Our Ultimate Disabled Freshers Survival Guide

26th September 2023 by Scarlett James


Welcome to D&A’s Ultimate Disabled Freshers’ Guide. This 11-page guide gives you some of our team’s top tips to getting through your first few weeks at university. (Although we’re sure you’re already killing it!)

Download your free Ultimate Disabled Freshers’ Guide

Who are we?

[Image Description: The D&A team sit in the sun at a picnic]

Diversity and Ability is an award-winning social enterprise led by and for disabled people. We provide training, consultancy and one-to-one support.

If you’ve applied for Disabled Students’ Allowance you may be receiving one-to-one support from our amazing trainers, mentors and tutors.


Find your people!

Whatever you’re interested in, universities are filled with other like-minded individuals keen to meet new people and try new things.

Whether you want to meet other people who are sober, find your religious community, or play wheelchair basketball, there’s a society for that! Check out your student union’s website to learn more.

Accessible Activities

Not everyone wants to do the same things, and the same things aren’t accessible to everyone. Luckily there are some amazing tools available now, enabling you to discover new places that everyone can access.

Check out WelcoMe app, Euan’s Guide and AccessAble to discover accessible venues in your new home!

Gym membership

If attending a gym is helpful for you and your disability, many universities offer a discounted or free membership as part of a disabled student support plan. 

Whether you find going to the gym helpful for improving mobility, managing your mental health, or any other reason connected to your disability, it’s worth noting that many universities have their own gyms.

Other ways gyms are being made accessible by universities include:

Equipment accredited by the Inclusive Fitness Initiative is specially crafted to cater to users with physical impairments, including those with limited or no vision. This equipment is designed to ensure effective and comfortable training experiences.

  • Supported fitness sessions

These are designed for disabled students and staff including mental health conditions. These sessions provide one-on-one support from the fitness team, with the aim of building a consistent, friendly relationship to help individuals achieve their fitness goals.

  • Sensory Quiet Times

These sessions are for individuals who prefer a quieter workout environment. During Sensory Quiet Times, we reduce noise by lowering music volume, turning off public TV screens, adjusting lighting as needed, refraining from public announcements (except for emergencies), and kindly requesting users to maintain quiet workouts.

  • Sports Buddy Schemes 

The Sports Buddy scheme allows students to bring buddies, whether friends, family, or support workers, for free access to our sports and fitness facilities, enhancing their fitness experience. 

Having a discounted gym membership as part of my support plan was so helpful for me during my time at university.

It made a gym membership accessible to me for the first time and was really helpful for my health, both physical and mental.

University Of Nottingham Graduate

Go get registered at the local gp!

Delaying registration with a new GP might be tempting, especially with phone appointments available now. However, local registration holds various benefits, including easier coordination with university services like disability support and quicker access to in-person GP visits when needed. 

Don’t wait; register as soon as you can!

Top Tip – A lot of GP surgeries allow you to register online now!

Registering at the GP on campus was so easy! I went with other freshers and it meant when I needed to get evidence for my extenuating circumstances the process was so much smoother.

Sheffield Hallam – Year One

Feeling Overwhelmed? Try these:

Get some sleep

It can be easy to slip into not getting enough sleep during freshers. But a lack of sleep cano contribute to overwhelm. Take a nap!

Speak to your wellbeing team

Even if you feel okay now, its good to know what resources are available just in case you start to struggle.

Take Some Time Out

Freshers is just the first week. Don’t feel pressured to do everything. You’ve probably got another two years to explore (at least!).


What lecturers need to know and how to tell them!

We know it’s daunting sharing your needs, preferences and access requirements, and it can be exhausting to have to repeat them too. That’s why we have created AXS Passport. Share with lecturers, support staff, GPs and more instantly.

It’s completely free and signing up is easier than getting free wifi these days.

Feel belonging in action.


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