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


Students with Disabilities Advisory Group 2023/24

A diverse group of students working to promote accessible and inclusive learning environments.


The enthusiastic and engaged members will inform the strategy and policy of AHEAD and USI concerning the inclusion of students with disabilities in Higher and Further Education. The group will bring a strong disabled student voice into FET and HE policy.

The group is co-chaired by James Curry, Vice President for Equality and Citizenship at USI and Leesa Flynn, who has been a member of the committee for the past two years. 


Meet the members!

James Curry (he/him)

James is the Vice President for Equality & Citizenship for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). He represents over a quarter of a million students in third level education under the remit of equality and citizenship which encompasses: race, gender, sexuality, disabilities and so much more. He is excited to be working with AHEAD on the Students with Disabilities Advisory Group and look forward to meeting everyone who will be involved!

Leesa Flynn (she/her)

Leesa is a newly qualified primary teacher, having qualified in Maynooth University in 2023. She is the first wheelchair user to complete this course. She previously served on the Maynooth Students’ Union Senate as Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) Senator from 2021-22. Having first-hand experience as a wheelchair/walking-frame user, Leesa feels as though she can relate to a lot of the common struggles students with disabilities face in the higher education system. Aside from her teaching career, Leesa is also a disability advocate, giving talks both online and in person. She is also Co-Secretary for Disability Power Ireland.

Diarmuid Hanna (he/him)

Diarmuid Hanna is a third year medical student in University College Cork (UCC). In UCC and the community, he plays a passionate part in advocating for individuals with disabilities, by partaking in campus related disability advisory boards and through his work as a welfare and accessibility officer, in multiple societies across campus. As such, he hopes to champion the qualms he has garnered from the aforementioned, and combine it with his own experience, thus contributing an encompassing opinion to the rest of the team. Finally, he has a particular interest in invisible disabilities and headache based disabilities.

Alexa MacDermot (she/her)

Alexa is an autistic mature student in UCD and will complete her Gender Studies MA in 2024. In February 2023, she had a positive assessment for autism and since then they have become passionately involved in advocating for neurodivergent students, and particularly later-life assessed autistic women. She is from London and has lived in Dublin for 20 years now. Her favourite place to be is in the sea, and once won a karaoke competition singing Like A Virgin. Her secret skill is that she is a ski instructor, and one day she wants to learn to scuba dive.

Rachel Hasson (she/her)

Rachel is studying a part time LLM in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights at Ulster University. She is really keen to help provide more representation for disabled and neurodivergent people in activism spaces and the student movement. As an autistic woman, she thinks it’s important that we keep being loud and making our voices heard!

Joseph McLoughlin (he/him)

Joseph is currently undertaking an engineering PLC in Coláiste Dhúlaigh. He finds that a lot of the difficulties associated with having a disability can be solved with knowledge and understanding. By spreading awareness and helping everybody understand the disabilities that are in our communities, the lives of those with disabilities will be significantly easier. He knows many people with disabilities, and he is experienced with some of the various needs that many disabilities require, and he hopes he can bring this knowledge to the table. His contribution to AHEAD with this knowledge, alongside his eagerness to learn and solve problems, will improve the college experience for those who are using it at the moment and in the future, while using our collective knowledge to educate all about the various obstacles that our community comes across and how these can be overcome.

Sinead Lynch (she/her)

Sinead is a PhD student in DCU’s Institute of Education. She previously did an undergraduate Psychology degree in DCU as an online education student and was a class rep for four years. From this, she developed an interest in how students with disabilities manage the juggling of personal and professional lives required by online education and decided to research this in my PhD. She is really excited to be part of the AHEAD/USI Student Advisory Working Group and be part of advocating for a more inclusive higher education system, and is looking forward to working with lots of great people.

Tadgh Quill-Manley (he/him)

Tadgh is a third year BA student of Economics & Philosophy at UCC. He concurrently undertook the CIP and QFA qualifications, receiving the Insurance Institute of Ireland's CJ Gladstone High Achiever Award. He is a former member of the UCC Student Representatives' Council, and is a volunteer board member of the National Advocacy Service, a statutory body which includes the Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities, and the Patient Advocacy Service. Locally, Tadgh is also a volunteer board member of non-profit bodies, such as the Cork Centre for Independent Living, and Cork Deaf Association. He has ASD and is passionate about assisting people with disabilities overcome challenges that they face in their daily lives.

Orla O'Brien 

Orla is an artist living in Limerick. Art plays a huge part in how Orla process everything, and has been using art to share stories about finding out you’re autistic later in life. Orla hopes to break down stereotypes that stop people from getting supports that we need. Since finding out they were autistic later in life, Orla has been using their time learning everything they can about disability and about the challenges facing disabled people in Ireland. They hope that we can create a more accepting and positive society for disabled people.

Erin Grealis (she/her)

Erin is a final year Bachelor of Laws International (LLB) student at Maynooth University.  Erin has been involved in widespread Human Rights advocacy, both in Ireland and abroad. Erin spent the past year studying abroad at the University of Dayton in the United States and alongside her studies, she interned at the University of Dayton Human Rights Center. Through this, she had the opportunity to engage in projects including global disability advocacy, cross-cultural awareness, and research surrounding migration. Alongside this, this past summer, Erin undertook a research fellowship for an international non-profit focusing on the intersection of education curriculum and anti-human trafficking prevention. Currently, she is working as a Study Abroad Ambassador for Maynooth University for the upcoming academic year. Building on these experiences, Erin hopes to continue to advocate for disability rights and to represent under-represented groups towards accessing third-level education. Erin strives to build a better, more inclusive global environment for persons with a disability.

Sadhbh Walsh (she/her)

Sadhbh has just started her first year of their Higher Diploma in Psychology at University College Dublin. She aims to work with autistic people and hope to do this by pursuing a career in either clinical or educational psychology. After receiving an autism diagnosis last year, her passion for making society a more inclusive place for people with disabilities has grown. From her own experience of being neurodivergent, she have seen first-hand the barriers that exist for neurodiverse students. Advocating for improved services for neurodivergent people has been on her agenda for a while and they are delighted to have gotten this opportunity with AHEAD to start.

Evan Hallihan (he/him)

Evan is a Final Year student studying Business with French in the University of Limerick (UL). During his time in UL, he have worked in a series of different roles. These have ranged from First Year Rep to Club Development Officer and Treasurer. He has enjoyed doing each one of these roles as they have allowed them to communicate with people, gaining experiences to make students’ experiences better. He is so excited to be part of the Students with Disabilities Advisory Group because he wants to make sure the next group of students who are starting 3rd level education can fully enjoy their college experience knowing that their needs, either personal, academic, economic or otherwise, are recognised and met by their chosen colleges.

Luna Fleming (they/them)

Luna is currently studying a level 5 in software development in Cork College of Further Education and Training, Morrison's Island Campus. They are diagnosed as autistic and dyspraxia and have a variety of mental health difficulties. They are a disability advocate and is determined to make changes on whatever level they can. They especially like to advocate for people with hidden disabilities. They are also passionate about LGBTQI+ rights, women's rights and in general, equality and equity for all. They are determined to do my part to make society accessible, safe and a happy place to be for all!


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Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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