Olwyn Enright TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Education and Science has welcomed the survey published today by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) outlining that some of the Institutes of Technology (ITs) are not providing the essential services needed to help students with a disability achieve their full potential.
“AHEAD must be congratulated on this survey which highlights the urgent need for improvement in the provision of services for students with disabilities to help promote and improve their transition from second to third level education and to assist the increasing number of graduates with disabilities in obtaining employment. I welcome the engagement of the Institutes of Technology with AHEAD on this important issue. Many ITs will recognise the pressing need to improve services but the necessary resources are not being made available to them.
“It is evident that there is a lot to be done to ensure equality of access for students with disabilities. We need to ensure that essential services for these students such as learning needs assessments, screening for specific learning disabilities, access to education psychologists and written individual support plans are available in all Institutes of Technology. AHEAD’s survey clearly shows that these services are not routinely available:
– Only two institutes had a dedicated disability officer;
– Only four institutes plan to include students with disabilities;
– Only one institute operates a positive discrimination entry scheme;
– Only five institutes are fully accessible;
– There is very low take up of disability awareness training amongst staff.
“The survey also highlights that, while the numbers of students with disabilities has increased by 300% over the past five years, improvements in facilities within the ITs have not kept pace and a change of mind-set is needed. A wide range of areas need improvement, from the issue of access to the absence of full-time Disability Officers in all ITs bar two. Supports work, and evidence shows that those colleges with dedicated Disability Officers in place immediately show positive results for students with disabilities as they play a key role in ensuring the inclusion of these students across all areas of college life.
“Our Institutes of Technology play a crucial role in Ireland’s educational, social and economic development. Students with disabilities should be equal partners in this role. We must not erect barriers to their involvement in higher education, and should instead be putting in place educational initiatives that can support and develop this involvement.”