Disabled Student Support

What is a disability?

According to the 2010 Equality Act, a disability is any ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

This includes but is not limited to: sensory problems such as sight or hearing impairments, rheumatoid arthritis, ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, epilepsy, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy, dementia, asthma, thrombosis, anxiety, stroke, heart disease, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar, OCD, personality disorders, ADHD, cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), HIV, endometriosis, brain injury, diabetes, crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, IBS, IBD, lupus, migraines, and anything else which fulfil the criteria above.

Disabilities can be visible or invisible, physical or mental, diagnosed or undiagnosed. 

What are my rights as a disabled student?

As a disabled student you have the right to be free from discrimination and to partake in your studies as much as possible. organisations (such as Cambridge University) are legally required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure disabled people can access their services. Examples include accessible buildings, lecture notes in advance, exam access arrangements, extensions to deadlines, accessible college facilities and more.To see a comprehensive list of the adjustments you are entitled to, visit this website: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/adjustments-disabled-students

If you are having difficulties getting your needs met as a disabled student at Cambridge University, then there is help available. It is not only you, and you are not being unreasonable. You may want to explore some or all of the following:

  • Speaking to your Disabled Students’ Officer, who will work with college to make sure that your needs are met
  • Getting help from the Disability Resource Centre (DRC), especially with speaking to your Director of Studies, tutor or college more generally
  • Speaking to Cambridge University Student’s Union (CUSU) who can represent and support you. If you aren’t sure about approaching CUSU yourself – if in doubt, speak to someone at the disabled students campaign (DSC) who can put you in touch with the right person.

Remember that you have a right to access to education on the same level as everyone else. There are likely to be common and fairly simple ways to ensure your access, but even if your needs are complex and unusual you have every right to have them met.

What funds/grants are available?

A number of funds and grants are available to disabled students. Some of these funds may require that you have an official diagnosis. Self-diagnosis is valid but often not recognised in the provision of support. Speak to the DRC or your GP about provision of medical evidence in order to access support. The JCR are working on funds with less evidence burden.


Information in this section is sourced from the Disability Resource Centre’s website

As of 2016/17 certain non-medical help (NMH) tasks are now the responsibility of University and are not funded by DSAs. The University and Colleges have established a Reasonable Adjustments Fund (RAF) which will help support the costs of the following NMH tasks:

Through the Disability Resource Centre:

  • Scribe
  • Proof Reader/text checker
  • Reader
  • Study Assistant
  • Note Taker
  • Specialist Transcription Services
  • Specialist Mentor
  • Specialist One to One Study Skills Support

Through your College or Department:

  • Examination Support Worker
  • Practical Support Assistant
  • Library Support Assistant
  • Workshop / Laboratory Assistant

DSAs can help with the costs of:

  • Specialist equipment, such as computer, software and ergonomic seating/desking
  • Sighted Guides, Mobility Trainer, BSL Interpreters, AT Trainers, Electronic Note-takers, Support workers for Deaf students
  • Other costs, such as books or ink


International students may work with their Disability Adviser to access academic-related disability support, or simply fill in an application form for the International Disabled Students’ Fund (IDS Fund). Academic related disability support may include:

  • An independent Needs Assessment
  • Specialist equipment you need for studying, for example computer software or a digital voice recorder
  • Non-medical help, such as a note-taker or Specialist 1:1 study skills
  • Extra travel costs you have to pay because of your disability

Students and offer holders are encouraged to apply as early as possible so that any support requirements are in place for the beginning of term.

Undergraduate students from the Republic of Ireland may be eligible for the Fund for Students with Disabilities. Please contact us at disability@admin.cam.ac.uk to arrange an appointment with your disability adviser, who will need to make this application on your behalf.


Some disabled students are entitled to other welfare provisions, such as Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit. Be aware that your entitlements may well be different over the summer holiday from the rest of the academic year. Investigate whether this applies to you, and apply in plenty of time if it does. You may be able use the online Benefits Advisor to find out what benefits you might be eligible to before doing any more in depth investigation.

In April 2013, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as the non-means-tested tax free benefit (meaning that it is not affected by any other income you have, nor treated as income for other benefits) which aims to cover the extra costs of a fully adjusted life.


There are various other bodies that may be able to provide you help in areas not directly related to the University:

  • Wheelchair Services are responsible for providing wheelchairs to people who need them, you need to get referred by your GP and then will be assessed to see what support is available. We suggest that you bring an advocate with you to the appointment, either or both of a friend who knows you and an professional advocate such as from Voice Ability. They should provide the wheelchair and if you need it a cushion and backrest. You may also be able to get additional funding from various funding bodies or, occasionally, your Disabled Student’s Allowance.
  • Council funded Personal Assistants and adaptations can be provided by the council if you have significant care needs currently not been met – this wouldn’t generally cover educational needs such as note takers in lectures but personal care needs such as help washing, dressing, cooking food and accompanying to events – or, if you are living out of college, adaptations to your accommodation. Again, this can be accessed via a referral from your GP.


There are a number of other funding sources available to disabled student, there is a guide to additional financial support for disabled students on the University website.

Additional to the information provided on the University’s funding support webpage is the Crane’s Charity. This is a notable source of support as several students are currently applying to the fund in order to pursue diagnoses of ADHD, as the 2-year NHS waiting list in Cambridge is now closed.

What support is available from the college?


The college nurse Anne Schulman is located in the Health Centre in the ground floor of Old Hall. She is available to help with a wide variety of health and welfare needs, ranging from advice on minor illnesses and injuries to support for emotional issues. If more specialised help or treatment is required, she will help refer you or point you in the right direction via your GP, the University Counselling Service or other local service. You can make an appointment with her on moodle https://www.vle.cam.ac.uk/login/index.php or attend the drop-in clinic on Wednesdays 12-3pm. 

– Email: anne.schumann@newn.cam.ac.uk

– Phone:01223 335705


The college has its own part-time counsellor, Elrika, who is available for appointments during term time. To arrange an appointment, email her or visit a drop-in session. Her working hours are Mondays 9:00am – 4:00pm, and Thursdays 9:00am – 3:00pm. Drop in sessions are on Mondays 1:00pm – 2:00pm and Thursdays 1:00pm – 2:00pm. The college counsellor is generally used for shorter-term problems, so if you have an ongoing mental health condition for which you need regular support, it may be better to sign up to the University Counselling Service.

– Email: counsellor@newn.cam.ac.uk


Your pastoral tutor is responsible for looking after your welfare at university. You can contact them for a number of reasons- they are available to: talk to you about intermission or double time, arrange reasonable adjustments and exam arrangements, talk to the college about any difficulties you are experiencing, put you forward for any funds they think might be useful. 


If you have any problems with your pastoral tutor, or would like to speak to someone in the tutorial office, the senior tutor Liba Taub is available to email. She will happily take any queries or concerns you have that cannot be directed elsewhere. 

– Email: lct1001@cam.ac.uk


The disabled students’ officer’s job is to advocate on behalf of disabled students to help college provide the best possible help. They are available at any time to discuss any questions or queries you may have, and act as a general liaison between disabled students and the university.

– Email: jcr.disabilities@newnhamjcr

Disability handbook 2021/2: Handbook 2021/2 Plaintext version 2021/2

What support is available from the university?

If you have disclosed a disability or learning difficulty to the university, you should have been assigned an adviser at the DRC. If not, get in touch with them as soon as you can so they can allocate you one. They are an invaluable resource and can provide personal tutors, advice on staying in control of your condition, hold specialised seminars and focus groups, provide loans for specialised equipment, and provide information on grants and bursaries for disabled students. Their contact details are:
– Email: disability@admin.cam.ac.uk
– Phone: 01223 332 301
– Address: Keynes House, 24a Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1QA

This is a new CUSU campaign representing all disabled students and combating discrimination throughout the University. By disabled students for disabled students the DSLC is the organised voice of disabled students in Cambridge University. The Disabled Students’ Liberation Campaign exists to support and advance the interests of its members through sharing information, advocacy, organising and campaigning. They work with CUSU and the other autonomous campaigns to end discrimination against disabled people and others in Cambridge university and beyond. If you would like more information or would like to take part in any activities, visit http://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/ and sign up to their mailing list.


The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service offers free, confidential and independent support to all Cambridge University students. They can help you understand the University and College regulations including intermission, extensions to submission deadlines, exam reviews and examination allowances, disciplinary issues, and offer support with mental health issues and welfare concerns.​ Opening hours Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, and advice Drop-in Sessions are Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12pm-2pm. Their website also contains some useful information https://www.studentadvice.cam.ac.uk/

– Email: advice@studentadvice.cam.ac.uk

– Phone: 01223 746999

– Address: Lounge of the Students’ Unions (CUSU and the Graduate Union), at 17 Mill Lane, CB2 1RX


The Service is free and available to all undergraduate students in residence and graduate students on the register. They offer both group and individual counselling. If you would like to see a counsellor to either support a pre-existing mental health condition or talk about your concerns, you can apply for an appointment here: https://forms.counselling.cam.ac.uk/titanium/wcmenu.aspx . Waiting times for appointments varies depending on your availability, but if you have been waiting for more than 3-4 weeks ring their reception to double-check that they are processing your request. For more information about what to expect, visit https://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/

– Email: counsellingreception@admin.cam.ac.uk 

– Phone: 01223 332865

– Address:University Counselling Service, Student Services Centre (3rd floor), Bene’t Street, CB2 3PT

What support is available from the NHS?


The GP is your first port of call for any medical issues. It might be a good idea to register for the GP in Cambridge so that local services are available during the termtime. If you plan on going home during the holidays, you can still access your home GP by making a guest appointment. Appointments for Newnham Walk Surgery (which is next to the Principal’s lodge and Pightle) can be made over the phone or online.

– Website: https://www.newnhamwalksurgery.nhs.uk/

– Phone: 01223 366811

– Address: Newnham Walk Surgery, Wordsworth Grove, CB3 9HS

NHS 111

For general health queries you can ring 111, who will point you in the direction of the appropriate services. This line can also be used for mental health emergencies by dialling 111 and selecting option 2. Trained advisors and mental health professionals are on-call 24/7, and can answer questions. 111 option 2 is also the only place where you can get a referral to the Sanctuary (a place to receive practical and emotional support from friendly, multi-skilled staff without judgement.


The nearest hospital is Addenbrookes hospital, which offers a range of services and clinics for physical illness and injury. The hospital is easy to get to on the U bus.  Local mental health services from the NHS are under the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, and are referred to as PRISM. Referrals can be made by your GP. There is also a self-referral service – IAPT – that can offer practical mental health support such as CBT. Referrals can be made here