Week 8: Wednesday 12th August

Video: to be confirmed

Video to be released on Wednesday 12th August

Webinar: 14:00 – 15:00

Please book using this link (not yet available)

Exploring and strengthening the role of disability officers in a changing landscape

Lorraine Gallagher & Dara Ryder, AHEAD Ireland & LINK partners

While the number of disabled students accessing third level education continues to rise each year this success comes with a word of caution. So far the inclusion of students with disabilities has been built on a model of add-on supports provided to students through the Fund for Students with Disabilities in Ireland and the Disabled Student Allowance in the UK, there have in recent years been radical cuts in funding and it is clear that this model is no longer sustainable and in need of an overhaul.

The rise in the cost of adding-on individualised, specialised supports is putting increased pressure on the system but in recent years there has been a general shift in thinking regarding the concept of inclusion of students in college life. In the past, students with disabilities who were provided with specialised supports were expected to assimilate into the general practice of institutions. However, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities advocates a human rights model of inclusion and argues that persons with disabilities deserve the same treatment as anyone else. There has also been a shift in National Policy and the Higher Education Authority emphasises the need to implement a more mainstream approach to inclusion to “enhance the quality of the learning experience and progression outcomes of all students”.  Providing a fully inclusive learning environment for all students is complex and creating a culture of engagement and inclusion of all students requires a shift in thinking and a change of behaviour at an institutional level. In this ever-changing higher education environment, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides an effective framework to improve the learning experience of all students within a mainstream teaching environment.  But where does that leave disability staff, are you fearing you will become redundant in this new universally designed learning space?

In this presentation we will look at the challenges for disability officers and explore where their expertise remains central in this changing landscape, where inclusion is becoming everybody’s job.