A substantial part of all of AHEAD’s work  is trying to make sure that our information/ knowledge gets to the people who can use it to make positive changes – in essence lobbying. Where possible, I’ll try to keep you updated on some of the meetings I or my colleagues have had. Ann Heelan, my boss, and our director sent on this feedback from a recent meeting she had.

“AHEAD, Brendan Goldsmith (Chair of AHEAD’s Board of Directors) and Ann Heelan (Director of AHEAD) met with Minister of State for Equality, Disability and Mental Health John Moloney, Brian Power (Principal Officer, Higher Education-Equity of Access Section , Department of Education and Science (DES) ), and  Leo Sheedy (Assistant Principal, Employment and Training Supports for People with Disabilities Section, Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment (DETE) ) to update the minister on inequalities experienced by students with disabilities in making the change from second level education to higher education and on to work.

Issues discussed included

  • the need to improve the learning experience of second level students with visual impairments and dyslexia by providing them with alternative textbooks, electronic books in particular.
  • the need to ensure children with disability who need technology to learn, to read materials etc are taught how to use it and are provided with the correct hardware and software to enable them to learn in a way comparable with other children
  • the barriers for students with disability in the application screening system for primary school teaching
  • the need to base the FÁS system of workplace grants on reasonable accommodations, the current system favours those who need equipment yet ignores those who need transport or interpreters to access and maintain employment.

The Minister is committed to seeing just how he can bring about improvements to these areas, in particular he is interested in following up with the main publishers for school textbooks just how they can be made available electronically. AHEAD will be  following  up on these issues with the Minister and the DES and DETE departments.”

Working with the publishers of school textbooks is a a low/ no cost measure that is theoretically very possible. Should all this feedback be taken on board, it has the potential to make a significant differences. Watch this space!