CAO 2017: Lots of supports available for students with disabilities

If you have a disability, don’t try to be a hero by trying to get by on your own

If you are still mulling over your CAO offer, remember the current round of offers closes on Monday, August 28th, at 5.15pm.

The final round of published offers, which will allocate about 2,000 further places, will be made on Thursday, August 31st, and The Irish Times will publish a special supplement on that day as well as full details online.

All "available places" - that is, courses where there are still vacancies - will continue to be published daily on the CAO website ( and allocated weekly until filled.

Final offers will be made in mid-October when the results of Leaving Cert remarked scripts and any upgrades are entered into applicants’ records.

Structured supports

Many students enter college through the disability access support scheme (Dare) and receive a wide range of structured supports.

Others may arrive without the college being aware of their disability, and will need to immediately contact the disability support services.

If you have a disability which is going to act as a drag on your ability to fully participate in college life, don’t try to be a hero by attempting to get by on your own without support.

These services will provide you with a range of supports, dedicated to ensuring that your disability doesn’t put you at an academic disadvantage.

Colleges will customise supports to your specific needs, such as study, assistive technology, note-taking services, learning supports and funding for transport.

If you’re taking a further education programme, attending an Education Training Board (ETB) college, you will need to contact the designated disability support person or school principal.

Colleges normally have orientation days for students with disabilities. Be sure to attend as you will be told what resources are available to you, and you can ask all the questions you want.

If you have a sensory or physical disability you can ask for an orientation before the start of term, so you can become familiar with routes to and from lectures, the canteen and the library, students’ union, etc.

It’s up to you

Third level is not like school where everybody was aware of the challenges you faced, and supported you even when you did not feel much like working. Life in college and the academic demands it places on you are different. You’re now in charge of your own learning. If you don’t turn up for lectures or hand in assignments, no one will be coming looking. It’s completely up to you.

Many courses are now modularised, which means you are continuously assessed and may have exams every term, so there’s an added pressure on you to perform from day one. Take the supports offered or your stay in college may be a short one.

If you have just accepted your college place, familiarise yourself with registration dates and get any paperwork you need in order.

If you are in receipt of a social welfare payment, you must inform the Department of Social Protection of your college plans. They will require official documentation from the college confirming registration.

If you have difficulties getting to your new college daily, Vantastic is a subsidised door-to-door wheelchair-accessible transport service which is in huge demand, so contact them well in advance of the start of term.

If your new college is located some distance from home and daily travel is prohibitive, you’ll need to organise accommodation. Larger campuses with on-site accommodation usually have accessible rooms specifically for students with mobility issues.

Making new friends

No matter how challenging it may seem at first, engage as fully as your disability allows in college life. Remember, college is not just all about study, it’s also about making new friends and having fun.

Get involved in freshers’ week and join a club/society. They’re a great way to meet people with similar interests and make new friends.

Also, Ahead - Association for Higher Education Access & Disability - is a wonderful source of support and advice for students and their parents. It has published a guide to writing academic assignments, which you can purchase from .

Contact Lorraine Gallagher, Ahead's information and training officer (, or see the organisation's website ( if you have any questions regarding college life.