Disabled Students


Hiya, I’m Carys and I’m the Disabled Student’s officer for the UCS. I’m a second-year law student which means I know all the ways college can be sued for discrimination if they give you a hard time and I’m very argumentative so I’m ready at a moment’s notice to advocate for you if you would rather someone else fight the college.

As well as being an advocate for disabled students, I’m also here if you ever need more general support, such as helping you applying for financial support, answering any questions you have about disability support available at Clare, or simply lending an ear if you have any worries.

The UCS meet on a weekly basis and it’s at these meetings that I am able to raise any concerns brought to me by disabled students for the UCS to consider and whenever possible, raise with the college. If you have any concerns about college or if there are ever any times where you think college could be more accessible, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Even if you think it’s trivial, the smaller issues are often easier to address and I would really like to hear from as many students as possible so that I can best represent your views and advocate for you. You don’t have to use your Cambridge email If you aren’t comfortable identifying yourself to me.

Also, please don’t feel like you have to give details of your disability if you don’t want to or justify your disability if you’re undiagnosed. The disabled student’s officer is here to support all disabled students and that includes people who are self-diagnosed.

Disabled Students Campaign

The UCS is a signatory to the CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign Accessibility Pledge. You can find a screen-readable version of the pledge at https://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Accessibility-Pledge-PDF.pdf.

This pledge commits us to considering access needs when structuring and creating events and documents, and we urge other Clare societies to sign up. To assist with this, we have created a Clare Accessibility Assessment for rooms in Clare, which you can find at https://ucs.clare.cam.ac.uk/site/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/UCS-Clare-Accessibility-Assessment.pdf.

The Disabled Students’ Campaign (DSC) is the arm of Cambridge SU (the university-wide student union) focusing on the interests of disabled students. Their website (https://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/) possesses a wide range of resources, guides, and reports relating to the concerns of disabled students at Cambridge. The DSC provides individual support and advice to any Cambridge student; see https://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/contacts/ for specific contact details.

Their introductory 12-page guide on disability and mental health at Cambridge can be viewed below at https://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/disabled_101-online-2.pdf

The DSC also run several Facebook groups for disabled students to connect with one another – there is a general page as well as more specific groups.

College Life

Location of College and College Accommodation

Clare is one of the most central colleges in Cambridge and would be an ideal choice for anyone wishing to be close to the city centre as well as Sidgwick site, the Humanities campus. The Law, English, Classics, History, Modern Languages, HSPS and Economics departments are all based on Sidgwick site which is less than a five minute walk from Memorial Court, Clare’s first-year accommodation. Most second and third years will live in Castle Court, which is a ten minute walk from the city centre and 20 minute walk from Sidgwick site.

If you have specific needs regarding accommodation, you should speak to your Tutor about applying for accessible accommodation. The process of applying for accessible accommodation means that you would be removed from the ballot (for more information about the ballot see the Accommodation Page); this must be discussed with your Tutor who will then apply on your behalf to the Rooms Tutor. Supporting documentation is required and this must be submitted and the request made before the end of Lent Term (mid-March) but it’s best to get this done as soon as possible. The Disabled Rooms Policy is currently under review and more information and guidance on accommodation will be added here once available.

If you have any questions about accessible accommodation feel free to contact Carys, the UCS Disabled Students Officer (cj474) or Lucas, the Accommodation Officer (lc909).

Catering Options in College

Cooking at Home

All college accommodation has cooking facilities in the form of ‘gyp rooms’ which are essentially mini kitchens including a mini-fridge (but no freezer unless you’re living in Castle End), a hob, kettle, microwave and toaster. If you require a fridge in your room for accessibility/medical reasons the college is able to offer this as a reasonable adjustment and do so often.

Cooking equipment such as slow cookers or rice cookers and air fryers are not permitted in college rooms and these may be confiscated if found. However, if you struggle to cook for yourself as a result of a disability and feel that having something such as a slow cooker or an air fryer would be helpful, you could talk to college about requesting this as a reasonable adjustment or the Disabled Student’s officer could talk to college on your behalf.

Buttery anD Formals

Lots of students will eat their meals in the buttery rather than cooking themselves. The buttery is located in Old Court and there is step-free access but you may need to ask the porters for a lift key beforehand. The buttery usually serves one meat option, one vegetarian option and one vegan option at lunch and dinner except on Mondays when they serve meat free only. 

The catering team will publish buttery menus in advance but these can sometimes change last minute if there are issues with stock but when this does happen there are usually still allergen-safe options still available. However, this is something you should still be aware of and be able to anticipate if you have specific dietary requirements or if this could disrupt your daily routine and cause distress.

When attending formals it’s advised that you notify the catering team in advance if you have any specific dietary requirements so they have enough time to arrange an alternative meal for you. When booking formals the menu will sometimes be published at the time of booking but sometimes when attending special formals (such as subject formals or society formals) they won’t be published in advance as the menu will be curated by the organiser and it’s worth contacting them beforehand to ensure that they are aware of everyone’s dietary needs and can make the right accommodations for you.

If you have any questions or recommendations regarding catering and accessible options these can be directed either to the Disabled Student’s officer or Aadarsh, the Services Officer (ak2446).

Nearby Cafés

Nearby Selwyn college has a comfortable and affordable café which you may want to visits with friends – the café (which also turns into a bar in the evenings) has step free access and an accessible toilet. The Iris Café at Newham College is just around the corner from Clare and is a popular study spot with step free access, an accessible toilet and plenty of comfortable seating.

Sidgwick Site has two catering facilities: the ARC Café, based in the Alison Richards (politics) building, and the Buttery, located by the Marshall (Economics) Library. 

The ARC has step-free access and one door is left open at all times, however, the second door is left closed and opens towards you (pull) so it may be difficult for wheelchair users to access without help from another person and there isn’t an intercom to request assistance from staff. Once inside, the area is spacious and wheelchair users can move around freely and the seating area is accessible for wheelchair users. There are no toilets in the Café but there is an accessible toilet located in the main entrance to the Alison Richards Building.

The Buttery entrance is on a slight slope (not steep at all) and both double doors are permanently open so it should be easily accessible for wheelchair users without assistance. Wheelchair users can move around freely in the café and there are tables accessible for wheelchair users. The nearest accessible toilet is inside the Faculty of Economics.

Both of these cafés are operated by the University Catering Service. The Cambridge Students Union passed a motion in 2023 to lobby the University Catering Service to transition to 100% plant-based but they later withdrew their support for this campaign following criticism from disabled students and other students across Cambridge. As of September 2023, it seems that neither University nor College catering will fully transition to being plant-based and students who are unable to eat fully plant-based meals will still be catered for.

Library Facilities

The Forbes Mellon Library is located in the centre of Memorial Court and is the main study space in college. It’s open seven days a week from 8 am to 12 am (1am in Easter Terms when exam season is in full swing). The library is only accessible via 6 steps at the front entrance. The FML is spread across two floors with more study spaces and some subject books located on the upper floor – if you need to access a book on the upper floor you can request books online and the libraries will retrieve them for you and leave them in the foyer (past the main building entrance thus only accessible by steps) or you can request for them to be left in a more accessible location. The FML is usually quiet during the week but can get busier on weekends when other Faculty Libraries are closed and students don’t have contact hours meaning unless you get there early it can be difficult to find a seat on the ground floor.

The FML doesn’t have bright overhead lighting but each desk has raised tube lights that are shared between two people – these can be irritating if you have sensory issues and the student next to you wants to use it but these are usually only used at night when the library is emptier and it’s easy to move.

There is currently one standing desk in the back room on the upper floor but if you notice that it is often being used and you think the library should add more standing desks don’t hesitate to reach out to the library team. The librarians are so lovely and are always eager to make the library a more comfortable space to study so if you have any recommendations or requests they will always do their very best to accommodate you.

The college also has supervision rooms that can be booked out by students and law students have access to two law reading rooms located in J staircase. These rooms can be especially helpful for students with sensory issues who need especially quiet study spaces but also don’t want to study in their bedroom. 

Tutors and Director of Studies

When you arrive at college you will be assigned a Director of Studies (DoS) and a Tutor. Your DoS will be a fellow in your subject, and will be able to act as an advocate for you when dealing with your faculty and supervisors. With your consent, they can also share your student support document (see below) with your supervisors if you aren’t comfortable discussing your disability and requesting accommodations from supervisors yourself. Your Tutor will be a fellow in a different subject to you and Tutors are responsible for non-academic issues such as accommodation and general student wellbeing.

Academic Support for Disabled Students

Admissions Procedure and Reasonable Adjustments

The admissions process is handled by individual colleges (not by the university), so if you require reasonable adjustments during the admissions process such as exam arrangements during an admissions examination, you should contact the admissions office at Clare to discuss this (admissions@clare.cam.ac.uk).

If you feel that your previous grades do not accurately reflect your academic ability as a result of your disability, you can submit an extenuating circumstances form along with your application and this will allow the admissions team to consider your grades in the context of your disability. 

Accessibility and Disability Resource Centre

The ADRC is a University-funded support service for disabled students. The ADRC employs several disability advisers who are assigned to students based on your course; you can find the contact details of your disability advisor here. Your disability adviser will also be responsible for creating a student support document for you. An SSD will outline how your condition impacts your ability to study and will make recommendations for how this can be mitigated through reasonable adjustments in different academic areas (such as supervisions, exams etc). You have control over who can see your SSD – if you wish, your SSD can be shared with staff at college and your Director of Studies. Your SSD does not itself entitle you to reasonable adjustment or exam access arrangements but it can be used as evidence in an application for exam arrangements and when shared with your faculty or supervisors, is a convincing piece of evidence which makes it hard for them to reject your request for adjustments. The full overview of SSDs can be found here.

The ADRC also provides support to disabled students through the provision of non medical helpers such as note takers or study skills mentors and this is funded by the university.

Tutor, Director of Studies and Supervisions

When you arrive at college you will be assigned a Director of Studies and a Tutor. Your Tutor will be a fellow in a different subject to you and Tutors are responsible for non-academic issues such as accommodation and general student wellbeing.

Your Director of Studies will be a fellow in your subject – your DoS will be able to act as an advocate for you when dealing with your faculty and supervisors and, with your consent, can share your student support document with your supervisors if you aren’t comfortable discussing your disability and requesting accommodations from supervisors yourself. Reasonable adjustments in supervisions could be things such as extended deadlines for supervision essays or attending supervisions virtually rather than in person.

Faculties and Departments

While supervisions are organised by the college, lectures and seminars are organised and controlled by your Faculty and requests for reasonable adjustments should be made to them. Each faculty or department will have a designated member of staff who is responsible for overseeing accessibility and their details can be found here.

Exam Arrangements

As a disabled student you will likely be eligible for Exam Access Arrangements or Adjusted Modes of Assessment. Some examples of EAAs include extra time for exams, rest breaks during exams, the option to use a word processor instead of writing your exam by hand, the option to have a scribe or to sit your exam in sensory friendly conditions.

To apply for EAA or AMAs you should first discuss this with either your Tutor or Director of Studies and then you need to contact the college Tutorial Office who will apply on your behalf (you cannot apply directly yourself). Applications for Exam Access Arrangements and Adjustment Modes of Assessment are managed and approved by the Exams Access and Mitigation Committee. The committee meets once a month usually and applications to the committee must be made before the deadline (usually in the middle of Lent term) in order to be approved in time for your exams. 

Supporting documentation is required and this must meet specific requirements – information about what documentation is acceptable can be found here.

If you don’t have the proper documentation available yet (e.g. you have been diagnosed but are still awaiting the diagnostic report) the Tutorial office can apply for you by using your SSD as evidence as long as you have been given verbal confirmation of diagnosis and this is included on the SSD.

If you are awaiting an appointment/assessment but think it’s likely that you will be diagnosed before your exams and would benefit from EEAs you should still contact both the ADRC and the Tutorial Office as they may be able to submit a provisional application for EEA pending official diagnosis.

College Nurses

Our College Health and Wellbeing team is made up of Helen James (Head of Health & Wellbeing), Esther Manning (College Mental Health Nurse), and Naomi Walker (College Nurse). See Health and Wellbeing for more information about the support that they provide.

Importantly, the college nurses are NOT an emergency service. If you need urgent mental health support, contact NHS 111 Option 2, and then if you want, email the nurses to let them know. 

University Counselling Service

The University Counselling Service is available to support students free of charge, all year round. 

Individual appointments can be made by completing their online referral form, after which you will be offered an appointment within 10 days. The service follows a ‘One at a Time Therapy’ model where you can book follow-up therapy sessions one at a time as needed, up to four sessions after which your counsellor will review what the appropriate next steps are; longer term support is often provided through counselling groups. These meet weekly for 90 minutes and tend to have 8-12 members, as well as larger stand-alone workshops.

If specialist support is needed to treat a mental health condition the counselling service may refer you to NHS services or you may be encouraged to apply for financial support through the Crane’s Fund in order to fund private therapy treatment.

Crane’s Fund

The Medical Fund supported by the Crane’s Charity offers grants to support them with medical costs. Students are eligible for grants not exceeding a total of £1,800 per academic year but this can be from multiple applications in the same year. Grants are awarded for:

  • ADHD assessments and medication
  • ASD assessments
  • Cognitive Analytic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
  • EMDR
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Talking Therapy
  • Trauma Therapy

The fund will also cover some dental work but not ‘ordinary dental treatment’. The fund will not cover diagnostic assessments for specific learning difficulties like dyslexia.

Grants are only available to students who are in a position of financial hardship and students who disclose evidence of large savings are usually rejected. The student fees and funding team will not directly question you about your financial situation, instead they will ask for a supporting letter from your college Tutor named on your application – this does not mean your pastoral Tutor but instead you should name Fred Parker, the college Financial Tutor, as your college Tutor and provide them with his email address.

Before applying, make sure you discuss your application with the Financial Tutor, Fred Parker, as your application will not be considered until he is able to provide a supporting letter affirming your position of financial hardship. Circumstances he will consider include the amount of student finance you receive as well as any income from employment, your rent and your projected budget for the year.

If your application is successful the Crane’s fund will reimburse you for the cost of treatment once treatment is completed and receipts have been submitted. If you are unable to pay the costs of treatment upfront, the college can give you an advance and then the Student Funding team will reimburse the college later on.

If you are considering applying and have any questions or would like someone to help review your application before submitting feel free to contact the Disabled Student’s officer.

Disabled Students Allowance

UK Students

What DSA can provide 

DSAs can help with disability-related costs of studying. It can’t help with costs than non-disabled students would also have, or disability-related costs that you would still have if you weren’t a student. 

Some examples of what DSA can fund are: 

  • Assistive computer software 
  • Ergonomic equipment e.g. standing desk, ergonomic keyboard 
  • A computer if you need one for assistive software or because of your disability 
  • Extra travel because of your disability 
  • Printing costs related to your disability 

You do not have to pay back DSA – it is a grant, not a loan. It is based on your needs, not household income, and it is funded by the UK government. 

How to apply 

You must be eligible for finance from your UK student finance body to claim DSA. This information applies to Student Finance England. The process is very similar for other areas of the UK; please follow the links for information specific to Student Finance Wales, Student Finance Northern Ireland and Student Awards Agency Scotland. You will need to submit medical evidence of your disability for your DSA claim to be accepted. 

Getting assessed 

Once your claim is accepted, you have your needs assessed by an independent provider. You can choose which provider does your assessment, and you can read reviews or ask them questions yourself before choosing. At the assessment, they will ask you questions about different aspects of studying and how your disability impacts them. They will then write a Study Needs Assessment report with their recommendations of the support you should receive. This is sent to student finance. 

Getting your support/equipment 

You will receive a letter (usually by email) from student finance confirming the details of the support you will receive, and the details of the company responsible for delivering the support (called the supplier). You need to contact the supplier with a copy of this letter to arrange delivery of any equipment and instruction on how to use any of it. The supplier is paid directly by student finance. All costs are covered, apart from the first £200 of getting a new computer. You may be able to get assistance with this cost, for example through the college student hardship fund. Speak to your disability advisor and tutor about this in the first instance. You can also speak to the supplier about upgrading your equipment – for example if you have been given a computer, you can pay some extra money to get a different model that you prefer. You might also be able to change the model of some equipment without paying anything extra – be sure to read your entitlement letter carefully and ask about any changes to equipment before you arrange delivery. 

Republic of Ireland

Students from the Republic of Ireland are not eligible for the International Disabled Student’s Fund (see below) as they do not meet the criteria of paying International Student Tuition Fees. Irish Students studying in the UK may be eligible for the Fund for Students with Disabilities – eligible students include, but is not limited to, students with physical disabilities, mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, OCD or depression, and students with cognitive disabilities such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder and dyslexia. To apply you need to contact the ADRC (disability@admin.cam.ac.uk) who will need to apply on your behalf. There is no deadline for applications.

International Students

International students may be eligible for the International Disabled Student’s Fund. The fund operates similarly to the Disabled Student’s Allowance. To access the fund you would have to undergo a Needs Assessment (at no cost to you) to determine what support you should be given. More information about the IDS Fund and how to apply can be found here.


There is a college gym in Castle Court which students can use for free. If you sign up to the University Gym (which has a wider range of equipment as well as classes such as yoga) the college will subsidise your membership by 50% (this subsidy is open to all students, not just disabled students).

Although the college bar (Cellars) has steps at the main entrance, it is actually accessible via a new lift in H staircase; the Old Court porters can assist with operating the lift (it requires a key). The Clare College AccessAble page has not been updated since the building works finished in H staircase but it’s safe to assume all the pages about Castle Court and Memorial Court are up to date.

A few years ago the disabled student’s campaign launched a project called ‘Access-A-Ball’ which seeks to promote accessibility at May Balls and other similar events. Clare May Event has been involved in the project and in 2023 received the platinum award for accessibility. Keep a look out on the Access-A-Ball Instagram page for updates on which colleges are also involved this year.