Disabled college students 'ignored'


Students with disabilities are an afterthought in many Irish universities, a symposium of education experts was told today.

The symposium, organised by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (Ahead), was meeting to draft a Charter for Inclusive Teaching and Learning for third-level students.

Ahead director Ann Heelan said universities needed to take the needs of students with disabilities into account when designing their courses.

"At the moment it's like building a house with a granny flat at the side. Students with disabilities are placed in the granny flat rather than in the main house instead of putting structures down within the main house so that every room is accessible," she said.

"Big improvements can be made simply by making good use of the technology available. By putting lecture notes online, for example, students with visual and other impairments can prepare for lectures where note taking is not an option for them."

Ms Heelan said universities needed to think creatively about ways to make students with disabilities feel fully part of college life.

"There needs to be a flexible approach to the provision of learning and assessment. There are lots of ways to assess students, for example, apart from examinations. They can prepare case studies, partake in group work and carry out projects," she said.

"Everyone within a university has a responsibility for changing. It won't cost any more money, it's just a shift in thinking," she said.