Disabled Students' Allowances may fund an electronic fluency device if you are in, or about to enter, higher education. Zaber Ahmed writes about obtaining the allowances for a VoiceAmp device.
I had already been at university a couple of years when I heard about the VoiceAmp device. I borrowed one on trial and found it a great aid. Having found out about Disabled Students' Allowances through the internet, I thought I would see if they would allow me to buy a VoiceAmp.
My local authority told me I would need a letter from either a speech and language therapist or my GP to confirm my disability. I managed to contact a speech and language therapist I'd been seeing previously on the NHS, and she provided a detailed report of my speech impediment and also how it directly affects my studies, e.g. taking part in group discussions.
I also contacted my university's disability officer to talk about my stammer and get advice. She gave me the Disabled Students' Allowances form - or alternatively you can download it from www.studentfinancedirect.co.uk (see BSA's Electronic Fluency Devices page).
The local authority got back to me a couple of weeks after I submitted the form and therapist's letter. They agreed that I had a disability which affected my study, and asked me to book an appointment with one of their disability assessors. When we met, the assessor stressed that he was there to help me. I found him understanding and able to appreciate the points I made. The main emphasis was that I needed to explain why the device would be beneficial to me in educational terms. In my case the reasons were:
- I can contribute in lectures and classes
- I can speak to the lecturer one-to-one
- taking part in group discussions
- making presentations
- I can make new friends without being scared and allow these friends to benefit me educationally, e.g. by discussing coursework.
After the meeting the assessor sent me his report and asked if I agreed with it. (If you think the assessor can improve the report, feel free to say this). After all this my local authority contacted me saying that my application had been successful.
The allowances granted will cover the wireless option of the VoiceAmp costing around £600 extra (though the cost varies depending on the earpiece), which I asked for because it allows me to feel more comfortable in front of people. They will also provide a computer to allow me to change the calibration of the device.
My application was apparently the first in my local authority dealing with a stammer. However they considered my case and decided it was sound. My disability officer tells me that different local authorities have different practices as to what funding they give.
I am so glad of the VoiceAmp and want to thank the incredible team, it's been a life transformation.
From the Spring 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 8.