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


Introducing Students with Disabilities Advisory Group

AHEAD and USI are delighted to introduce our newly formed, co-chaired, advisory group:

Students with Disabilities Advisory Group
A diverse group of students working to promote accessible and inclusive learning environments

The 12 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 Meave Richardson, Vice President for Equality and Citizenship at USI and Catherine Gallagher, AHEAD Board Member.

Meet the Group Members

A headshot of Alan smiling for the camera. Alan Hickey

Alan is a first-year mature student on the LSAD campus of TUS Midwest, studying art and design. Originally, he completed a degree and doctorate in UL before developing a rare neurological disorder, narcolepsy. His goal now is to retrain for work in an area where his disability will not be a barrier to success. Prior to attending LSAD, he spent two years on a PLC course. He is a long-time advocate for disability rights and is on the board of Narcolepsy Ireland and the European Narcolepsy Alliance for Patients (eNAP).

Photo: A headshot of Sinead smiling for the camera. Sinead has long, straight hair and round glasses with red frames.Sinead Lynch

Hi, my name is Sinead and I’m a final year Psychology student in DCU’s online education programme.

I’ve been a class rep for the four years I’ve been at DCU. This year I’m also a Student Trainer for the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP), so I get to meet class reps and students all over Ireland.

I’m 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 I’m looking forward to working with lots of great people.

A headshot of Stephanie smiling for the camers. Stephanie has long, straight, blonde hair and is wearing a black jacket with large gold buttons.Stephanie Joyce 

Given Ireland’s increasing diversity Stephanie aspires to become an educator, actively working to improve the Irish education curriculum by making it more inclusive towards marginalized groups. Stephanie has worked in a wide range of educational settings to give her a deeper understanding of the many management systems and curricula across all levels of education throughout Europe, therefore, preparing her for postgraduate study. She has most recently worked with Quality and Qualifications Ireland as a Student Quality Assurance Reviewer, Specialist Support Advisor at Maynooth University College Connect, NStEP Student trainer, and a research assistant at Maynooth University.

Building on these experiences, in 2022, Stephanie is currently pursuing a Master of Education / Teaching credential program at The University of California, Berkeley. This Master's degree puts an emphasis on embarking on a continuous journey of naming and interrupting systems of oppression, including white supremacy, settler colonialism, patriarchy, ableism, and heteronormativity, and centering the knowledges, values, and experiences of marginalized communities.

A headshot of Darragh. Darragh is smiling for the camera, he has short, dark hair and he is wearing a navy shirtDarragh Kane O'Toole

My name is Darragh (he/him) I am postgraduate student at Trinity studying Applied social data-science. I have been involved in my community volunteering teaching a variety of classes since 2015 and during my undergraduate I was became involved in student advocacy as part of UCDSU where I was a class rep for 2 years and the disability campaigns officer for 1 year. While disability campaign coordinator I was on the neurodiversity and disability committee and was proud to be involved in UCDs first neurodiversity celebration week events. 

A headshot of Rachel. She is smiling, she has long, dark, wavy hair and is standing in a vibrant garden.Rachel 

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

A headshot of Victoria She is smiling, she has long, dark, straight hair and is wearing a pale pink top with intricate beading.Victoria 

My name is Maria Victoria, but people usually call me Victoria. I am currently studying Inclusive Education at Portobello Institute and plan to become a teacher in future.

I am passionate about equality and diversity. I am part of the NCBI youth forum and have worked alongside Jigsaw as part of their youth advocate panel.

I have joined the group as I believe it is important to have student’s voices and differing educational experiences heard. In working collaboratively as a group we can make the experience better for students beginning their third level journey.

A headshot of Cillian. He is wearing square glasses with black frames and there is a calm shoreline behind him. Cillian 

Cillian Mulraney (He/Him) is a graduate student at UCD pursuing a Masters in Common Law. His research interests include disability law and criminal justice. He is passionate about human rights issues and the intersection of different marginalised identities with forms of ableism. He hopes to pursue a legal career that incorporates his core values of empathy and inclusion in the future.

Cillian volunteers currently with the Community Mentoring program, helping to encourage prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue third-level education. He wants his own journey as a disabled, first-generation college student to inform the work he undertakes.

A Full body shot of Leesa. She is smiling for the camera, has long blonde hair and is in her wheelchair.Leesa Flynn 

My name is Leesa Flynn and I am a PME student in Maynooth University. I am a previous Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) Senator in Maynooth SU. As a wheelchair user, I feel like I can understand the internalised ableism that some students may experience, especially within the education system. I do a lot of disability advocacy online, and through this I strive to alleviate the stigma that surrounds disability, as well as highlight to students with disabilities that they should not be held back by their disabilities. I am also Co-Secretary for Disability Power Ireland.

A headshot of Chloe. She has shoulder-length, straight, brown, hair and is in a floral top with a garden scene in her background.Chloe Staunton 

My name is Chloe and I am the current Welfare & Equality Officer with Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU). I entered college in 2018 via DARE to study Business and Sociology. I previously served as TCDSU's part-time officer for students with disabilities also. As someone with invisible disabilities including mental health issues and significant ongoing illnesses, invisible disabilities are an area of personal interest to me. In the Advisory group, I hope to provide my own insight and help the campaign goals of AHEAD and USI in striving for an inclusive and diverse student experience for students with disabilities. I hope to not only continue having input in the realm of disabilities at college but also contribute to the national discussion in a meaningful and constructive way.

Catherine's Headshot. She has short, dark brown hair and there is a lake and greenery in the background. Catherine Gallagher 

Catherine is a PhD researcher in the School of Communications, DCU. Her main interests lie in journalism and political communication, where she is now researching the media response to COVID-19 in Ireland.

Catherine uses her personal experience and research interests to discuss and frame accessibility, language and understanding of disability. She is a member of several DPOs (Disabled Persons Organisations) such as Independent Living Movement Ireland and Disabled Women Ireland.

Earlier this year, new legislation dubbed ‘Catherine’s Law’ came into effect on foot of her campaign which highlighted barriers faced by disabled students accepting PhD scholarships.

A headshot of Danya Ateya. She is smiling for the camera, she has dark brown hair and is wearing deep pink lipstickDanya Ateya

Hi everyone! My name is Danya (she/her). I am a Masters student currently doing my MSc in Equality Studies. I have a strong passion for justice and equality: in particular, the rights of students, like myself, with disabilities.


I am delighted to be on this year's Students with Disabilities Advisory Group for AHEAD and USI, along with the brilliant and dedicated AHEAD and USI members to help build a better, more inclusive, and accessible future for disabled students in Ireland. 

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