Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a vital grant that enables students with disabilities to have equal access to education, and to achieve their full potential. However, not everyone has the best experience. The Student Voices are keen to work on this area, doing what they can to highlight the perspectives of blind and partially sighted students, to inform and influence the future of DSA.
As part of their campaign, some of the Student Voices met with Lord Chris Holmes to discuss their experience of DSA and what in their view needs to change to make it as effective as possible for the students accessing it.
Paul and Asa recount their experience:
DSA Roundtable with Lord Chris Holmes, January 2022
Since joining the Student Voices, we have been constructing a project looking at the experience of vision impaired students during their DSA journey. Most recently, we have been fortunate enough to lead the development of a survey, which we hope will enable as many students as possible to participate. The aim of this is to gauge how they feel the DSA experience went for them personally, and what changes (if any) ought to be made to better accommodate vision impaired students.
Having heard about our work on DSA, Lord Holmes was keen to get our points of view – good and bad – of the DSA process, to feed into his report to the Minister. He invited us to attend an online meeting to share our experiences and testimony. It was by far the highlight of our time with Student Voices so far!
“Lord Holmes, visually impaired himself, was very keen to hear our experiences and how vital DSA is to our studies, but also the problems that we had accessing the application process and beyond”.
The main points we highlighted were the difficulties arising from the one-size-fits-all approach (people with the same condition being painted with the same brush); a need for visually impaired experts to feed into the assessment process and decisions made; and for resources such as application forms to always be provided in preferred formats.
Lord Holmes seemed eager to listen to our personal experiences. He was very receptive and demonstrated his interest in our situations by asking clarifying questions such as, “how long did it take for the appeals process to be resolved?” and, “When did you first contact your needs assessor?”. It felt extremely comfortable, sharing our experience with not just Lord Holmes, but everyone else involved. We also found listening to others’ experiences with the DSA process as visually impaired students to be interesting and in some instances quite relatable.
This was such a worthwhile meeting and shows what important work is being done by the Student Voices group at TPT, and how we are getting our voice heard.
“It means a lot that Lord Chris Holmes was willing to get involved in endeavors to improve DSA, as it definitely affords the cause a lot more magnitude”.
Change only comes through action and having our voices heard.