Some €5.4 million is to be spent on initiatives to help third-level students with disabilities, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris announced today.
The initiatives are designed to improve college campuses and will also assist staff with training and development.
There will be a number of projects specifically for students with autism, including the creation of autism-friendly rooms in nine campuses. Development of assistive technologies for students with disabilities will also be included.
An app for students with visual and hearing impairments will be developed, which will be aimed at assisting students navigate their way around campus.
In a press statement, 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”, he added. “We are funding projects to make our colleges more accessible.”
In Trinity, the approved proposals include a sensory processing project, an inclusive online technology project and physical access improvements to campus.
Specialist assistance for students who are deaf will also be provided through the initiatives.
Harris said: “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.”
In a press statement welcoming the announcement, Dr Alan Wall, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, said: “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.”
The initiatives will support the overall strategic development of services for students with disabilities in higher education.
The Fund for Students with Disabilities was established to assist students with disabilities as they progress through higher education. In 1999, the fund supported 300 students while in the 2018/19 academic year it supported 13,000.