AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


1st Year: What to Expect

Going to college or university for the first time can be quite daunting, so it’s important to know what is expected and to familiarise yourself with the different services that are available to you so that you can get the most out of your college experience. This section contains a number of Tips and things to think about in your 1st year.

Click the sections below to have further info drop down. 

Top 5 Tips Video

Check out our top tips video which gives you a two minute overview of the 5 most important things you should think about as a new college student with a disability. Covers important topics like orientation, disability services and more.

Orientation Week

Attend your orientation/induction week as this is a great way of finding out about your course, using the library and the Student Services available. Explore and find your way around the campus; get a map, locate your lecture halls, restaurant, sports centre etc. If you have a mobility or sensory disability you should consider asking for an individual orientation session before the start of term so you can become familiar with routes to and from lectures, the library, the canteen etc.

For those with mobility impairments, you may need to think about the following also:

  • Location of accessible parking spaces in relation to your lectures.
  • Are there accessible toilets near your lecture rooms/library?
  • Are the entrance and hall doors automatic/easy to open and close?

First Lectures/Tutorials

It is important that you attend the very first lecture of your modules as this is where you will receive an outline of your course, meet your lecturers and classmates. You should maintain a regular attendance as relying on notes and PowerPoint will not be enough when you are trying to complete an assignment or study for an exam! Try to find a position in your lecture hall / classroom that gives you maximum access to the lecture.

Assignments / Exams

Get organised by allocating time for studying & reviewing notes in your schedule, this will make future assignments & exams easier! Understand your college’s rules & guidelines on writing assignments and what is meant by plagiarism.

Finding Accessible Accommodation

Fully accessible accommodation is difficult to secure and some students, especially students with a physical disability, will face difficulties when seeking accommodation.
The larger universities and colleges provide on-campus student rooms and residences, but only a small number of these may be fully accessible to those with mobility impairments, blind, or deaf students.

On Campus Accommodation

When students are applying for a college place, they should also contact the Disability/Access Officer and/or the Accommodation Officer in the college of their choice. The Disability Officer or the Accommodation Officer will be able to provide up to-date information on the availability of accessible on-campus accommodation.

Unfortunately, securing a college place does not mean that you will also secure on-campus accommodation. Therefore, if on-campus accommodation is being sought, it is the responsibility of the student with a disability to state, at the time of applying for a college place, that s/he needs accessible accommodation. This will ensure that the student will be on the list when accommodation is being designated and s/he will, therefore, have a better chance of being allocated suitable rooms.

Off Campus Accommodation

Where colleges do not provide accessible on-campus accommodation, or where a student does not wish to live on-campus, local housing may be sought.

Students seeking off-campus accommodation should:

Contact the Local Authority or County Council in the college area and ask for a list of (accessible) housing.
Contact the Accommodation/Welfare Officer for accommodation lists. Landlords register with the Accommodation Service Student Union and students are given a list of available housing upon request.

General Guidelines

Whether the accommodation sought is off or on-campus, students should know their rights as a tenant.

  • Ensure that the accommodation is up to proper standards, in heating, lighting, security measures.
  • If the student is required to sign a lease, s/he should read the terms of the lease very carefully before signing it. 

Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

East Hall, UCD, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
T +353 1 592 1467 E ahead@ahead.ie W www.ahead.ie RCN 20025182