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Student Disability Office

FAQ’s for all services

SOAS Policy

SOAS is committed to promoting access to people with disabilities and to the creation and support of a balanced and diverse community which is open and accessible to all students, staff and service users who seek to benefit and who demonstrate the appropriate potential, skills and abilities.

The disability policy supports the Equality and Diversity policy and seeks to ensure that employees and students with disabilities, specific learning difficulties and long term medical conditions receive parity of opportunity in their experience at SOAS. It is consistent with the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act (SENDA) which is part IV of the DDA.

Applying to SOAS


Applications are considered on the standard academic criteria, regardless of any disability. The School has an Undergraduate Admissions Policy and Postgraduate Admissions Policy which are on the SOAS website. We do recommend that you contact the Disability Office before submitting your application so that any potential adjustments can be discussed and so that you can decide if SOAS is suitable for you. We will do all that we can to make it possible for you to study at SOAS but in the unlikely event that we are not able to make the adjustments necessary we will let you know as soon as possible.

Before you arrive at SOAS

Home Students
Applying for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

The DSA provides funding for equipment, non-medical helpers and extra costs that are incurred as a result of course attendance. The DSA is only available to undergraduate students who are personally eligible for the Student Loan and for postgraduate students who pay home fees.

If you have already filled in a form about student support but haven't received any information about the DSA from your funding body (Student Finance England, Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland or Student Awards Agency Scotland) or if you have not yet indicated to them that you have a disability it would be really useful if you contact them as soon as possible so that your support can be in place as early as possible in the new academic year.

You can find more information about (and application forms for) the DSA from the forms and guides page of the website www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance. The Disability Office at SOAS also has stocks of the application form and can send one to you if you prefer.

The DSA can make a big difference to your university experience, so do consider applying for it as soon as possible. The process takes a little time (sometimes up to 3 months) so please don't delay.

International Students

International students are not eligible for the DSA but there is information about funding and other issues that you might find useful on the following website;

All Students

If you have any medical evidence, reports from educational psychologists or a DSA needs assessment please remember to bring a copy of these with you when you come to SOAS. You will need these if you want the school to make any adjustments for you e.g. extra time in exams.


Please contact the SOAS Disability Advisor to discuss your particular accommodation requirements prior to application. 

There are 2 student residences available for the sole use of SOAS students: Dinwiddy House (for undergraduates, on Pentonville Road, near King’s Cross station) and Paul Robeson House (for postgraduates, on Penton Rise, just off Pentonville Road). 6 of the rooms at each residence have been purpose-built for students with physical disabilities. One of the kitchens has also been adapted for wheelchair users. There are 6 designated parking bays for use by disabled residents at Dinwiddy House and 2 at Paul Robeson House. 

The student residences are run by Sanctuary Management Services (SMS) who are happy to answer questions and help in any way they can. Sanctuary's website is: www.smsstudent.co.uk/soas.aspIf you need information that is not available on the website please email student@sanctuary-housing.co.uk or call 020 7841 0480.

The University of London also has other residences with specially adapted rooms. Information about the University of London intercollegiate halls can be found at London accommodation or via links on the Sanctuary website above. Applications for the intercollegiate halls should be made through Sanctuary Management Services (see above).

For further information please request the Disability Office leaflet 'Accommodation for SOAS Students 2012/13'

When you are a student at SOAS

Reasonable Adjustments

If you think you will need any adjustments made to enable you to study successfully at SOAS please make an appointment to see Angela Axon or Zoë Davis, the Disability Advisors, as soon as possible. They can advise you on the facilities that are available to you as a disabled student at SOAS as well as helping you to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made. Please remember to bring your medical evidence or educational psychologist's report with you when you come.

Facilities and services available to disabled students at SOAS

The following facilities may be available to students. Please see the Disability Advisor to discuss arrangements to use any of these that you feel are necessary:

Assistive Technology

All the computers for student use at SOAS run a screen reading/spelling/grammar programme called ClaroRead and a mind-mapping/visual planning programme called MindManager.

Computers in room D15 in the library and room 482 have additional software:

  • Dragon (voice-activated software - you talk, it types)
  • Jaws 13 (screen reading software for visually impaired students)
  • ZoomText 9.1 (enlarges text)
  • Inspiration 7.6 (other mind-mapping software)

These rooms also have printers, book scanners and Magnilink large text display machines which magnify books, magazines and pictures and project the enlarged image onto a screen.

Banks & Shops

There is a cash machine and a small shop in the Students Union and there is a Book Shop on the Ground Floor of the Brunei Gallery. These are all accessible for wheelchair users. Students can make use of the wide range of facilities provided in the University of London Union building adjacent to the School in Malet Street. This building has ramps, with the main facilities located on the ground floor.

Braille & Tactile Signage

Braille and tactile signs have been introduced into parts of the College Buildings and the Brunei Gallery.

Catering Outlets

All of the School’s catering outlets are either at ground floor level or accessible by lift.


Counselling provides a regular, discrete place where you can talk to someone whose task is to listen carefully and help you to make sense of events or experiences that may be on your mind as well as explore options to enable you to feel more in control of your life. Counselling may help you to make changes in your life. At other times, though it may not seem practical or possible to change your immediate circumstances, it may be possible to find a way of dealing with difficult circumstances at less cost to your physical or mental wellbeing. You are encouraged to talk to one of the SOAS counsellors if you would like to. Email counsellors@soas.ac.uk or visit the student services office on the third floor of Vernon Square.

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

If you are eligible for a student loan or you are a master’s or PhD degree student paying home fees and haven’t yet applied for the DSA it is very likely to be still worth doing. If you are a European student who has lived in the UK for several years it may be worth asking your funding body to see if you are eligible. (See Applying for the DSA above.)


In order to make any reasonable adjustments it may be necessary for the Disability Office to pass on information to relevant areas of the School community, such as your academic department, the accommodation office, registry and the examinations officer. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 we are not able to pass on sensitive personal data including information relating to disability to other parts of the School without your explicit approval. The Disability Advisor has a Confidentiality Agreement that allows you to choose with whom your details may be shared. Please discuss this with the Disability Advisor and complete the form as soon as possible to assist us in arranging adjustments.


If you have a medical certificate or an educational psychologist's diagnostic assessment for specific learning difficulties (SpLD's) that recommends that you should have extra time or other special arrangements in your exams you should contact the Disability Office as soon as possible in the academic year.  The Disability Advisor will need to see a copy of any medical evidence or educational psychologist’s assessment (which should be an adult test and undertaken after you were 16) so please remember to bring it to SOAS with you.  The deadline by which the Disability Office needs to be notified, along with other useful information, is given on the Special Arrangements for Exams page in the disability section of the SOAS website.

Faculty Disability Advisors

Each of the three faculties, Arts & Humanities, Law & Social Sciences and Language & Cultures has a disability advisor that you can approach for advice and support. See the Disability Contacts page in the disability section of the SOAS website.

Financial Support
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

See above

Access to Learning Fund

Students with disabilities are one of the priority groups for the Government’s Access to Learning Fund.  Home students may apply to the Access to Learning Fund for disability-related costs (e.g. dyslexia assessments) which are not covered by the Disabled Students Allowance. Students who are not eligible for the Disabled Students’ allowance or for the Access to Learning Fund may apply for help through the School’s Hardship Fund which is administered by the Student Welfare Advisors. See the Hardship Funds page in the Information for Students/Money section of the SOAS website or contact welfare@soas.ac.uk for advice.

Student Disability Assistance Fund

The Student Health Association runs the Student Disability Assistance Fund to help disabled students keep up with their studies.  The maximum amount of each award is £500.  Students must be involved in Higher Education on a full-time or nearly full-time basis.  UK and International students will be considered, but those who are eligible to apply for the Disabled Students Allowance must do so before they apply to the Fund and are less likely to receive an award.  Deadlines for applications are 1st March, 1st June and 1st November each year. Medical or Educational Psychologist's evidence is required, together with a supporting letter from the university and an estimate of costs of equipment or support required. For more information and to apply visit http://www.studenthealthassociation.co.uk/bursaries/index.html and http://www.studenthealthassociation.co.uk/bursaries/rules.html

Applying to Trusts and Charities

Information about trusts and charities can be found on the Disability Alliance website at www.disabilityrightsuk.org/funding-charitable-trusts

Disability and welfare benefits

(This information comes from the Disability Alliance’s information leaflet ‘Funding higher education for disabled students 2012/13'). Most full-time students cannot claim welfare benefits. However, if you’re disabled, you may still be able to apply for the benefits listed in this section. It is important to let the Benefits Agency or Jobcentre Plus know that you’re starting a course. This is a change in your circumstances, so you must tell them even if you believe it will not affect your benefits. Disability Alliance produces information booklets on studying and claiming benefits. If you have specific questions, it is best to speak with a welfare rights specialist at your university or college, or your local Citizens Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk/getadvice.htm

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Going into higher education should not affect your entitlement to DLA or the amount you get. If you get DLA you can apply for ESA and Housing Benefit.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you’re a full-time student, you may be able to claim income-related ESA if you qualify for a disability premium, for example if you receive any part of Disability Living Allowance. Income-related ESA is a means-tested benefit. The amount you get depends on your income. If you’re eligible for a student loan, even if you do not take it out, part of it will be considered as income and the amount of income-related ESA may be reduced.

If you get contributory ESA you will be able to study and claim in the same way as Incapacity Benefit. However, you may need to tell Jobcentre Plus how studying on your course is different from work and highlight any flexibility or support that you get with your studies. Contributory ESA is a taxable benefit and it will be treated as income when calculating student support entitlement.

Income Support

If you already get Income Support, you may be able to continue to claim as a full-time student if you qualify for any kind of Disability Premium. You also qualify if you receive any part of Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate, Severe Disablement Allowance, if you’re registered blind, or get Disabled Students’ Allowances because you’re D/deaf.

Income Support is a means-tested benefit. The amount you receive depends on your income. If you’re eligible for a student loan, even if you do not take it out, part of it will be considered as income and the amount of Income Support may be reduced. Some income will not be taken into account for the calculation, for example, the Special Support Grant and the allocated amount of student loan or institutional bursaries towards books and equipment. Any Disabled Students’ Allowances you get are not considered as income.

Housing Benefit

The same eligibility rules are used for Housing Benefit as for Income Support. Housing Benefit can be paid towards the cost of living in halls provided by your university or college, as well as if you live in private rented accommodation.  

Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance

The Benefits Agency or Jobcentre Plus may review your claim because they may think that since you can study you’re also able to work. However, there is no rule which says you cannot claim these benefits while studying. You may need to tell Jobcentre Plus how studying on your course is different from work and highlight any flexibility or support that you get with your studies. Incapacity Benefit is a taxable benefit and it will be treated as income when calculating student support entitlement.

Fire Alarms

If you have a disability which makes it more difficult for you to use the stairs in an emergency, please contact the Disability Office so that you can discuss emergency egress arrangements. Deaf students and students with hearing difficulties can borrow a pager to alert them to fire alarms and other emergencies.


Graduation ceremonies are not held on School premises but the building used for this purpose has ramps and lifts. Where required, seats will be removed from the main auditorium in order to accommodate wheelchair users. There are designated entry and exit points at the side of the stage to allow for wheelchair access. For more information see the Access to Graduation - Guide for Disabled Students/Guests page in the Graduation section of the SOAS website.


For a list of health centres near to the SOAS campuses and further information see the Health pages in the Information for Students section of the SOAS website. Leaflets are also available in the Student Services waiting room. Students should register with a doctor as soon as possible after arriving at SOAS. It can be helpful if you ask your current doctor to prepare a letter summarising your condition, history and current treatment regimes which you can then bring with you, as it can take a little time for your medical records to reach the new GP.

Induction Loop Systems

The large lecture theatres at SOAS - BGLT, KLT, V111 and V211 have induction loop systems, and room G3 has an alternative infra-red system for which headsets are available. There are portable loop systems at reception points throughout the school and others which can be borrowed for lectures/seminars in other rooms. Some students may need a radio microphone or other device, if so, please discuss this with the Student Disability Advisor.

Information Technology

IT staff provide advice on adaptive equipment and software. If you wish to use JAWS or Dragon please contact the Disability Office to organise a one-to-one session so that individual settings can be created and saved. There will also be a series of training sessions in all the specialist softwares in the first term.

Library services

The Library has a policy for disabled students which provides a library contact person who will be happy to meet new readers, discuss their requirements and explain how the Library can best support their personal needs. Assistance can be provided, for example, in fetching materials from shelves, photocopying, flexible loan periods, and liaison with other members of Library staff. For more information see SOAS library disability policy . To register for this service contact the Disability Office

There are two height-adjustable workstations suitable for wheelchair users and a wheelchair-accessible toilet on Floor F in the Library.

The library also has two scan and read machines. These are the Sara reading machine and a Scan and Read Anywhere machine. These mean that you can put a book on the scanner and it will read it to you straight away. You will need headphones for this. The portable scanner is kept at the issue desk and can be borrowed with a library card. The large scanner is likely to be kept on the lower level – please ask library staff for more info.


All buildings have lifts large enough for standard wheelchairs. The lifts in the main College Buildings are large enough for motorised wheelchairs; there are lift announcement facilities in the Brunei Gallery and in Vernon Square. The lifts in the library and in the Faber building are only big enough for one small wheelchair. The School will endeavour to assign classes to accessible rooms where necessary, if you have any difficulty in accessing a classroom during your course, please inform the Disability Advisors.


SOAS has a small stock of computers, digital recorders and other equipment for loan to students who are either not eligible for the DSA or who have not yet received any equipment. Please contact the Disability Advisors if you would like to borrow any of this equipment.


If you have mobility difficulties or have difficulty carrying, the disability advisor can arrange for you to have one of the lockers that are reserved for disabled students on the ground floor. You will then need to contact Peter Baran, the Student Union Manager, who will show you where they are. You need to take your own padlock with you to secure the locker.


Some disabled students find it helpful to have some regular time with a specialist tutor called a mentor to help them to manage their academic work e.g. time planning, assignment planning, etc. A typical arrangement might be to see the mentor once a week for an hour. The Disability Advisors can help to arrange this form of support if you think it would be helpful.

One to one study support

One to one study support for students with specific learning difficulties can be provided by a learning advisor. The learning advisors are Carol John and Carol Rifkin who can both be contacted on learningadvisors@soas.ac.uk or 020 7074 5065. The learning advisors also work with students who are having other difficulties such as procrastination and “writers block”. If you are having difficulties with any aspect of your study it is worth contacting the learning advisors to see what support they can offer.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs)

In the event of a fire or other emergency at SOAS the alarms will be activated and the lifts will stop operating. If you believe that you may need assistance in evacuating the SOAS building in those circumstances or if you have any concerns about whether you would hear the alarm please contact the Disability Advisors, so that appropriate arrangement can be made to ensure your safe evacuation in an emergency.


You may have been offered funding for some of your photocopying through your DSA. To claim this you will need receipts. You can get a receipt to show your usage from the Audio-Visual Unit.

Religious Facilities

There are a number of prayer rooms in the School, which are accessible by lift. The School has chaplains who can provide information on the major Christian denominations as well as on Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim places of worship. The Chaplaincy is not accessible to wheelchair users. While we are trying to find any alternative site for the chaplaincy please contact the chaplain who will make arrangements to ensure you are able to take part.


Students who need to rest during the day may, if arrangements are agreed, make use of the rest room on the first floor of the main building. Please contact the Student Disability Advisors to make such arrangements.

Specialist computer and study rooms

There are two specialist computer and study rooms at SOAS for disabled students who would benefit from a private room to study. These are room D15 in the library and room 482, both at Russell Square. The rooms have ergonomic chairs and special equipment (see Assistive Technology above)

You can book the study rooms at the library issue desk or you can telephone 020 7898 4796 and leave a request.  Both rooms can be booked in advance for a single session of up to four hours.  You may also book  several sessions for up to a month in advance.

Sporting Facilities

The University of London Union Building in Malet Street provides a wide range of sports facilities for all students of the University. There are lifts available to all floors of this building.

Students’ Union

SOAS Students’ Union is a great place to get involved in the life of SOAS. There is a Students with Disabilities Officer who can be contacted at sudisabilities@soas.ac.uk  If you are interested in setting up a disability related society (eg to learn sign language) there may be some funding available from the Union - contact the Co-President Sports & Societies at sport.soc@soas.ac.uk .   For a full list of current SU officers See the Disability Contacts page in the disability section of the SOAS website.


If your disability means that you are unable to make the journey between Vernon Square and Russell Squares campuses on foot you can use the taxi service. You will need to confirm this with the Disability Advisors who will then let the Student Services administrator know that the arrangement has been approved. To book the taxis contact the Student Services administrator on 020 7074 5015 or studentservices@soas.ac.uk giving 24 hours notice of when you will need the taxi and from which campus. The details will be explained when you register. Please only use this service when it is necessary to do so.

Toilet Facilities

All buildings have accessible toilet facilities. Some of the accessible toilets are locked with Radar Keys. You can get a key by contacting the Student Disability Advisor, or you can borrow one from the main receptions.

Transport & Parking

SOAS has two main sites – in Russell Square and in Vernon Square. Parking at either site is extremely difficult. If you are a blue badge holder you may apply for a parking permit from the University of London. Please contact the Disability Advisors for details. SOAS students who are blue badge holders can also apply for a Camden ‘Green Badge’ which is necessary for parking on nearby streets in the central area.  

London Transport Freedom Passes allow eligible disabled people who live in a London borough to travel free on London's public transport network. The pass is paid for by your local borough council and is available from either your local Post Office or town hall. If you have a disability and believe you may be eligible for a Freedom Pass, please contact your local borough council for further information and details of how to apply. For more information on Freedom Passes please look on the Transport for London webpage www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14305.aspx

For more information please request the Disability Office leaflet 'Brief Guide to Parking and Transport for Disabled Students at SOAS'.

Self help groups (student led)

SOAS students have set up and are running the following groups:

An information and social networking site for students with AD(H)D was launched this year at www.addstudy.org  Addstudy has also been holding student-run support group meetings on campus. Please contact Zoe zd@soas.ac.uk  if you would like to join a mailing list to hear more about these events.

Chronic Support Group
The group is primarily aimed at students with chronic, long term or serious health conditions which have an impact on their daily life. Whether these result in fatigue, mobility problems, depression or the feeling of isolation caused by a long term illness. The group is useful for exploring some of the problems relevant to studying alongside managing a long-term health problem. The group discusses various areas such as time management, how to alert your lecturer to your situation, or how to cope with being ill, but the discussion can also focus on more specific problems. The group is confidential and run by students, and provides a safe environment in which to explore anxieties, concerns and strategies for coping.  For more information on this group and to find out when it meets please contact chronic.soas@gmail.com

Tea and Empathy
For more information on this group and to find out when it meets please contact Alex Fulton, the student union welfare officer on af20@soas.ac.uk

Useful contacts

Please see the Disability Contacts page on the SOAS website for a list of useful contacts

Your views

Your views on how easy it is for you to access information, learning and teaching, the physical campus and all other aspects of life at SOAS are important to us. If you have suggestions, constructive criticism or other ideas about this please let the Student Disability Advisors know.