Access to education

The Equality Act 2010 ensures that education is accessible to all students, including disabled students whether you are interested in Sixth Form College, adult education classes, university or an apprenticeship.

Some people may try and put you off by assuring you that you will never cope, that you can’t afford it, that you will never manage on your own away from home – do not let them put your off.

Universities and colleges are required to provide support for hard of hearing and deaf students. Each university will have its own team which specialises in this. This may be called something like the Access Unit or Equality Service or Disability Advisory Team or Able Centre. You will need to discuss what you need with them.

Check this out when you apply for a course or degree. All kinds of support may be available including financial.Communication support will be provided in the form of: Sign Language Interpreter, Manual and Electronic Notetaker, Lipspeaker, Speech to Text Reporter as appropriate.

As with so many aspects of living with a hearing loss, the crucial factors are to:

  • plan ahead
  • know your rights
  • be armed with suggestions that will help you with your communication needs

Plan ahead

If you wait until you start your course before requesting financial help, equipment, special timetabling, and copies of lecture notes etc you will find that it will take some time before all these things are in place. You need to start planning well before the beginning of the academic year.

Take advice

Get in touch with Skill (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities). Skill is a charity that supports disabled people over the age of 16 who wish to take advantage of educational opportunities. They will give you lots of information and advice about courses, finance and other sources of help.

Disability Officer

Disability Officers work in further and higher education. They are there to give support to disabled students. When you have your college or university place, get in touch with the Disability Officer to discuss your needs. National Association of Disability Practitioners.

Can I afford it?

Having a disability can be expensive as anyone knows who has had to buy a vibrating smoke alarm, television listening device or textphone will tell you, but there is financial help available.

  • Disabled Students’ Allowance – to meet the extra costs of your education e.g. note-taker; BSL interpreter; textphone. The allowance does not have to be paid back and it is best to apply for the allowance as soon as you start applying for university.  Download your application form for the DSA from
  • Disability Living Allowance – still available even if you are in full-time education. You may also be eligible for Incapacity Benefit and/or Income Support.

Do some research

  • Look on the internet and make a list of the equipment you will need: vibrating alarm clock, textphone, door beacon etc
  • Does the university or college have visual fire alarms?  If not they will need to arrange for you to have a personal pager to alert you in the event of an emergency.
  • Are their clear signs giving directions around the campus? This will save you having to ask directions from strangers. If not, you will need a detailed map of the campus.
  • Will your lectures need to be timetabled in a lecture theatre with a loop system?
  • DVDs used as teaching aids will need to be captioned or a script provided.

How will I fit in?

Schools, colleges and universities, have to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that you can take full advantage of the course.  Lectures, for example, could be timetabled in the lecture theatres that have loop systems in, or a portable loop set up; training DVDs could be subtitled or a script provided; lecturers could photocopy their notes for you so that you do not have to try and lipread and take notes at the same time.

Be armed with suggestions that will help your communication needs

What kind of communication support do you prefer?

  • Sign Language Interpreter
  • Lipspeaker
  • Manual note-taker
  • Electronic note-takers
  • Verbatim Speech to Text Reporters (STTR– sometimes known as Palantypists) 
  • LSP – deafblind manual

Decide on the communication professional you would prefer to work with and find out the all the details you can about booking and so forth. If you have the facts at your fingertips, this may help save time later on.

Suggestions for discussion with your tutor

  • Written information to be available before the start of the course e.g. timetable, map, names of lecturers
  • Students in your group could wear name badges for the first week to make life easier for you
  • During discussions the chairs could be arranged in a half-circle to make it easier for you to lipread
  • Explain how your radio aid works and what you will need each lecturer to do to help you use it
  • It would be helpful if individual tutorials could be held in a quiet room with good lighting
  • On the occasions when other students are expected to ring their tutor (e.g. in the event of missing a lecture due to illness) you will need to be able to send a text message.
  • In case the lecturers and tutors you will be working with are not deaf aware, prepare an information sheet giving them some guidelines and ask for a copy to be distributed to each of them.
  • Thank everyone for their support.

Know your rights – The Equality Act and Education

A school or college must not treat a deaf student any differently from a hearing student. The university staff:

  • cannot refuse to admit you onto a course (direct discrimination);
  • or insist that you phone them up to apply for a college place (indirect discrimination);
  • or insist that you are not allowed to take time off to have your cochlear implant adjusted (discrimination arising from a disability);
  • or become irritated with you if you have to change the batteries in your hearing aids during a class (harassment).

What works: hearing loss & the transition to adulthood

This guide, published in May 2017, has been produced in partnership with NHS England, the Department for Education (DfE) and hearing loss charities in response to the ambition set out in the Action Plan on Hearing Loss. This aims to ensure that young people with hearing loss are actively supported to participate fully in society, and are not limited in their potential to succeed in education and employment. In particular, it focuses on the transition to adulthood and what local authorities, education providers and commissioners can do to support and ensure that young people with hearing loss make a smooth and effective transition to adulthood.

To enlarge and read the publication below, please click on ‘open’ (bottom right hand side), then use the arrows to page through it.

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