UCD has fallen below the national standard for participation rates for persons with disabilities, a new survey has revealed. Results of the study published by Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (AHEAD) show that the average rate of students with disabilities across the countries higher education institutions was over 3.5%. UCD lags behind at under 3%, representing just over 700 students.On the whole the results across Ireland’s Higher Education Institutions were positive with the number of students with disabilities doubling in the past six years to almost 8,000 studying across a range of subjects. This amounts to 4% of the student population, an increase of 15% on the last research done.
The report highlighted that UCD were unable to provide breakdown figures for the number of new entrants with disabilities as well as mature students and postgraduates. UCD also failed to provide information on the nature of the disabilities which affect its students or what fields of study they were involved in.
Executive Director of AHEAD, Ann Heelan praised the efforts of the Higher Education Sector saying they have been “a real success and [have] resulted in thousands of students with disabilities graduating with the same level of first and second class degrees as their non-disabled peers”. There has been an eightfold increase in participation numbers in the past eighteen years.
The most common issues for students were specific learning difficulties followed by physical disabilities, significant on-going illnesses and then mental health conditions. The latter affected 9% of undergraduate students and 13% of post-graduates.
Heelan noted however that many students with more significant disabilities such as those who are blind or deaf are still severely under-represented and deemed this unacceptable.
The recommendations provided by the research outline the need for further investigation and research by Higher Education Institutions, additional funding, more part time courses and the re-design of some courses which currently act as a barrier.
Heelan said that that current model was “unsustainable economically and ethically” due to its excluding those students with diverse needs. She suggested that a better approach would be a system in which “all course providers consider the diverse needs of all students” from the outset when designing their courses.
Heelan believes that courses which integrate technology, implement accessible document policies and deliver their curriculum in a variety of media allow them to meet the needs of a “diverse student population”.