FAQ - Studying with a disability and/ or chronic illness(es)
Definition of terms
A handicap is an impairment in the form of a disability or chronic condition such as:
- Mobility impairment
- Visual or hearing impairment
- Speech impairment
- Mental illness (e.g. eating disorders, depression)
- Chronic diseases (e.g. rheumatism, Crohn's disease, diabetes)
- Dyslexia and other partial performance disorders
Studying can be complicated by a handicap. Almost two-thirds of disabilities at German universities are invisible, but have just as much of an impact on studying as physical and sensory impairments. These students are also considered "disabled" according to the legal definition and have a right to compensation for disadvantages in their studies.
"Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others"
(United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)
Chronic diseases can be longer lasting diseases or with episodic course (e.g. chronic intestinal diseases, epilepsy). If they lead to a significant impairment of social participation, it is a disability (even if many of those affected do not describe themselves as "disabled").
Access to studies
If you want to apply for an admission-restricted degree program, you can submit special applications to help compensate for handicap-related disadvantages.
The following applications are possible. Please note that these must be submitted together with the application for a univresity place.
Application for disadvantage compensation - improvement of the average grade.
When: If the Abitur grade is worse than it would have been without a disability.
Application for disadvantage compensation - improvement of the waiting period
When: If, due to a disability, the Abitur was taken later than would have been possible without a disability. For example, if a school year had to be repeated due to illness/disability.
Hardship application (immediate admission to studies)
Compensation for disadvantages
Compensation for disadvantages is intended to compensate for disadvantages caused by impairments.
They are anchored in law and can be applied for by students with disabilities or chronic illnesses for the organization and execution of their studies, e.g. in accessing the university, in studying, in examinations, in obtaining BAföG or in using university libraries.
Especially for students with disabilities or chronic illness, it is not possible to comply with time or formal requirements. In order to compensate for the lack of room for maneuver in the organization of studies and to adjust examination conditions, individual compensation for disadvantages becomes necessary.
The disadvantage compensation may not be noted in the certificate. In principle, students with disabilities and chronic illnesses are entitled to compensation for disadvantages, but not to a specific form of it.
Students who demonstrate a long-term impairment may apply for disadvantage compensation. The criteria of a disability must be present. In most cases, the universities are guided by the definition of disability in Section 2, Paragraph 1 of the Social Code IX.
According to this, people are disabled if their physical function, mental ability or mental health is likely to deviate from the condition typical of their age for more than six months. This also includes chronic illnesses with an episodic course, such as rheumatism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or allergies.
A severely disabled person's ID card is not required for the application.
If the disadvantage compensation is required for an examination situation, the affected person should contact the responsible examination board and the examiner early enough to clarify all formalities.
If the disadvantage compensation concerns the modification of the study conditions (e.g. individual study plan, relocation of an internship), it will be checked in advance who is responsible for the respective approval.
In the case of a disadvantage compensation that affects the thesis, the disadvantage compensation is submitted in writing to the examination board/examination office.
An appeal can be lodged against a rejection.
If you have any questions or need support, please contact our Social Counseling Service.
The application for disadvantage compensation must be submitted in writing to the examination board or examination office or other designated offices.
In the application, the desired examination modifications must be named and their necessity must be justified. The health impairment and its specific effects on the examination must be documented. Suitable evidence can be, (one or more):
- Statement from the treating psychotherapist
- Treatment reports from hospital or rehab stay
- Statement from rehab provider
- Approval notices from providers of integration assistance
- (Severe) disability certificate or assessment notice from the pension office
- Statement by the university's representative for the disabled
An appeal can be lodged against a refusal.
In the online library (external link, only available in German) of the German Student Union, a lot of information is available under this keyword: General leaflets, guides.
There you will also find information on special diseases and impairments such as
- dyslexia or dyscalculia
- mental illnesses
- visual impairments
The same rules apply to the financing of studies for students with handicaps as for all other students: the studies must be financed by assets or income of the students or their dependents. If this is not possible, BAföG can be applied for.
Normally, basic security benefits via SGB II (Arbeitslosengeld II) and SGB XII (Sozialhilfe) are excluded during studies. However, if students find themselves in special circumstances during their studies (e.g. in hardship situations, in the case of leave of absence due to illness, for the financing of additional expenses due to disability), they may be entitled to basic security benefits.
Scholarships and loans are also a way to finance studies.
Some foundations are specifically supporting disabled people. These include the following:
Georg-Leffers-Stiftung Target group: disabled students for whom state or other benefits cannot be claimed, can no longer be claimed or cannot be claimed in sufficient amounts.
Stiftung Darmerkrankungen Target group: students suffering from ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
Of course you can also apply for other scholarships: see our FAQ Finding scholarships
Special regulations for receiving BaföG
Normally students are only entitled to BAföG if they start their Bachelor's degree before the age of 30 (Master's degree: 35).
However, exceeding the age limit is permissible if a disability or illness was an obstacle to starting the degree programme on time.
It should be noted here that those affected must apply for a university place immediately after the reason for the impediment has ceased to exist.
A hardship allowance can be applied when determining the income of dependants if extraordinary disability-related additional costs can be proven. In this case, not only the applicant's disability is taken into account, but also the disability of a dependent parent/spouse/life partner. If there are several family members with disabilities, the allowance increases accordingly.
A separate form must be submitted to the responsible BAföG office for the application, as well as detailed proof and a copy of the severely disabled ID.
Single students without a child are entitled to an asset allowance when receiving BAföG. The current allowance can be requested at the responsible BAföG office - in Darmstadt via email@example.com.
In addition, other parts of the assets may remain exempt from deduction under certain circumstances: an appropriate motor vehicle, compensation for pain and suffering and assets that are intended for the acquisition/ maintenance of a house property of an appropriate size which serves as a residence for disabled persons or persons in need of care.
It is possible to receive BAföG after the maximum funding period if studies are delayed due to a disability or another "serious reason" (e.g. a serious illness). Appropriate proof of this is necessary.
An application for this should ideally be submitted before the BAföG proof of performance at the end of the fourth semester, so that the deadline for it can be postponed.
In principle, you can change your degree programme even if you receive BAföG. In the case of a "Fachrichtungswechsel", it depends on when and how often you change:
- Change in the 1st or 2nd semester: if an important reason is assumed. This also includes lack of aptitude or change of inclination.
- Change from the 3rd semester onwards: an important reason for the change must be proven in writing.
-> BAföG entitlement continues. The new course of study is funded like a first course of study (half grant, half as an interest-free loan).
The situation is somewhat different if the change takes place after the 4th semester or if the change is made for the 2nd or 3rd time:
- Change after the 4th semester: an irrefutable reason must be proven.
-> This means for BAföG funding: all study semesters funded up to that point are credited to the new course of study taken. The standard funding (half grant, half interest-free loan) is available for the maximum funding period minus the semesters to be credited from the previous degree programme(s). For the subsequent semesters, funding can only be provided in the form of an interest-bearing bank loan.
Special regulation for students with disabilities/ chron. Diseases
A change of degree programme that takes place after the start of the 4th semester can still be funded like a first degree programme. In order to do so, you must prove that there are irrefutable reasons for discontinuing or changing your course of study.
For example, if a disability or serious illness leads to the fact that the training can no longer be carried out objectively and/or the pursuit of the intended profession is no longer possible.
Tip: Clarify whether it is really a change of specialisation/discontinuation of training or merely a change of focus. In the case of a change of focus, credits earned can also be fully recognised in the new field of study and the student will be placed in the same subject semester of the new degree programme that he/she would have achieved in the old degree programme or if only minor subjects in teacher training or other degree programmes are being swapped.
- Act promptly: the change must be initiated immediately (i.e. without culpable hesitation): e.g. when the hospital stay has been completed and studies can be resumed.
- Seek advice: Since a change of subject can possibly lead to a loss of entitlement to BAföG, you should definitely seek advice before taking this step. You can get advice from the Social Counselling Service of the Studierendenwerk Darmstadt, the Disability Officer of your university, the AStA or other qualified agencies.
- TIP: If necessary, apply for a preliminary decision in writing to the "Amt für Ausbildungsförderung" (Office for the Promotion of Education).
University graduates with disabilities and chronic illnesses can apply for a deferment of payment if their income does not exceed certain monthly rates (§ 18a Paragraph 1 BAföG) or if the BAföG funding has not yet ended.
In addition, they can claim consideration of increased expenses due to disability as an additional hardship allowance (corresponding to § 33b of the Einkommenssteuergesetz (Income Tax Act)). This increases the deductible up to which one can be exempted from repayment. The exemption period is usually one year and can also be applied for retroactively for a maximum of four months.
Important: The exemption does not lead to a waiver of the loan debt, but is to be compared with an interest-free deferral.
State claims can be deferred, waived or cancelled if there is particular hardship (§ 59 of the Bundeshaushaltsordnung (BHO) ). The examination takes into account not only the actual income but also the actual assets.
Separate regulations apply to the repayment of interest-bearing bank loans, for example the "assistance for graduation" (§ 18c BAföG, in particular paragraph 6).
Source: DSW Webseite "BAföG: Nachteilsausgleiche für beeinträchtigte Studierende"
If students are temporarily unable to pursue their studies due to illness, BAföG will be paid for a maximum of three additional months.
If the absence lasts longer, the responsible BAföG office must be informed in order to avoid reclaims. Payments will then be suspended until you resume your studies. In this case, you should consider whether it makes sense to take a leave of absence from your studies. During this time, under certain conditions, you can apply for basic security benefits (via SGB II or SGB XII) at the responsible Job Centre.
If you would like advice on this: our Social Counselling Service will support you.
Studying with a handicap
The Social Counselling Team.
You can reach them by telephone at: Tel (06151) 16298-58, -59 and -60
For written counselling, please use our online counselling service.
If you wish, you can also make appointments for video counselling or personal meetings.
You do not need an appointment for the open consultation hours. You can find the current times for these on our Social Counselling website.
Contact at the TU Darmstadt:
Sabine Hopp - Project Handicap
Webseite Projekt Handicap
Beauftragte für Behindertenfragen
Webseite Studieren mit Handicap
Contact at the Hochschule Darmstadt:
Isabell Schader - Representative for students and prospective students with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses and ombudsperson for disputes (h_da)
Tel (06151) 533-60310
Webseite Studieren mit Behinderung
If you are dependent on assistance, you will receive benefits from the Pflegeversicherung (long-term care insurance).
If these funds do not cover the costs, students can additionally apply for assistance with care under Book 12 of the Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB XII).
Landespflegegeld (State care allowance) and Landesblindengeld (State blindness allowance) are additional benefits.
Extensive information can be found on the pages of the Deutsches Studierendenwerk (our umbrella organisation) under "Studium mit Behinderung A bis Z" (only available in German).
Relaxation room at the TU Darmstadt
- Stadtmitte, Altes Hauptgebäude, S1/03, room 79.
- You can get the key at the gate
- Opening hours: Mon to Fri from 08:00 am to 6:00 pm, except public holidays.
- Sanitary facilities, breastfeeding and relaxation rooms
- please contact Isabell Schader · E-Mail · Tel (06151) 533-60310 for authorazation of use
- Parent child room
- for positions please refer to the flyer Familienfreundlicher Campus Hochschule Darmstadt (only available in German)
In the canteens of the Studierendenwerk
- Mensa Stadtmitte, Otto-Berndt-Halle, Family room on first floor above ground level, right wing, behind the Marktrestaurant.
- opening times during canteen operating times
- Mensa Stadtmitte, Sanitary facility in the corridor of the accomodation service on first floor
- opening times during canteen operating times
- Mensa Lichtwiese, Family room
- opening times during canteen operating times
As a student of the TU Darmstadt, please contact:
Tel (06151) 1627010
Als Studierende der Hochschule Darmstadt wenden Sie sich bitte an:
https://h-da.de/studium/studienangebot/studium-in-teilzeit (only available in German)
You will also find the forms for applying for part-time study on the respective website.
International students - with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses
The lawyer Prof. Dr. jur. Dorothee Frings answers questions from the following fields:
Right of residence
Health insurance, health and nursing care benefits
Inclusion and participation assistance for students with disabilities
Benefits for maintenance
Recognised severe disability
Read more in the brochure "Which social security rights claims do students from third countries with disabilities and chronic illnesses have?" (pdf)
- Are benefits provided to secure maintenance for international students with disabilities?
- When can I claim benefits in accordance with the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG)?
- In which situations are international students entitled to "Jobcenter" services?
- Can I claim housing benefit?
- Can I obtain maintenance benefits via mandatory health insurance?
- Are maintenance benefits provided on the basis of mandatory accident insurance or in accordance with the law on victim compensation?
- Can international students apply for disability benefits for the blind?
- Do I qualify for maintenance benefits if I run into unexpected, severe hardship?
Housing and mobility with a handicap
The Studierendenwerk Darmstadt, as well as the two universities, have numerous buildings and locations.
We are working on adding our locations to the Wheelmap.org map.
There, everyone who benefits from barrier-free/ground-level buildings will find information. It doesn't matter if you're in a wheelchair, have a buggy, use crutches, ...
You would like to apply for a room in our residential complexes? Do you have a specific requirement for your living situation? Then please state your disability when applying online for one of our residential complexes. Please use the "Notes" field for this purpose.
It is best if you describe the effects of your disability/chronic illness, e.g. level access, a parking space for a walker/wheelchair, light signals, ...
Please also contact the Housing Service team (in person, by email or by telephone) and indicate that you have applied for a room.
Please bring documents of proof about your impairment when you are invited to a personal appointment by us (disability certificate, hospital report, ...).
Unfortunately, this is almost a science of its own.
There are many abbreviations. An overview and explanation (German and English) is provided in our compilation Abbreviations in Housing Advertisements (pdf).
Yes, this is possible if you are entitled to public transport because of your disability. In this case, you can have the portion of your semester fee for the semester ticket reimbursed.
The reimbursement is handled by the AStA of your university (General Students' Committee). The AStA requires proof of disability and a valid token. You can get the token from the pension office. Ideally, the stamp should begin with the semester, i.e. on 1st of April or 1st of October.
Information for lecturers
The goal of accessible teaching is to offer all students a learning opportunity that they can effectively use.
Representatives of the Gender and Diversity in Teaching Network have developed a handout on barrier-free online teaching. It shows
- which groups of students benefit from inclusive offers
- how accessibility can be implemented on an individual basis by the lecturers
- tips for planning and implementing the course, selecting the teaching-learning methods and designing the materials.
- complemented by an extensive collection of links
Accessibility in online teaching - a handout (link leads to an external page, only available in German)
Björn Fisseler proposes (in his blog post in the dossier Diversity & Accessibility of the Higher Education Forum Digitisation) a procedure with which teachers can review their digital education offerings for technical aspects of accessibility.
The links (both lead to external pages, only available in German):
After graduation: Career entry with a handicap
Career Centre, Hochschulteam and Arbeitsagentur
Prospective graduates with disabilities should contact the career services of their own university and the Hochschulteam of the Arbeitsagentur.
On the university side, Career Services prepare students for their entry into the workforce by initiating contacts with companies and by providing them with key qualifications. The Hochschulteam of the Arbeitsagentur also offers advice, referrals and workshops on a variety of topics.
Placement Service for Severely Disabled Graduates of the Central Placement Office for Foreign Students and Professionals ("Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung", ZAV)
The Employer Service also supports severely disabled university graduates. It helps them find a job that matches their qualifications.
Services offered by the ZAV:
- submits suitable job offers
- Targeted job acquisition in its nationwide network of companies and organisations
- may open up additional employment opportunities by initiating projects
- In a personal interview, the possibilities for support and funding are explored.
ZAV has published a guide for jobseekers with disabilities "Apply successfully!" (only available in German) and offers online application training:
The iXNet - a digital inclusive expert network
offers networking, exchange and counselling.
The network also frequently offers online events. For example, on "Disability in the application and selection process", "Barrier-free business start-ups/self-employment".
You can find out more on their website: https://ixnet-projekt.de/
The iXNet project is sponsored by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency, BA). More specifically, the Arbeitgeber-Service für schwerbehinderte Akademiker*innen (Employers' Service for Severely Disabled Academics, AGS-SBA) of the Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung (ZAV).
The Informations- und Beratungsstelle Studium und Behinderung ('Information and Counselling Centre for Studies and Disability', IBS) of the Deutsches Studierendenwerk offers an annual seminar to prepare students for entering the workforce.
The focus of the seminar is an individual application coaching for the participants by professional advisors.
The iXNet frequently offers online events on this topic.
For example, on "Disability in the application and selection process", "Barrier-free business start-ups/self-employment".
You can find information about this on their website: https://ixnet-projekt.de/