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What is the DSA? And how am I involved? – Alan McGillivray

What is the DSA?

Alan joined Sight and Sound Technology six weeks ago and has had the fun experience of not only delivering his training remotely, but of meeting all of his colleagues for the first time online. Alan’s role is to deliver training to students with learning difficulties or vision impairments in third level, further or higher education.

what is the dsa?

In the UK, the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) provides extra help for students who have a disability, a mental health condition, or specific learning difficulties, like dyslexia or dyspraxia. Each student undergoes a DSA needs assessment and comes away with recommendations for equipment and training, much of which is delivered by Sight and Sound.

“The assessment looks at the student’s diagnosis and the impact that has on their study so it’s very individual”, according to Alan. “Our student support services are very well funded here in Scotland and I feel that our system here recognises the impact of the student journey. It’s not just about the end result, which is so important.”

In Scotland, students go to their institution’s student support service, providing medical evidence of their disability or learning difficulty and then go through the needs assessment with a DSA assessor, who will recommend suitable assistive technology to help them overcome the challenges they are experiencing. Sight and Sound Technology is a recommended supplier and will deliver equipment and provide training.

“The level of training depends on how much technology has been recommended and how quickly the student takes it on board”, explains Alan. “I find out what their studies are, where they are struggling and what the challenges are. A piece of tech might have multiple features, so it’s important to find out what they need so that we can be more focused. A student might be academically capable but need help getting organised or preparing for an exam.”

Alan has first-hand experience of the DSA process, having been diagnosed with dyslexia while in college.

“I went through the process myself, and I know what a difference it can make. I was putting in the hours in college and getting very frustrated because I was only getting Cs and Ds. With help and with assistive technology, I was able to break through that barrier and get As and Bs. So I know that every student I work with has huge potential and the difference that access to technology and training can make.”


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