This is a page about disability support at Oxford, produced with the help of members of the Oxford Students' Union Disabilities Campaign.
The nature of your condition(s) will inform the questions you need to ask about specific colleges before you apply. Some example questions you might have are:
Physical disabilities: How much of college is level access, including bedrooms (both your own and friends); common rooms; catering (kitchen and dining hall); bar? Is there an appropriate bedroom available for me? Will I be able to be independent in college? Is college near a bus route?
Mental health conditions: Is there a college counsellor? What sort of mental health support is provided by JCRs (college student unions)? Is college quiet and does it feel safe to me? How close by are food shops? Can I cook for myself if I can’t go to the dining hall/canteen? Is the college isolated from social opportunities?
One factor you may be concerned about with applying to Oxford is the accessibility of the colleges. Unlike many modern campus universities, Oxford is formed of 45 smaller colleges across the city, many of which comprise some very old buildings, cobbles or uneven steps. This doesn’t mean the colleges are inaccessible - some buildings have had lifts, ramps or handrails installed in recent years. The colleges are also typically responsive to the needs of their students, meaning they will often be willing to make accessibility arrangements to accommodate incoming disabled students.
The best way to determine whether a college is accessible for you is by arranging to visit, so you can have a look around and speak to staff about your specific needs. If this is not possible, the university has started to produce an Access Guide 🔗 to each of the colleges, including details of accessible bedrooms, library facilities and disabled toilets, alongside lots of photographs.
As well as the accessibility of specific colleges, you may need to consider the proximity to department buildings, faculties and major libraries, as well as the accessibility of entrances and exits of these buildings. This searchable map 🔗 produced by the University could be used to shortlist some potential colleges based on location. You might prioritise being close to your faculty, close to the city centre, or something else entirely - it’s up to you!
Can't find answers to these questions?
If you have a question about a college and can’t easily find the answer, you can contact either the college staff, or student representatives from the JCR (college-level student union). There is a list of disability coordinators available here 🔗 🌟.
Most college websites have a ‘contact’ form, and a member of staff should respond to your query. To reach student representatives, search for ‘x college JCR’ online, and look for the relevant email addresses. Any member of the JCR will be happy to answer your questions, or pass your query onto the most relevant contact - lots of JCRs have disabilities or equal opportunities officers, who will likely be able to help!
Contacting to ask questions about accommodation, catering, etc will have no bearing whatsoever on your application, so don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you need, before or after submitting your application.
If you experience a problem whilst at Oxford, the first point of contact is usually the Porters’ Lodge, and there is typically a porter on duty twenty-four hours per day.
The application process is essentially the same for everyone, regardless of (dis)ability. It is nuanced, and takes into account difficulties that students have faced, for example their schooling and home background. None of this counts against the student; it simply provides context for different parts of the application. It is the same with disabilities and health problems; the university is obliged by law to treat you fairly and to put in place adjustments that you may need, to give you equal access to the application process, and that is the only thing disability disclosures are used for. So there is no need to worry that your college will be ‘judging’ you for your health - they want to help you succeed!
You will have the opportunity to disclose your disability on your UCAS application. While this is certainly not mandatory, it is strongly recommended for your own benefit, as disclosing early enables the appropriate support to be in place when you arrive in Oxford. More information on applications is available on the Oxford guidance for disabled applicants 🔗 webpage, including some frequently asked questions about admissions test and interview adjustments.
Every college also has a welfare team, which will signpost students to specialist services if necessary. More information is available on the welfare section 🔗 of the University website.
It may also be useful to know that each college is affiliated with a specific GP within the city of Oxford, and many college doctors come into college once per week. This may be a preferable alternative to travelling to a GP for a non-urgent consultation. The college nurses may also be a helpful point of call.
If you have disclosed your disability, you will be put in touch with the Disability Advisory Service 🔗, and an adviser will meet with you to draw up a Student Support Plan 🔗. This is a short document which outlines your conditions and specific needs. You can choose who this document is shared with, but it may be helpful to pass onto your academic and specialist support staff.
For mental health conditions, you may be referred to the university counselling service 🔗 This is usually short-term, although you may be referred to specialist services for particular mental health conditions. You can also talk to a GP or other NHS services in Oxford.
Talking Space 🔗 🌟 also offer a range of free talking therapies to patients registered with an Oxfordshire GP, and can be contacted with enquiries about sessions, or in an emergency.
While there is no specific grants available for disabled students at Oxford, you may be entitled to the government Disabled Students’ Allowance 🔗. This is intended to help with the costs of specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and other disability-related costs of studying.
Societies and Communities
The Oxford Students’ Union Disabilities Campaign is an inclusive community of disabled students, which regularly hosts (fully-accessible!) events in step-free locations, and are happy to make accessibility adjustments upon request. The details of upcoming and past events are posted on their Facebook page 🔗.
Disabilities should not prevent you from accessing and enjoying university events. Many university-arranged events promoted on Facebook include accessibility statements, and the Disabilities Campaign regularly contact organisers to ask for such statements to be added where necessary.
The Oxford Accessible Sport programme 🔗 has launched a new timetable of activities, including wheelchair basketball; mental health football; and visually impaired ice hockey. If you are interested in participating in a sport not currently covered by the Accessible Sport programme, it is definitely worth contacting the relevant club to explain your specific needs and ask if they can accommodate you.
Hopefully this information helps to make your application a little less daunting - and good luck with whatever you decide to do!
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