Disability Supports at NUI Maynooth

Uploaded by NUIMAccess on 12.01.2009

Hello, my name is Rose Ryan and I am the Disability Officer at NUI Maynooth. This is one of a
series of presentations for students around the supports available at NUI Maynooth for
students with disabilities.
Today I am going to specifically talk to you about the actual supports that are available
for students with disabilities who come to this University to pursue a programme of academic
study. If we just go back a little bit to the role of the Disability Office, the role
of the Disability Office is to support the student’s transition from wherever they
happen to be, whether its second level education or they are currently pursuing another course
of study elsewhere, into third level and to minimise the academic effects of the disability
or the learning difficulty or the medical condition on that student to ease their way
into the academic programme. The role of our office is to carry out a comprehensive needs
assessment to exactly, bearing in mind the individual nature of each student, the impact
of the issue on that student and to put in place effective support to ensure that the
student gets every opportunity to display their academic ability. The way that we look
at those supports is that we have a focus on education supports, on technological supports
and on the personal needs of that student. More than anything else, the supports are
focussed on encouraging the student to become an effective independent learner.
Just to look back over the number of students with disabilities entering third level education
it has increased from a little less than 500 in 1994 to well over 3,000 currently. That
shows just how successful the supports have been that have been put in place. The numbers
of students registered with the Disability Office at NUI Maynooth are almost 250 and
the majority of those students are students with learning difficulties but we would also
have students with significant ongoing health issues, mental health issues, physical or
mobility difficulties, sensory difficulties and also students with ADD or Asperger’s
There is a comprehensive range of staff within the Disability Office, including a Learning
Support Adviser, who is specifically responsible for supporting students with specific learning
difficulties, including and more specifically, dyslexia. We also have an Assistive Technology
Adviser whose role is to direct policy regarding the development of assistive, or what we would
prefer to call educational technology, which is how technology can support students with
disabilities within the educational system. Finally, we also have an Educational Psychologist
who has a specific responsibility for supporting students with Asperger’s and ADD, but who
also has a role in relation to supporting students with specific learning difficulties.
More than anything else, that encourages students to disclose the fact that they have a learning
difficulty. It is not used against you nor does it negatively impact you in any way but
it does help us to be proactive about the provision of supports and it also allows you
to be considered for the process of supplementary admissions process for students with disabilities
and that’s the subject of another session.
Now the documentation that you must submit, for students that have a learning difficulty,
like dyslexia, they have to submit a report from the Educational Psychologist and that
should be as recent as possible, but certainly no more than three years old. All other students
should have their disability verified by their medical consultant or their specialist in
that area. GP letters are not sufficient so it is really important that when you are registering
with the office that you have the appropriate documentation. Try to get that as early as
possible because it smoothes your entry into third level.
For students who subsequently register with the Disability Office, we carry out, as I
said before, an individualised needs assessment which is very personal and very individual
to that particular student. No student with a learning difficulty has exactly the same
needs, although there may be a commonality, but each student is quite individual. In relation
to supports that I spoke about, the educational needs focus on things like the need for a
note taker. So for example, a student who has perhaps juvenile arthritis and has difficulty
in writing, may very well need somebody to take notes for them, although at Maynooth
of course we have a huge emphasis on Moodle and the development of electronic notes. Where
is absolutely necessary we may provide that support. We may provide issues of academic
tuition, the conversion of text into alternative formats, the provision of learning support
or interpreters. Everything about these supports is that they are only appropriate to where
the student needs the support. In every other way we encourage the students to become independent.
Technological needs such as IT equipment and training are provided through the Assistive
Technology Adviser and within our own Assistive Technology Centre. A lot of those particular
packages have been mainstreamed across the University, but the Assistive Technology Adviser
has a specific section on our website just about those particular packages and you could
go to there for further information in that regard.
You might also have a personal support need. Some students if they have a very significant
physical or mobility difficulty may require the support of a personal assistant or they
may require support with transport. Again, each support is quite individual to the student.
One of the other areas where we support students is around the provision of examination accommodation.
The things that you might be considered for would be the provision of extra time, you
may require rest breaks, you may require technological aids, like the use of PCs, or you may require
specific learning difficulty awareness. Again, it is all very specific to the individual
and we only provide the accommodation that is absolutely necessary for that student.
Be aware of the fact that within our Disability Office there is a range of other supports
available including study skills, group assistive technology sessions; there’s a whole range
of social events for students to encourage them to integrate into the mainstream fabric
of the University. There’s a very comprehensive orientation programme for students with disabilities
where they live on campus for three or four days, usually the first week in September.
Those students get to experience a whole range of issues within the University and it prepares
them, and in fact gives them a huge advantage because they’re here on campus long before
the other students actually start.
There’s a whole range of other supports across the University, whether it’s the
Medical Centre or the Examinations Office or the Academic Adviser’s Office or the
Buildings Office or the Counselling Service. All of those are also available to students
with disabilities and the reason that I like them is that they are within the mainstream
of the University and lots of students like to access those.
The issues for students who are thinking of coming to this University over the next or
other years, most importantly I would flag for you the importance of disclosing that
you have a disability and you can do that obviously through the CAO when you are making
your application. Be aware of the comprehensive nature of the supports that are available
and how individualised they are. Be aware of the supplementary process because it might
or might not be particularly relevant to you. And more than anything else, I would like
to say to you that I hope that this presentation has been useful to you and that we look forward
to seeing you over the next or the coming academic years.