This week, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has announced a €5.4 million grant allocation to fund various projects and initiatives developed with the intent of aiding students with disabilities. 

The funds, which are intended to be distributed broadly across 23 Higher Education Institutions (HEI), are set to improve access to campuses, strengthen support services already offered to students with disabilities and also provide increased resources from which to train staff and other university representatives.

Speaking to The College Tribune, Project Leader and University College Dublin’s (UCD) Disability officer, Julie Tonge, commented: “This funding is crucial to ensuring that students with disabilities can succeed in higher education. There will always be additional support available to students who need them, but we want to ensure that students are also supported through the embedding of inclusive practices.

He added: “This has benefits, not just for students with disabilities, but for the entire student population”.

Access UCD’ has outlined the University’s plans regarding the distribution of the additional €400,000 funding. The Universal Design Project (UDP), a training programme designed to educate staff on integrating universality principles into all aspects of their work, is going to be the main beneficiary of the funding. 

As well as specialised staff training, UPD aims to develop technological aids, from text-speech Sensus Access in both English and Irish to document converter programmes that facilitate accessible media presentation for student use.

Announcing the planned expenditure earlier this week, Minister Harris noted that “College can be an overwhelming experience but for people with disabilities, it can be extremely daunting […] These projects will make a transformational difference to people’s lives.”

He added: “We are funding projects to make our colleges more accessible […] Education is for everyone and people with disabilities need to be supported by their third level institutions.”

Doireann O’Sullivan – Reporter