Strong supports at third level for students with disabilities

Opinion: disability support services perform to highest standards internationally

The University College Dublin campus at Belfield. “Our disability support services are now performing to the highest international standards. This success can be traced back to the establishment of Ahead 25 years ago by Prof John Kelly, then registrar of UCD.” Photograph: Eric Luke

The University College Dublin campus at Belfield. “Our disability support services are now performing to the highest international standards. This success can be traced back to the establishment of Ahead 25 years ago by Prof John Kelly, then registrar of UCD.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 01:00

People with disabilities may feel that considering studying at third level would be impossible, given the limitations of their circumstance. They may also feel they might be more successful in securing a college place if they hid their disability totally from the institutions they are hoping to secure a place in.

On both counts they would be totally wrong. All our third-level colleges welcome applications from people with disabilities. Our disability support services are now performing to the highest international standards. This success can be traced back to the establishment of Ahead 25 years ago by Prof John Kelly, then registrar of UCD.

From humble beginnings, disability support services at third level have grown and developed to the point where a comprehensive range of supports is now available in most colleges to all students with a diagnosed disability.

The following are examples of the types of supports available: an orientation programme to introduce students to university/college; study skills; extra tuition if required; exam support; access to assistive technology and training; one-to-one meetings with support staff; mentoring; and organised social gatherings.

You will also have 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 like Moodle and Blackboard, making the whole learning experience easier and more interactive.

In the past few years, a number of third-level colleges including all of the universities, teacher training colleges and the Athlone, Dublin and Cork institutes of technology, have devised a common supplementary entry mechanism for students who are eligible for the Disability Access Route to Education (Dare). This enables applicants to secure a third-level place on a reduced points’ basis, having of course met the basic entry requirements as published in the college literature.

If you are applying for a college place this year and have a disability, you should tick the appropriate box on the online CAO process, which indicates that you wish to be considered for Dare.

You will then be provided with a “supplementary information form”, which has to be returned to the CAO by April 1st next, including the appropriate consultants’ reports, to be considered for a place on the supplementary list. This qualifies you to compete for your desired course on a lower points entry requirement than those on the standard application list.

Whether you are successful or not in securing a place on the Dare list, if you secure a college place and have a diagnosed disability, you will be offered access to the academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level as outlined above.

For comprehensive information on the Dare scheme go to accesscollege.ie. To discuss access and supports for students with disabilities at third level contact Lorraine Gallagher, Ahead, telephone: 01-7164396; email: lorraine. gallagher@ahead.ie; or see ahead.ie.


Higher Education Access Route The Higher Education Access Route (Hear) is an admissions scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support, chief among them being having a family income on or below (in the year ended December 31st, 2012) the Hear income limit. Following this there is a further series of financial, social and cultural indicators, a combination of which determine eligibility.

Successful Hear applicants receive a similar range of supports to Dare students, which are appropriate to their personal circumstances. The application dates and closing deadlines for provision of documentary proof are identical to Dare, as outlined on accesscollege.ie.


Early bird deadline
As this is the final article in this series, may I remind potential applicants that 5.15pm today at is the close- off date for the early bird €25 application fee. No course choices need be listed by this evening to make that application. The fee increases to €40 until February 1st, which is also the initial closing date for course choices, which can and in most cases will be revised when the change of mind facility opens up again in May for two months. Final course choices must be made by 5.15pm on July 1st, 2014. Good luck to all aspiring third-level students.

Series concluded

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