How to be an ally to students with a disability

Disabled community

Disabled students are less likely to feel a sense of belonging during their time at University, with many also experiencing discrimination, bullying and harassment.

We’ve pulled together helpful resources on how to be an ally to disabled students, how to call out unacceptable behaviour and helplines for support.


Pay attention to how the individual describes themselves. Do they use identity-first language (person with a disability) or person-first (disabled person)? Do they identify with a specific physical impairment instead and not identify with the word disabled? Terminology is constantly evolving but always be led by the person and if you’re unsure ask what they prefer.

Inclusive language

Take a look at this guide created by GOV.UK looking how you can be an ally to disabled students through your language and behaviour.

Inclusive language guidelines

What you can do

There are lots of small things you can do as an ally which might make a big difference. Something as small as taking the lift with someone so they don’t feel separate and isolated could make a big impact.

If you’re travelling between buildings on campus, or if you’re organising an activity or event, think about accessibility routes and the location you’re choosing.

There might be times when you want to rush to help someone who uses a wheelchair or has a physical impairment, but don’t assume they want your assistance and always ask for consent before you help.

These actions aren’t just confined to physical spaces either. If you’re organising an online meeting it’s worth thinking about whether someone in the group would benefit from captions, or by having the session recorded.

And finally, one of the biggest things you can do as an ally is speak up when you come across ableist actions, language or behaviours.

Let's learn about it

Make a conscious effort to be informed without making assumptions. You can do this by taking the time to learn more and broaden the content you consume.

It’s important to be aware of common microaggressions and work to eliminate them from your language and actions, and speak up if you witness them.


Check out these support links for more help and information if you are a disabled student.

Disability Service

The UWE Bristol Disability Service can support students with a variety of needs, from applying for reasonable adjustments to organising PEEP forms.


Scope is the disability equality charity in England and Wales which provides practical information and emotional support when it's most needed.

Disability Rights UK

Disability Rights UK is the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by, and working for disabled people. They focus on raising awareness and driving change for better rights, benefits, quality of life and economic opportunities for Disabled people.

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