How to become a DSA assessor in the UK

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Accessibility on April 28, 2023
Learn how to become a DSA assessor in the UK. Follow our step-by-step guide to kickstart your career today.

    How to become a DSA assessor in the UK

    If you have an interest in supporting disabled students and have the relevant experience, becoming a DSA needs assessor may be a rewarding career choice for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the qualifications required to become a DSA assessor, the cost of training, and the steps involved in becoming a fully accredited assessor with an Assessment Practicing Certificate (APC). We’ll also explore how DSA assessors support students.

    An overview of the Disabled Students’ Allowance

    The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a government-funded program in the United Kingdom that provides financial assistance to eligible students with disabilities who are studying in higher education. The program is designed to help offset the extra costs associated with studying with a disability, such as the need for specialist equipment, support strategies, and assistive software.

    To access the DSA, students must first apply for the allowance through their relevant funding body. Once approved, they will then be referred to a DSA Needs Assessor in their region, such as DSA Needs Assessors Wales. These assessors will work with the student to identify their specific needs and recommend appropriate support strategies and assistive software to help them succeed in their studies.

    How a DSA needs assessor supports students

    DSA needs assessors play a vital role in supporting students with disabilities, mental health conditions, and specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), including dyslexia. They assess the student’s needs and make recommendations for assistive technology, such as text to speech software or speech recognition software, that can help with reading, writing, and note-taking. They also recommend non-medical help (NMH), such as note-takers or support workers, to help students overcome any barriers they may face due to their disability.

    During a needs assessment, the assessor will discuss the student’s impairment, any medical evidence, and their support needs. The assessor will then produce a needs assessment report, which will outline the recommended support strategies and assistive software that the student may require. The student can then use this report to apply for funding for the recommended support.

    DSA assessors work closely with universities and disability services to ensure that students have access to all the resources they need to succeed, including alternative formats of learning materials, modules designed to support mental health, and other forms of student support.

    Qualifications to be a DSA Assessor in the UK

    To become a DSA assessor in the UK, there are a few qualifications and requirements you should meet. These include:

    1. A relevant degree or professional qualification — assessors should have at least a degree in a relevant subject such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, nursing, or psychology. Alternatively, they should have a relevant professional qualification in areas such as assistive technology, or supporting the disabled.

    2. Relevant experience — assessors should have a minimum of two years’ relevant experience working with disabled people in a professional capacity. This could be in a healthcare setting, education, or social services. While two years isn’t always required, it’s a good rule to go by.

    3. Membership of a relevant professional body — assessors should be a member of a relevant professional body, such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), or the British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT).

    4. Completion of a DSA assessor training course — assessors should have completed an approved DSA assessor training course, such as the one offered by DSA-QAG.

    5. Criminal record check — assessors must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to ensure they are suitable to work with vulnerable adults.

    It’s also worth noting that assessors should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, be able to work independently and have a good understanding of disability-related legislation and the needs of disabled people.

    The costs of becoming a DSA assessor

    The cost of becoming a Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) assessor in the UK can vary depending on the specific training course you choose and any other associated costs. Here are some potential costs to consider:

    1. DSA Assessor Training Course — The cost of a DSA Assessor Training Course can vary depending on the provider, but it typically ranges from £900 to £1,500. This cost may include course materials, assessments, and certification.

    2. Professional Body Membership — To become a DSA assessor, you will need to be a member of a relevant professional body, such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which has an annual registration fee of £106.

    3. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check — As part of the application process, you will need to undergo a DBS check, which costs £23 if you register online or £40 if you register by post.

    4. Insurance — As a DSA assessor, you may need to have professional indemnity insurance, which can cost around £100-£200 per year.

    Overall, the total cost of becoming a DSA assessor may be around £1,000 to £2,000, depending on the specific training course you choose and any additional costs you may incur. It’s important to note that some training providers may offer funding or payment options, and some employers may cover the cost of training for their employees who become DSA assessors.

    Professional development and accreditation

    To become a fully accredited DSA assessor with an Assessment Practicing Certificate (APC), you’ll need to complete a training course accredited by an appropriate professional body such as Patoss. You’ll also need to complete a period of supervised practice and submit a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate your competence. Once you’ve completed these requirements, you’ll be eligible to apply for an APC. Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential to maintaining the quality assurance of your work and staying up to date with the latest support strategies and assistive software.

    Why use the Disabled Students’ Allowance on Speechify

    One such tool that can help disabled students or students with learning difficulties is Speechify – an AI-powered text to speech system created specifically with students in mind. Speechify enables individuals facing reading challenges like dyslexia, ADHD, low vision or vision impairments, and other learning difficulties to access online course material quickly and easily.

    With Speechify, students can instantly have any physical or digital text read aloud to them from study notes, news articles, research papers, social media posts, emails, and more, and thankfully, the Disabled Students’ Allowance can cover the cost of Speechify’s software.

    If you think you or a student you’re working with would benefit from a Speechify’s text to speech technology, ask your needs accessor or encourage them to ask their needs assessor about the DSA covering the expense. In meantime, anyone can try Speechify for free.


    Where can I get more information about becoming a DSA assessor?

    For further information about DSA assessments and how to become a DSA assessor, you can contact a training provider or professional body such as Patoss.

    What the DSA process looks like for students?

    The first step in the DSA process is to apply for DSA funding through Student Finance England or other funding bodies. Once approved, the student can book a needs assessment appointment at an assessment centre. The needs assessor will give recommendations on the funding they need, and they can then use that report to access funding.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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