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


Accessing College FAQs

We've gathered together answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we receive through our helpline below but if you've got a query not addressed on this website, just get in touch - we are happy to help.

Click the questions below to have the answers drop down.

 I have a disability. What’s different for me in terms of getting to college?

In reality, not a lot.

Try not to let your disability hinder your subject choice – like all students you should be looking at what you’re interested in and what is realistic given the number of points you expect to receive.

There are some extra things to think about though and we cover all the key ones on this website.

 Do I have to do anything different when applying to college?

The application process is the same for students with disabilities as it is for any other students with one exception. The CAO application has a question which directly asks ‘Do you have a disability or specific learning difficulty?’ This question is asked for two reasons. One is to notify prospective colleges that you may need support if you are selected, enabling the college to make preparations for your arrival. The second reason is that many colleges run supplementary entry schemes which may enable you to gain entry to a course below the standard CAO points requirement due to the impact of your disability on your education to date. A number of colleges have come together to offer a standardised supplementary entry scheme you may have heard of called DARE. It is important to know that just because a college isn’t involved in DARE, it doesn’t mean that they do not run a supplementary scheme. To find out more about how to apply for DARE and other colleges that have such an entry route, click here.

If you tick ‘yes’ to the CAO disability question then you need to provide further details on the ‘Supplementary Information Form’ (SIF), a part of the online application. These details include the category of disability you have, the types of supports you receive in school (if any), and the completion of a personal statement in which you explain the impact your disability has had on your education to date, for example if you’ve missed time in school due to illness or if you have a print disability that means you digest information slower than others. There are additional requirements if you wish to apply for DARE. For more on completing the CAO, click here and for more on DARE, click here.

 Should I disclose my disability to a prospective college on the CAO?

In short, yes. The first thing to say is that under legislation, colleges are prohibited from discriminating against you due to your disability, so they cannot deem you ineligible because of this – if you get the points, you get the place.

Secondly, if you don’t disclose your disability, you will not be able to get support from the college. The nature of supports available depends on the type of disability you have but they could range from extra time in exams, to assistive software, to notes being taken in lectures for you by a professional note taker. These supports can be an essential ingredient in having a successful college experience and can make your life a whole lot easier. For more about these supports, click here.

Lastly, if you do not disclose your disability, you will rule yourself out of any supplementary entry schemes. Some colleges run these schemes which allow for the possibility of reduced points entry based on the impact of your disability on your education to date.

 Do I need to prove my disability and if so, how?

Yes, you will need to provide evidence of your disability to apply for any supplementary entry scheme (e.g. DARE) and to get support when you arrive in college. This evidence usually takes the form of a report from a relevant medical professional. Criteria on what type of report you need to provide and how recent it needs to be varies by disability (e.g. Dyslexic students must provide an Educational Psychologists Report less than 3 years old on Feb 1st). You can find out what type of report you need to submit for DARE by visiting clicking here.

 Is there funding out there specifically for students with disabilities?

There is funding available at third level specifically for students with disabilities but it is only to fund educational supports and the college receives the funding and puts supports in place on the student’s behalf. So, if for example a student requires a piece of assistive software, the college will apply to the Fund for Students with Disabilities on the student’s behalf, then buy the software and deliver it to the student.

Apart from that, like all students, those with disabilities studying in full time plc/undergraduate courses can apply for funding to help with fees and living costs through SUSI. This funding is called the Student Grant and is means tested. For more information about the Student Grant and how to apply, click here.

 What about part time study? Can I get funding?

Unfortunately, students studying part time are not eligible to apply for the Student Grant.

The Minister’s Fund for Students with Disabilities which funds educational supports is also not available to colleges to support part time students. In strict legal terms the college is required to support you regardless but in practical terms students with disabilities on part time courses are often offered the bare minimum of support. 

 What kinds of services are available in college?

The good news is that the supports offered in third level are generally much better than those in second level. All universities and ITs are required by law to have at least 1 person responsible for administering supports to students with disabilities and the larger institutions have quite large teams located in a Disability or Access Office. There is also a raft of other support services for all students which are available in college for example the counselling and medical services.

For more information about arriving in college and what services are available, visit our I’m in College section.

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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