A survey of student experience is being conducted by AHEAD in collaboration with USI in March 2011.  The survey will be carried out with students nationally across the sector (aiming to reach 362 to get a fully representative sample). It aims to identify feedback from students with disabilities of accessing supports and accommodations in higher education. Students according to the Hunt Report, “have a major contribution to make in influencing the design of curricula” and in the provision of services.  This survey will seek student views on their experience of getting supports and accommodations, in order to provide feedback to the higher education sector.

Students matter, but according to the report of the 2005 Review of Quality Assurance in Irish Universities it is difficult for that voice to be heard within the system.  We intend that this timely survey will provide the sector with valuable information regarding the impact, if any, of changes to the funding levels and administration of the Fund for students with disabilities this year

The survey has been piloted by students with disabilities, is short and will be totally anonymous.  The survey can be accessed through this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/aheadstudentsurvey

We need your help!!! 362 respondents is a huge ask so we need you to promote this survey in your college, on your Facebook and to your friends! Remember not all disabilities are visible so just because you think you don’t have any friends with disabilities – it may not necessarily be true!

Any problems with the survey – just email linda.kelly@ahead.ie!

A day early this week as I’m to DKIT tomorrow for our first Get Ready for Work event of 2011.


My Experience of Mental Health Services in Ireland


It is difficult to start writing about an experience so personal, let alone when factoring in stigma and the nature of the experience, which was alienating and unsupportive in general.


Disabled mother could be sterilised without her consent

A woman with a learning disability could be forcibly sterilised after she gives birth this week to stop her becoming pregnant again.

Court bans man with low IQ from having sex

A man with a low IQ has been banned from having sex by a High Court judge who admitted the case raised questions about “civil liberties and personal autonomy”.

Children face year wait for arthritis care

CHILDREN with a potentially lifelong, crippling condition are waiting more than a year to see a specialist because of a shortage of resources.
Mental care needs ‘revamp’

THE “drugs-are-great philosophy” within mainstream psychiatry is falling apart and the discipline needs to reinvent itself, according to an acclaimed US author interviewed in today’s Irish Examiner.


Mother’s battle over son’s juvenile arthritis care

WHAT began as a pain in Fergal Buckley’s side in January 2009 took six months to diagnose as juvenile arthritis and almost another six months to secure an appointment with the appropriate medical expert.


Access your right to vote

The National Disability Authority (NDA) welcomes the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s guidance for returning officers and presiding officers for the 2011 General Election. Each incorporates advice about how to ensure the voting process, and as far as practicable, the choice of polling station, is disability-friendly.


Real life: No country for old men

We all know that the health system is flawed but that’s of little consolation when you’re trying to find a suitable nursing home for your seriously ill father

Lessons to learn about Tourette’s

A lack of understanding about Tourette syndrome is often the biggest problem facing children with the disorder, writes MICHELLE McDONAGH


Logging on for support

Well-structured online resources can make a real difference when it comes to mental health, writes FIONOLA MEREDITH


Stroke awareness campaign saved lives, research shows

A RECENT campaign to improve public awareness of the signs of stroke has helped save lives by encouraging earlier attendance at emergency departments, research to be presented today suggests.


Teach ’emotions’ to help prevent suicide

“EMOTIONAL LITERACY” should be introduced to the school curriculum to help prevent suicide, a leading child and adolescent psychiatrist has said.


Charity highlights role of teachers in suicide prevention

TEACHERS are increasingly being called upon to respond to students who are struggling with self-harming behaviour or suicidal thoughts, a conference organised by suicide charity Console has heard.

Highlighting suicide: Students urged not to feel alone

“THERE IS always another option. There is courage in everyone, no matter who you are. Don’t ever feel alone.” This was the message of one speaker at a conference on suicide yesterday attended by 600 second-level students from eight schools across Cork.

‘Pain is shrouded in shame and secrecy’

SUICIDE, shrouded in shame and secrecy, is one of the greatest causes of misery in Ireland, a conference on suicide heard.

Neurology diagnoses taking over six months


ALMOST two out of every five people with neurological conditions including stroke, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s have to wait more than half a year before they are diagnosed.

Mother calls for 21-year-old daughter to be sterilised

A DECISION on whether a 21-year-old young mother with significant learning difficulties should be sterilised to prevent further pregnancies was adjourned at the High Court yesterday for expert evidence to be obtained.

Father of two autistic sons ‘is used to fighting’

A CORK father, who had to fundraise so his two autistic sons could access education, is running as an Independent candidate in Cork South Central. Eric’s Isherwood’s two sons, Eric Junior and Colm, were diagnosed with autism when they were three years old. However, for the first nine years of their lives, they received no education.


Letter to the Editor: Autism Care

Give us answers on autism care


‘Care crisis led to seven-year delay in diagnosing my MS’

ANNE Marie Hayden was only 18 and had just given birth to her son Oisin when she suffered the first symptoms of her multiple sclerosis. But it was seven years later, on Good Friday 2008, before she finally received a diagnosis.


Mother calls for 21-year-old daughter to be sterilised

A DECISION on whether a 21-year-old young mother with significant learning difficulties should be sterilised to prevent further pregnancies was adjourned at the High Court yesterday for expert evidence to be obtained.
Letter to the Editor

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities




Lots of great news stories this week and a lot of activity starting up around the issue of disability, mental health and the general election! All are linked below so have a browse about and see if there is anything you might want to lend your support to over the coming weeks.

Get On Board

Get on Board for Youth Mental Health is a call to action to get the issue of youth mental health on the political agenda – to get young people asking for it, to get voters voting for it, and to get candidates committing to it.


3-year appointment wait for neurology patients

People suffering from Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and potential brain tumours are being forced to wait up to three years for an outpatient neurology appointment.


Charity voices anger after MPs ‘mocked Tory with disability’

Speaker urged to investigate after Paul Maynard told Times some Labour MPs ‘pulled faces’ at him in apparent mimicry of his cerebral palsy


Children’s therapy services criticised

THE director of the Clare Crusaders Clinic in Ennis yesterday claimed that vital services from the HSE are not there for children requiring speech and language therapy.


The two sides of coping with depression

TIME OUT: Carers require equal attention and support, writes MARIE MURRAY


Dealing with Crohn’s, minus the moans

BEING DIAGNOSED with Crohn’s disease is a life-changing moment. Like any chronic disease, you will have good settled periods and uncomfortable flare – ups. And just like many long-term illnesses, coming to terms with the disease involves taking ownership of your illness and its treatment.


Featured Person: Stephanie Woodward

Meet Stephanie, who cites her study abroad experience in Ireland as a major influence on her identity as a person with a disability. Stephanie uses a power wheelchair for mobility.


Arthritis: the leading cause of disability in the US

If you were asked the leading cause of disability in America, what would your answer be? Consider your response carefully, as I can almost assure you that it is not any of the illnesses you are contemplating.


Bid to lift stigma of disability

STUDENTS are spending a week in a wheelchair to highlight the effects of disabilities on young people.


Death of cystic fibrosis campaigner

Cystic fibrosis campaigner Anita Slowey has died. She had been receiving treatment at St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, when she died on Monday evening.


Singer Kavanagh vows to keep performing in spite of Parkinson’s

SINGER Richie Kavanagh has vowed to continue on in the entertainment business just weeks after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.


The Disability Invisibility Cloak in #GE11

There is a danger when we do get to the ‘social’ aspects of the campaign that the issue of rights and position of people who are minorities or oppressed and disadvantaged in our society will be reduced to economic units.


What disability living allowance means to me – in pictures

From days out and football matches to visiting the mosque, and even just to buy clothes and food: the disability living allowance, or DLA, is a lifeline for many. As the consultation deadline on DLA reforms nears, clients at Scope’s Chingford day centre describe what the benefit means to them


NUI Galway Lifecourse Institute to Hold Political Debate on Policies on Older Persons, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities

An event called Future Policies: Older People, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities, A Lifecourse Institute Election Event will take place Thursday 17th February at 8 pm in the main lecture theatre Aras Moyola, North Campus.


Poor conditions at psychiatric units highlighted

A European investigation into conditions at prisons and psychiatric units in Ireland has uncovered a number of serious issues, including poor living conditions and high degrees of violence in some units


Ministers needs and special needs

Letter to the Editor, Irish Times

AHEAD invited students with disabilities from all over Ireland to the Kilmainham Hilton Hotel where we asked them ‘what would make your education amazing?’ We did this with Chris Chapman (Change Exploratory) as a facilitator who used the World Cafe technique (theworldcafe.com). The evening before the World Cafe we invited successful professionals to have dinner with students so that they could find out more about different professions in an informal setting and make connections for the future. Guests included Caroline Carswell, Lucy Fallon Byrne, Brian Mooney, Tony Ward, Dermot O Sullivan, Sinead Kane, Aoibheann Gleeson & Viv Rath.
The event was a huge success thanks to all the students who took part and shared their experience and stories so openly with us. We look forward to bringing those stories to policy and decision makers in 2011. This video is the start of that – it is a brief look at what happened on the day with contributions from students. It was first shown at the AHEAD AGM on the 14th December 2010.

The National Council for Special Education at The School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin is carrying out a Study of Access and Progression Experiences of Student with Special Educational Needs Moving From Compulsory Education to FE/HE.  They are looking for participants to this research. Below is some information about the project. If you are interested in participating, contact me and I will send out further information.

“Aims of the Study.

The NCSE has commissioned a study of the access and progression experiences of students with special educational needs moving from compulsory education to FE/HE, with a view to identifying practices and policies to ensure improved access and smooth progression to FE/HE.

The experiences of individual students are central to a better understanding of these issues.

Key research questions include:

  1. What are the access and progression pathways for students with special educational needs moving from compulsory education to FE/HE institutions?
  2. What are the roles of educational institutions, individuals and health services in the preparation of students with special educational needs for this progression?
  3. What resources and supports are available to students with special educational needs to accommodate them making this progression?
  4. What are the experiences of students with special educational needs in accessing and progressing to FE/HE?
  5. What are the views of educational and health personnel involved in supporting students in accessing and progressing to FE/HE?
  6. What major issues and barriers arise with regards to access, progression and transition?
  7. What best practices/strategies in relation to access, progression and transition exist?

As you can see, this is an important piece of research and one that has real potential to increase the numbers of students with special educational needs accessing and transferring to FE / HE.

To ensure that the research is the best that it can be, the research team has an international record of research and practice in the area.  The project is being managed by Dr Conor Mc Guckin and Dr Michael Shevlin from The School of Education in Trinity College, Dublin.

Also working with Conor and Michael are Professor Richard Rose, Sheena Bell, and Andy Smith from The Centre for Special Needs Education and Research at the University of Northampton, UK.  Dr Eileen Winter from the Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe and Dr Geraldine Scanlon from Dublin City University are also working on the project.

We would like to ask for your help in the research.

Whilst some of our focus will be in talking to secondary school students with special educational needs to gain an understanding of their experiences of trying to make the transition from school to FE / HE, we would like to gain similar understanding of the experiences of students who have successfully made the transition to FE / HE.

What do we plan to do?

We will be holding focus groups with groups of about 6 students.  These focus groups will explore questions related to your experiences of the transition from secondary school to your current / previous studies.

When do we plan to do it?

We plan to conduct these focus groups in the next few weeks.

How long will it take?

The focus groups will last approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.


We really value the input from people who help us with our research.  To ensure that everything we do is ethical, we have a set of ethical guidelines that govern the research.  You will receive a copy of this Code of Ethics.  You will also receive a Consent Form.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this.

If you would like to find out more about the project, or other similar projects that the team are currently working on, contact Dr Conor Mc Guckin at conor.mcguckin@tcd.ie”

What to do now if you would like to take part in the research.

If you would like to take part in the focus groups, please let me know and I will let the researchers  know.  I will send out further information and also keep you informed of when and where the focus groups will take place.

Originally posted here by Linda Kelly, USI Equality Officer

Hi Everyone,

Just to let you know that Equality Standing Conference will take place on the 5th & 6th of March 2010 in Cork City. We are very grateful to UCC for agreeing to host the event.

Opening of submission of motions and nominations (for the 4 part time officer positions) is Monday 8th February.

Close of submission of motions and nominations (for the 4 part time officer positions) is Friday 19th February at 17:00.

The positions available are:

  • Disability Rights Officer;
  • Gender Equality Officer;
  • Mature Students Officer &
  • International Students Officer.

Please circulate this email to any student you think may be interested in taking up a position. Nominations must be submitted on union headed paper by the CO President and include evidence of student status of the candidate. Nominations must be submitted by post and email.

I would also encourage you to submit motions to conference on equality issues. Motions can only mandate the following officers: Equality, LGBT, Disability Rights, Gender Equality, Mature & International. Motions must be submitted on union headed paper signed by the CO President via fax & email.

If you have any questions, please email me or give me a buzz!

Kind regards,


This survey is due in by this evening. Enter and you’ll be in with a chance to win an ipod!

And tonight, I’m speaking at this event “Supporting Students with Disabilities in a Recession” and hope to see you there.