Disabled students in private colleges to have access to State supports

Move follows refusal by authorities to provide supports to Dublin teenager

Eoghan Clonan has a rare illness that confines him to a wheelchair and impairs his vision. Photograph: Tom Clonan

Eoghan Clonan has a rare illness that confines him to a wheelchair and impairs his vision. Photograph: Tom Clonan

 

Students with disabilities in private colleges look set to have access to State-funded supports after a change in policy.

It follows controversy after parent and disability advocate Tom Clonan said his son had been refused assess to such supports on the basis that he was attending a private college.

Mr Clonan said his son Eoghan (19) - who has a rare illness that confines him to a wheelchair and impairs his vision - received an offer for a third level course in Dublin Business School (DBS) through the CAO system.

Mr Clonan said he was told that his son did not qualify for disability supports on the basis that DBS was not a publicly-funded institution.

After Mr Clonan highlighted the issue on Twitter on Tuesday, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris contacted him and a change in policy was announced on Wednesday. A Department of Higher Education spokeswoman confirmed it was working with the Higher Education Authority to “consider the issues raised regarding the Fund for Students with Disabilities and how it can be expanded and improved.”

Mr Clonan said he was delighted that his son and others with disabilities stand to benefit.

“Eoghan has a neuromuscular disability and is partially sighted... he has had to struggle to get this far and we were thrilled when he was offered liberal arts in DBS, which he loves,” Mr Clonan said.

“He needs a scribe, a personal assistant and assistive technology to be able to go to college, to eat and to toilet... we were heartbroken when the institution was told that it wasn’t available.”

“We got confirmation today that Eoghan will get the supports. All students in his situation will get those supports. We’re delighted,” he said.

“It’s been a roller-coaster. I think this sends a powerful signal that we should not exclude people with disabilities from third level. This is a human rights issue.”