Photo of Maryam Ahmad

Maryam's DSA Experience

Maryam attends Oxford Brookes University where she studies Adult Nursing and recently completed her Assistive Technology Training for her DSA equipment. She joined her trainer, Laura, to discuss her DSA experience.

How did you find out about DSA and that you were eligible?

One of my friends also applied; she was talking about it and she explained it. I thought, OK, that sounds interesting. I might apply. I then went on the website and they had all the information you need. I went to a section that asked, are you eligible and I went through it; I found I was. So then, when I had my student finance sorted out, just after that, I applied for DSA on the website.

Did you know that you were eligible just by looking on the site?

Yeah, they had everything laid out, like bullet points and stuff, so it wasn't too hard to understand either. So it was pretty easy to find out if I was eligible or not.

Was it easy to apply?

Yeah, it was very easy because you had to do it after you'd already applied to student finance. So having gone through the student finance process, I thought, OK, I'll just apply for DSA as well, because I'm already going to do all the forms and fill out the information. I just thought, what’s one more, you know?

What would have made the process easier?

I personally, thought it was pretty straightforward, and obviously, people have different opinions on that, but I thought it was alright. I think not necessarily make the process easier, but I think DSA needs to be advertised more because I didn't really know it existed until my friend told me and then I didn’t know if I would be eligible. So I think if schools did some more advertising or raised awareness of DSA because it's not something to be embarrassed about.

How did you feel about the needs assessment?

It was really good. I think it was a positive experience because it was pretty informal, and I didn't feel the pressure to act in a certain way or, say the right thing. [The assessor] was there to help me with my disability needs, so I felt supported in that sense as well and honestly, they were just there to listen. It felt validating there's no sort of judgment there.

How long did it take for your recommendations to be agreed?

I think about two weeks or less*. I think it might even have been a week because [the assessment centre] tell you how long it was going to take. If they are taking longer, there will be reasons. It wasn’t like I was waiting ages for it.

*The funding body gets up to 10 working days to respond to your needs assessment and make a decision on the recommendations made.

Was it easy to order your equipment?

Yeah, because [the funding body] sent me my agreement letter that had all the numbers to contact on it, so it wasn't like I had to go search for the numbers myself. I already had all the information. I just needed to make a call (or send an email) and order the equipment.

It did take me a bit longer because I was in the process of clearing. I wasn't sure if I was still going to the same university but in the end, I did. The [assessment centre] called me, and they emailed me to remind me [to order my equipment], I then told them [about the delay] and that I would order it soon. So it did take me a bit longer. They were very understanding though. They were good, actually, because I know, for a fact, I would have forgotten to do it without the reminder.

What do you think has been the most beneficial from all of this support that you've received?

I've received the programs [assistive technology] and stuff that we had gone through and I can use them to work better, help with concentration and things like that, but also, like, on the emotional side, the [mentor support] I received is great as well. It’s someone you can speak to after you've had, a rough week or two. You can speak to them and have it all out. Especially having a professional to speak to, it feels a bit better than just a friend.

How easy has it been to implement the support that you've received?

It's been good. So I think for me, this relates more to, the programs and stuff that we've gone through [during assistive technology training]. It's been really good. And I think the only reason is that we have had the lessons where you taught me how to use them. Otherwise, I honestly wouldn't have been able to use them very well. They can be confusing. So it's been really good going through them and learning how they all work.

What advice would you give to someone who might be thinking about applying for DSA?

Just go for it because, there is no need to be embarrassed, just go for it. I was, at the start, a bit reluctant because I was like, maybe my condition isn't serious. Maybe I won't actually be eligible. Then I found on the website, I was eligible, even then, still, in my mind, I was like, they might just think I've made it up and I thought they wouldn't take me seriously, but they did. Honestly, they [the assessment centre] are there to help to support you as much as they possibly can. So don’t be scared either. Also ask questions, if you're not sure about something call the assessment centre, or email them, you know there are people there to support you.

Interviewed and edited by Laura Starkey-Ash, Social Media Manager

3rd January, 2023