A disability needn’t lessen the chance of studying at third level
Comprehensive supports are available in most third-level colleges for students with disabilities or at disadvantage
Supports include: orientation programmes, extra tuition, exam support, access to assistive technology and training, one-to-one meetings with support staff, mentoring and organised social gatherings.
People with disabilities may feel studying at third level for three or four years for an undergraduate degree would be impossible, given the limitations of their circumstances. They may think they would have a better chance of getting a college place if they hid their disability in a college application.
Both assumptions are wrong. All our third-level colleges welcome applications from students with disabilities. Our disability support services now perform to the highest international standards.
This success can be traced back to the establishment of the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (Ahead) 26 years ago by Prof John Kelly, the then registrar of UCD.
From humble beginnings, disability support services at third level have developed to the point where comprehensive supports are now available in most colleges for students with a diagnosed disability.
Some examples of supports include: an orientation programme to introduce students to college, extra tuition if required, exam support, access to assistive technology and training, one-to-one meetings with support staff, mentoring and organised social gatherings.
Software supports There is also access to Read Write Gold – a vocabulary support software package that talks, types, corrects spellings and learns your writing style, as well as Live Scribe Pen, which enables you to record lectures and save notes to a computer.
Increasingly, lecturers are posting lecture notes online on platforms such as Moodle and Blackboard, making learning easier and more interactive.
In recent years, third-level colleges, including all of the universities, teacher-training colleges, RCSI, National College of Ireland and the Athlone, Dublin, Cork, and Sligo Institutes of Technology, have devised a common supplementary entry mechanism for students eligible for the Disability Access Route to Education (Dare).
This enables applicants to secure a third-level place on reduced points if they meet basic entry requirements.
If you are applying for college this year and have a disability, tick the appropriate box on the online CAO form and complete the online Dare application by March 1st, to be considered for disability access.
You then get a supplementary information form to returned to the CAO by April 1st, with appropriate reports.
This qualifies you to compete for a course on lower points than a standard application.
Whether or not you are successful in a Dare application, if you get a college place and have a diagnosed disability, you will be offered academic, personal and social supports while studying.
For Dare information, see accesscollege.ie or for information on supports contact Lorraine Gallagher at Ahead, 01 -716 4396, email lorraine. firstname.lastname@example.org, or see ahead.ie.
Disadvantaged background The Higher Education Access Route (Hear) is another admissions scheme which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
For consideration, applicants must meet financial, social and cultural indicators, including low family income.
Successful Hear applicants have similar supports to Dare students, appropriate to their circumstances. Application deadlines are the same as for Dare. See accesscollege.ie.
l There are information meetings on Dare tomorrow January 10th, 10am-2pm in 10 venues throughout the State, for applicants, parents, guardians, teachers, guidance counsellors.
Potential CAO applicants can meet the university Dare representatives or see information videos, no appointment necessary. See accesscollege.ie for details.
Monday: Applying to college as a mature student (over 23)