Staff Picks:

Christmas Medley in Irish Sign Language by Societies of DIT

Action needed to safeguard education

Third-level graduates more likely to find employment


Higher & Further Education News & Views

Where to next for the Bailout Generation?

Two Irish universities lead study of rare cancer

‘Too lazy to come to class’

UCD scientists make key finding on eyeless babies

Students juggling work and pleasure to land the top jobs

Third-level scholarships that give athletes a sporting chance

Rising tuition fees force students into sex work, says students’ union

Report on funding crisis ups pressure for third-level fees

Subject choices ‘hit by third-level funding crisis’


Disability Headlines

Life-saving ‘Act Fast’ campaign curtailed over cost

North urged to adopt law on welfare reform or miss benefits

Disability cut all Labour’s idea, says Varadkar

Rehab listed as a top not-for-profit organisation with income of €190m

Thanks be to God it was only diabetes

Home visit teaches Kenny harsh reality of budget cuts


General Education Stories

Warning of cuts at schools in poorer areas

Minister’s thinking is fatally flawed

Keeper of the Woods

The school around the corner

Women outstrip men in terms of education

Cuts will erode students’ progress, principal warns

Budget has gone after soft targets: The young and vulnerable

Disadvantaged schools set to lose 400 teachers

Teacher turned up for work to learn she was losing job

Kenny hints at funding rowback for some schools

In My Opinion: We must respect human rights of parents who want secular schools

Loss of 40 teachers to double class sizes

Thousands speak out over languages-teaching cuts

Taoiseach defends education cuts

Over 400 teachers to be axed from schools as cuts bite

Stop streaming students, it’s harmful to education – ESRI

Cyber Bullying: The night I heard my 16-year-old tough-guy son sobbing

Extra ‘alleviation’ teachers to assist hardest hit disadvantaged schools

Disadvantaged schools will not be as badly hit

Teachers’ watchdog pushed for 20pc hike to outgoing boss’s salary

Government U-turn on teacher numbers


Mental Health in the Media

Double-edged role of alcohol in suicidal talk

Patients face Christmas in lock-up

Suicidal talk must be taken seriously

Mental health patients forced into locked ward

President Higgins: Urged to be a ‘moral advocate’ for mental health services.

Expert: Central hospital facing legal challenges

Lack of staff in mental healthcare posing ‘risk’

Lynch pledges to ‘pursue’ staff crisis

Mad Pride workshop to get the creative juices flowing


Employment Features

Government urged to rethink jobs strategy

Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning

Mainly election related this week but also a link to a new guide on employing someone with autism.


Disability – The Challenges Ahead


Renewed vision of the Irish social model must be delivered


Autism Ireland and Equality Alliance


Intellectually disabled must be enabled to vote, says charity


Disability as a Human Rights Issue in General Election 2011


Inaccessible voting stations ‘inexcusable’


Northern Ireland Minister launches autism awareness guide for employers


DFI welcomes prioritisation of disability and mental health



Congrats to Mary Keogh over on the Human Rights in Ireland site for putting together this very simple guide on making the election accessible for people with disabilities. This is a very significant election, particularly for students as there is a clear divide among the parties about how to fund higher education which will have a direct impact on you in the coming years. It’s important that you can access all the information out there in order to make an informed decision and most importantly that you can get into the polling booth on the 25th February.

Check out the post here: and if you have a few minutes – why not send it to the candidates running in your area!

If you google AHEAD you will find at least 2 of us. One in America and one in Ireland. Actually set up independently of each other, and quite different in their operational setup, the organisations do stay in touch.

The main link up is their annual conference. Our director (my boss!) Ann Heelan, tries to get to this whenever possible, but it is a week long, intensive conference held somewhere in the US every year so it definitely isn’t an annual trek for anyone in the office. This year, it was on in Louisville, Kentucky and Ann came back exhausted, but with some new ideas and information and great contacts, and we wanted to share that with you.

The two areas that were of most interest to us were on accessible matierials and chronic illness.

Beth Case and Roseanna Davidson of Texas Tech University gave the detailed presentations on accessible matierials and her information is well worth reading. (Go to Block 5.2) (also available directly here) The presentations and handouts show how to make the following accessible: distance learning, audio, video, websites, chatrooms, powerpoint,  pdfs, online quizzes and tests, online content.

The other really interesting session Ann attended was “Riding a Tightrope: University Policies vs. Needs of Students with Chronic Illness” Given that this group is still under-represented amongst students with disabilities, information developed from experience, on how to accomodate students with chronic illness is very useful, not just for universities or the further education sector, but also for employers. You can find the presentations here (go to Block 1.5)

Obviously there were many many more presentations which may be of use or interest, but unfortunately Ann couldn’t be in more than one place at once! Have a rummage through the site and you’ll find plenty to look at, all based on the theme of “AHEAD 2009 Global Access: Opening a World of Opportunity”. It’s well worth a look, and it’s always good to see what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

In a sporadic series of posts  I’ve focused in on some access issues – admittedly only scraping the surface.

Accessible blogs and documents, next up presentations/ training. Specifically – powerpoints. Slide presentations of some form have been around for ages – and I know there’s others out there who can talk about the history of this better than I can, but that’s not the point. At some point slide presentations moved from being images to accompany talks to being the stars of talks. And that’s a big problem when you’re trying to be accessible. Poor powerpoint/ presentation skills will always undermine the message you’re trying to get across – for everyone who is a witness to it. And this has been explored and written about many many times. I just want to add a few reasons to re-evaluate your use of powerpoint especially in terms of your delivery, and hopefully give you an insight into the experiences of some audiences.

  • If most of your content is written on the powerpoint, people have to read it as well as listen to you. That’s difficult if you’re trying to lip read, follow a sign interpreter, (eyes can’t be in two places at once) are dyslexic, blind or visually impaired.
  • If your speech is reliant on visual images – think about the possibility that there are blind or visually impaired people in your audience. I’m not talking about situations where images are aids – but where they are a key part of your presentation.
  • Your powerpoint should act as a guide – this can be really helpful to people who may struggle to follow your talk. those with hearing impairments, ADD. It shouldn’t be your speech. You may as well walk out of the room at that point. If it is your speech – read it word for word.
  • If you email a powerpoint – most screen readers and other assistive technologies will struggle with it. Better to create a set of notes.
  • If you create a set of notes to go with your presentation (which is only a guide) it will mean no one has to try and scribble down your every word while trying to listen to you. Helps everyone.
  • Don’t talk to your presentation. No one can hear you when you talk to a wall behind you.
  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them it. Then tell them what you told them. The old line, but it makes it much easier to pick up where you are if you miss something – especially if you’re deaf, blind, or have any learning difficulties.

Powerpoints are used more and more these days, and I think it’s very easy to be careless with them. Most of what I’ve mentioned here is general good practice anyway – but I hope it’s given you a different perspective and some more reasons on why these things are good practices.

Continuing on the issue of  making things accessible, one problem I frequently get asked about, and struggle with myself,  is making documents (eg job descriptions, information sheets, notes, application forms etc) accessible. It’s one of the bigger barriers out there for students/ employees with disabilities, espeically when it has to be dealt with on a day to day basis in work or studying.

Without even touching the area of training delivery and powerpoints (a whole other kettle of fish) , just foccussing on documents I’d just like to give this site a plug. NUIM have produced one of the simplest guides to accessible documents I know of. Yes, it’s aimed at students. Does that mean it’s irrelevant outside of college – definitely not! Popular when people find out about it, more often than not, people don’t know it exists. So, whatever you do, wherever you are, have a read, try and take on board some of the points enclosed and know that you are following best practice when you do. It’s not hard, and it’ll be of more benefit to more people than you can possibly imagine.

Thanks to the good folks in Ouch, I discovered this – a blog dedicated to accessible blogging. I know I have much work to do on this – but hopefully I’ll be moving this blog in the near future which will rectify those problems. Still plenty to learn from this very straightforward blog – well worth a read, especially if you’re a blogger!