Students with disabilities forced to quit IT colleges

Niall Murray, Education Correspondent

The research for AHEAD, the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability, found 2.7% of undergraduates in the 14 ITs have disabilities, compared to 1.6% in 1999.

More than two-thirds of these 1,366 students have specific learning difficulties, such as with reading, writing or numeracy.

AHEAD executive director Ann Heelan said: "For those with specific learning difficulties, more could be done to provide lecture notes in advance or allow students carry over modules into successive semesters where they have difficulty keeping up because of their disability."

But she pointed out that much of the difficulties are caused by the lack of support staff, as only two ITs Waterford and Dublin have a full-time disability officer. Apart from a part-time officer in Galway-Mayo, the report found the remaining 11 institutes have no such staff. Dr Tom Collins, chairman of the Council of Directors of the Institutes of Technology, said colleges place a strong onus on assisting students with disabilities, as is required under the Equal Status Act.

"Unlike the universities, we do not get specific funding for dedicated staff,"said Dr Collins, director of Dundalk IT.

Half of the ITs have no system for contact with students with disabilities in secondary schools and only three provide specific "open days" for prospective students with disabilities.

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