Disabled student outreach

If you have a physical disability, a sensory disability, a mental health condition, specific learning difficulty or long-term health condition, we offer a variety of support both before and throughout your university study.

Our Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS) is here to answer any questions you have about disability support while at university.

They can can arrange a University support plan appointment to discuss your support needs on an individual basis so we highly recommend registering with them as soon as possible. You can disclose details of a disability before you arrive at university by filling out a section on your UCAS application. This helps the team to arrange support for you as soon as you start, and they won't disclose any details of a disability without your consent.

Get to know our students

Find out from our students how DASS has helped them during their university journey.

Cameron, Speech and Language Therapy student

My name is Cameron and I am a second year Speech and Language Therapy student at The University of Manchester.

What made you access DASS at Manchester?

I accessed DASS when I first came to university as I have dyspraxia. This means that I struggle with my hand-eye coordination and organisational skills. It also impacts my cognitive processing abilities, so ideas take a bit longer than usual to form fully in my head to the point where I can express them verbally. Due to this condition I had been granted extra time for my exams in school and help with practical subjects such as art, DT and PE. 

How did you find out about DASS?

I found out about DASS when I visited the University on an open day. One of the student ambassadors that I spoke to told me about the service and how easy it was to access. This reassured me as I knew that I would be able to get the help I needed as soon as I started my course.

How has DASS helped you?

DASS provided me with a guarantee that I could have extra time in all of my examinations and access to a computer/laptop to type on in these assessments if I found that easier. I personally prefer writing in exams, but it was nice to know that I had the flexibility to change this if I wanted to. They also allowed me access to automatic one week extensions on deadlines for assignments which meant that when I had several at once, I could take the time I needed to get them all written to a good standard.

One of the most significant challenges that I had when coming to university was with my organisational skills as it was a significant change from school in that the onus to manage my workload was on me rather than the teaching staff. The staff on my course, such as my module leads and my student support supervisor, were very helpful. They provided me with a timetabling app to help organise my time more effectively and assured me that should the workload get too much that I could ask for further extensions.

What is your top tip for students looking to get help from DASS?

My top tip for students accessing DASS, or even considering accessing it at university, is always ask. If you are unsure about what support you are eligible for, how any of the support systems work, or if you would like to change or increase the support that you have access to  then you need to ask. All of the people who work in the DASS department have been kind, understanding and helpful when I have spoken to them so please do not be afraid to ask them anything, even if you think it is unimportant or stupid as I guarantee you that they won’t think that and will do everything in their power to support you.

Eve, Law with International Study student

Hi, my name is Eve. I’m from Middlesbrough in the north-east of England. I study Law with International Study, and I’m currently in my third year. I am currently on my year abroad in Warsaw, Poland, after which I will complete my final year in Manchester.

Eve, Law with International Study student

What made you access DASS at Manchester?

I first accessed DASS when I was in my first year. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in October 2018 and had been advised to reach out to my University by my GP. On her advice, I informed DASS of my condition but felt well enough to complete the rest of my first year without direct help. However, at the beginning of my second year, I had a bad depressive episode which really affected my University life. I visited my academic department to request a deadline extension on upcoming coursework. They recommended I seek further long-term exam support from DASS. I phoned DASS and made a University support plan appointment. The advisor set out recommendations for exam support which included rest breaks, location requirements, invigilator awareness and automatic 1-week extensions on deadlines. The recommendations were sent to my Academic School, who then got in touch with me within a week to confirm they were in-place. Helpfully, these measures are in place for my entire degree, so I only need to meet with DASS advisors if my needs change.

How has DASS helped you?

The advisor encouraged me to apply for Disability Students' Allowance (DSA). As part of the DSA application, I had another meeting with a different advisor to get an application reference. The advisor went through several computer programmes which might help with my concentration when studying, which is badly affected by my condition. She showed me how they work and then recommended the ones I found most helpful in my DSA form. My application to Student finance for DSA was successful thanks to this supporting reference, and these programmes were funded for my use.

DASS keep in regular contact with me. I receive follow-up emails every exam season asking if I need different/extra exam support. I also receive a monthly DASS newsletter and get emails about ‘access to’ events designed for people with disabilities entering traditionally competitive fields such as law, banking or accountancy. Even when I lived in Warsaw I had a telephone consultation with a DASS mental health nurse during a depressive episode. 

My mental health has always been a challenge for me. University is inherently unpredictable and sometimes stressful, and it can be difficult to maintain good mental health with lots of deadlines and living away from home. However, universities are there to support you. They want to know if you are struggling. I never felt judged or ashamed of my condition with DASS advisors.

What is your top tip for students looking to get help from DASS?

For any prospective students with disabilities, I would recommend reaching out to your university disability support services. Whether you are experiencing a physical or mental disability, they do not judge. Remember that even if you are not experiencing the worst of your condition now, university can put safety-net plans in place incase things get worse. It is always best to be prepared.

Holly, International Management graduate

Hello, my name is Holly, I'm 23 years old and I have dyslexia. I have also just graduated from a four-year course in International Management from The University of Manchester. I am originally from a small village in Derbyshire, not far away from Manchester, but far enough.

Holly, International Management (graduate)

What made you access DASS at Manchester?

I decided to access the DASS support as I had extra time in exams at A-levels and as a result did a lot better than expected. I didn’t know about all the other wonderful support systems that could be put in place until I arrived at university as originally all I had experienced was having extra time in exams.

When I got to university, I went to the offices to apply for this support and then a few weeks later I was assessed again to see what sort of support they thought was most useful and helpful for me. The support I received has helped me in all four years of my studies, and now when looking for a job.

How has DASS helped you?

Firstly, I was given equipment to use on my laptop like a microphone to dictate my writing and I also had software downloaded to spell check and read my work back to me. I still use both of these when writing cover letters and important emails. I also received a weekly one-to-one mentor, this was really useful in the first year. We would work through essay questions and different readings together; she would also give me mini deadlines and motivation to get the work done and help with time management. I found it challenging to begin with at university, to share my ideas and speak in front of other people, but the mentoring helped me build up confidence and find better ways of expressing myself in my written coursework and presentations.

I also received 25% extra time in exams and stickers that go on the front of the paper to make the marker aware when they are marking the work. This combination of support has helped me get the most out of studying at university and allowed nothing to hold me back. I was also able to access academic support on my year abroad at The University of Melbourne in Australia. Throughout this year I was still able to access all the support at Manchester as well.

What is your top tip for students looking to get help from DASS?

My tip for new students is to make it known and be proud of it. I did not tell enough of my seminar leaders, lecturers, group members or friends that I was dyslexic, however when I started telling people in my final year I received extra help and they understood my working style and pace a lot more.

Samiyah, Pharmacy student

What made you access DASS at Manchester?

I accessed DASS as this is what I was advised to do by my tutors after I spoke to them about my mental health and my daily struggles. I didn’t know much about it or even that it existed, until my tutor explained to me that you can access support to make university life less stressful and more enjoyable.

How has DASS helped you?

I was given software on my laptop which helps with writing essays and assignments. For someone who finds it difficult to organise, or ends up stressed out with multiple tasks, this software allows me to see my work in a structured way. At the time that I was given it, I would say it helped and made me feel less nervous about my University work. I no longer make use of it as I am comfortable with doing my work without extra support, however I know if I ever need to use it, it will still be there.

I was also assigned a mentor who I would usually have meetings with every week in one of the University buildings. In these meetings, I would talk about my deadlines, the work I have to do, and the mentor would help me plan and organise my work. This really helped me as it allowed me to see all my work in a less stressful way. For example, if I had 15 lectures to revise, we would plan that I should complete 2-3 per day in order to complete it in that week. Checking in weekly made sure I was keeping up with what I had planned. It also meant that if I was feeling anxious about how much work I had to do, my mentor would help me break it down to see it in a less overwhelming way.

If I’m honest one of the challenges I faced was that I didn’t like my University friends asking me where I was going whenever I would leave for my meetings because it made me feel bad about myself. But I know that asking for help or accessing support doesn’t mean I’m less capable, it just means that sometimes we need extra help through no fault of our own and that it’s not something to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. I overcame this by realising that I am not the only student who accesses the support. There are many other students who access DASS.

What is your top tip for students looking to get help from DASS?

If I could provide any tips for accessing DASS while at university, it would be to make the most of whatever support you are given. It may be small or might require a bit of effort or personal time, but it is worth accessing whatever helps your mental health. Don’t be afraid to try something out, if you don’t like it, or you feel like it’s not working for you, that’s completely fine because you can change it or speak to someone about it. This will help you find the support that’s right for you.

Yulia, Physics student

My name is Yulia Yancheva, I am a third-year MPhys Physics student and I come from Bulgaria.

What made you access DASS at Manchester?

I accessed DASS because I have had depression and anxiety for the past few years and those mental health problems started getting in the way of my degree. I found out about the services DASS is providing towards the end of my foundation year after having a chat with the member of staff who was responsible for student’s wellbeing. After that, I reached out to DASS and they provided any specific information I needed such as what support they provide and what would be most suitable for me.

How has DASS helped you?

As a DASS student, I receive support during exam periods. At The University of Manchester, exams are usually taken in big halls with hundreds of students which can sometimes be quite overwhelming on top of exam stress. I was not feeling comfortable taking my exams in such a big hall which resulted in me getting panic attacks during exams. DASS suggested that it would help if I can take rest breaks during the exams.

Now I sit my exams in a smaller room with around 20 people and I can take a small break during the exam, away from my seat. All I need to do is raise my hand to inform an invigilator that I want to take a break and then sit at the back of the room until I calm down. I can take up to ten minutes break each hour of the exam. This has been very helpful since now I do not worry about getting anxious during exams and losing time due to my state of mind – if I feel like I need to rest for a bit, I have the opportunity to do so. 

The biggest challenge for me is that I was worried what people around me would think about the fact that I receive support from DASS and that they would start treating me differently if they knew I was a DASS student. However, I very quickly found out that this was not going to be the case – it turned out that some of my friends had the same support in place and we were taking some exams in the same room. It was fantastic how much support I received from the other DASS students on my course – they were always there to calm me down before the beginning of an exam and always there to have a chat after the end of it. We were often giving each other tips of how to calm down and how to deal with exam stress best.

What is your top tip for students looking to get help from DASS?

I would advise anybody who feels like they may need support from DASS to simply call them and ask. People who work at DASS are very friendly and helpful and they always know who you should contact if they cannot help. If a student thinks that they may have a disability, they should discuss this with DASS – it is very important to make sure that nothing gets in the way of a student reaching their full potential.

Students should not forget that DASS is there for a reason – it took me a long time until I realised that I was not the only student suffering from depression but now I know that many people have disabilities, and not all disabilities are visible. The University of Manchester provides an inclusive and supportive environment for staff and students – despite our differences, everybody here always fits in.

Getting to know DASS

We understand that you may require additional support to help you settle into student life so we're hosting a series of events to help give you the advice and guidance you need. 

‘Getting to know DASS’ is a series of events which offer information, advice and guidance for disabled learners, their parents and guardians, and teachers and advisers.

Recordings and information from the sessions will be available here shortly, but in the meantime you can download the Getting to know DASS FAQs (PDF, 640) to help answer some of your questions.

If you're local to Manchester, Greater Manchester Higher (GMH) provides information, advice and guidance to disabled learners through various tailored sessions and outreach activities. These sessions cover financial and pastoral support, as well as the chance to speak to other disabled learners who are in higher education.