On Friday, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD approved 11 initiatives to support students with disabilities to access and engage with higher education at TU Dublin.
TU Dublin received funding for 11 projects from the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD), which aims to support students with a range of conditions and disabilities including sensory and physical disabilities, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism, mental health conditions and significant ongoing illness.
Speaking on Friday, Minister Harris said:
"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. For people with autism, there are autism-friendly rooms being established in nine colleges for when things get overwhelming. We are funding projects to make our colleges more accessible.
"We will also fund tactile wayfinding maps, loop systems for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Education is for everyone, and people with disabilities need to be supported by their third level institutions.
"Importantly, we will use some of the funding for training staff and hiring new ones to help students with additional needs."
Welcoming the announcement, Deirdre Staunton, Head, Disability Support Services, TU Dublin - City Campus said, "This funding represents a clear acknowledgement of the University's outstanding commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible learning experience for all of its students. A commitment, reflected not only in the high standards set by our dedicated TU Dublin Disability Support Services team but also by all members of the TU Dublin community, to consistently support the development of independent learning, inclusive education environments and the continuous evaluation and improvement of services to deliver best practice supports for our students. We look forward to working with our colleagues across TU Dublin in implementing these initiatives to make our campuses and the learning experience for all of our students ever more inclusive and accessible."
The projects which have received funding at TU Dublin, include:
- High-Level Accessibility/Universal Design Audit
- Wayfinding App
- Universally Accessible/Inclusive Work and Social Spaces/ Energy/Napping Pods
- Purchase of new and upgrade of Assistive Technology
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Pilot Programme
- 'Work in Mind' Programme
- TU Dublin Sensory Modulation Project including Project Manager
- Sensory Project - Sensory App (joint project with Trinity College Dublin)
- (Contribution to a sectoral project led by University of Limerick)
- Pilot Hard of Hearing Project (joint project with the University of Limerick)
Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive of the HEA, also welcomed the Minister's announcement:
"For many years now, the FSD has been a key enabler in ensuring that students with disabilities can participate in higher education on an equal basis with their peers. It already provides funding that allows HEIs provide essential supports to students. The announcement today not only gives HEIs the opportunity to further develop and enhance these supports but also allows them to focus on the strategic development of disability supports and services. This is critical when we bear in mind, the particular impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable and disadvantaged learners and as we move to the development of the next National Access Plan."
More information about the Fund for Students with Disabilities is available here.