things are not included under the term ‘reasonable adjustment’. For instance, if you need any physical features like an accessible shower or lower worktops, your landlord isn’t obliged to provide these. However, they do need to make adjustments such as:

  • installing a ramp for a wheelchair user
  • providing special furniture you might need in the house, like a raised seat for your toilet
  • installing an entry phone system you can easily use
  • painting door frames a darker colour to make them more visible

You can contact your student disability services if you’re unsure whether your landlord is legally obliged to make the adjustments you’re requesting.

What are your rights to accommodation?

All students, whether living in university-owned or private accommodation, have the right to a house or flat that’s safe and fit to live in. On a basic level, this means having adequate ventilation and insulation, and a heating system that will keep your home free from damp and condensation.

Additionally, as a disabled person, you have certain rights to accommodation under the Equality Act 2010.

For university-owned accommodation, this means that:

  • you can’t be refused accommodation because you’re disabled
  • they must make reasonable attempts to provide you with somewhere to live that’s accessible and suits your needs
  • your accommodation must be of the same standard as that of a non-disabled student

For privately-rented accommodation, it means:

  • estate agents and landlords must make it easy for you to find a home, and providing information in an accessible format
  • you cannot be refused a tenancy because of your disability
  • your landlord should make reasonable adjustments for you to live there

You can find more information and get support from Citizens Advice about your rights as a private tenant.

Financial help for disabled students

All students are eligible to apply for a student loan, and bursaries are also available for some people, but there’s extra help you can get if you’re disabled.

You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) on top of your other student finance to cover some of the costs you incur. You don’t need to pay DSA back. The amount you’re eligible for depends on your individual circumstances, with support available under ‘specialist equipment allowance’,-‘non-medical helper allowance’ and ‘general allowance’. This can help you to cover the cost of things like:

  • a new computer that meets your study needs
  • personal help like support from a reader, note taker, sign language interpreter or proofreader
  • additional travel costs, for example, taking taxis to university

Some universities also offer bursaries or grants to disabled students, which could help you to pay for your accommodation and general living expenses, or specifically help to achieve a certain goal. Speak to your university’s disability advisor to find out if this is something that’s offered.

Charitable grants may also be available depending on your specific needs and circumstances. Use Scope’s Grant Checker tool to find out if there’s any you can apply for. Be aware that you may need to provide some evidence as part of your application, such as a letter from your doctor.