How can the NDIS support you while you study?

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People with disability who are studying in tertiary education settings, like university and TAFE, can sometimes get National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding to help with study.

Key points

  • The NDIS is not designed to provide many supports in tertiary education settings but it can fund some
  • Talk to your Local Area Coordinator about the support you need for university or TAFE
  • Supports not available through the NDIS should usually be provided by your tertiary education provider

Although the NDIS doesn’t offer a lot of support while you are attending higher education, it can be useful to know what extra support is available in case it will enable you to access study.

Types of NDIS support

There are generally three areas of supports that can be funded through the NDIS to help you attend tertiary education.

  1. Training for teachers – You may need supports in your learning environment that your teachers have not come across before, such as the use of microphones that connect to a hearing aid or a support worker to take notes during lectures. The NDIS can fund training for your teachers to make sure they understand your supports and the best way for you to learn.
  1. Personal care – While you are attending university, TAFE or an approved placement you may need personal care supports, for example for eating or toileting. You can have these funded so that you are able to access your tertiary education in the same environment, at the same time as other students and have equal access to your learning.
  1. Travel to study – If you don’t drive and can’t use public transport alone to get to your higher education setting you can get NDIS funds for transport to the campus or for transport assistance to learn how to use public or private transport. There are three levels of transport funding you might be able to receive, depending on how many hours of study you are doing.

Asking for supports

There’s no harm in asking about what supports you might be able to get while you are considering going to university or TAFE.

Talk to your Local Area Coordinator or support coordinator about what supports you might be eligible for, what level of funding you might get in your NDIS plan and what your tertiary education provider should do to support you.

It is best to start planning for tertiary education as early as possible so you know what supports will be available and can arrange for them to be ready when you start the course.

When considering whether to give you funding for tertiary education supports, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will need to make sure that there are no other supports that will have the same outcome at a cheaper price.

The NDIA will also consider whether the supports will help you in the long term and may help you to become more independent.

If you have your sights set on a particular job, before funding your supports the NDIA will need to know that the study you want to do is with a qualified provider, will likely help you get the job you want and will likely lead to paid or volunteer work once you finish the course.

The supports in your plan need to make it more likely you will successfully finish the course.

What the NDIS won't fund

There are some disability related supports and services that the NDIA won’t generally approve funding for.

This includes physical modifications to places you study at, such as ramps and lifts for access to buildings, because it is expected your TAFE or university will pay for adjustments that help you to study safely and with equal access to that of any other student.

Training for other staff not directly teaching you and extra supervision, learning support or tutoring is also unlikely to be funded through the NDIS.

Any equipment or resources used by all students, such as textbooks, computers, stationery or printing, will not be funded in your NDIS plan as they are not specific to your disability.

In addition, the NDIS won’t fund any supports for tertiary education if it is unlikely you will get any benefit from the study or it’s unlikely you will pass the course. This doesn’t mean you have to finish the course within a certain timeframe though, you can take extra time as long as you eventually complete the course.

If you withdraw from the course or are expelled from your educational institution because of your behaviour, the supports also won’t be funded.

Tertiary education funded support

Under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act all education and training providers must make sure you have access to your learning on an equal level to other students who don’t live with disability.

This means it is your right to be able to request study related reasonable adjustments in the classroom that your education provider should give you regardless of your NDIS funding situation.

When you apply for study at a university or TAFE there should be an option to disclose your disability in the application, if you want to, so that your provider can expect to make adjustments to support your learning.

You can also contact student services at your university or TAFE at any point to discuss reasonable adjustments and your access to the campus or learning materials.

Are you planning to study tertiary education? Tell us about the kinds of supports you might use in the comments below.

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Life after secondary school – transition into further study for students with disability
Options for transitioning out of school and into work
Why flexible workplaces are important for people with disabilities