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


Accessing Disability Support Services at Third level

Going to college can be a time of great opportunity and growth. It can be exciting, fun and life-changing. While it is an exciting time often students can find transition to third level difficult, stressful and students can worry about how to manage. Disability Support Services at third level institutions offer a range of supports to students from reasonable accommodations such as exam supports to supports relating to organisation, time management, assistive technology, personal assistance, wellbeing and study skills. If you are concerned or have any queries about specific supports, please contact the institution you are planning to attend they will be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.

Students can register with disability support services once they are offered a place on a course. Once contact is made with the service a needs assessment is usually carried out. This is an opportunity for students to discuss and decide what supports might work for them. It is important that students ask questions, outline their needs and are proactive if something is not working. For lots of students it can be their first time navigating supports within an education setting and so it is a good idea to prepare for the needs assessment by thinking about what you require, what technology you wish to utilise and what reasonable accommodations have worked for you in the past. It is often important for students to also think of supports that may be relevant to them for professional placements, work placements, or study abroad and Erasmus opportunities.

When I meet with students, we often talk about the new student role and responsibilities they are encountering. I think it is really important for students to engage with college life and I want students to understand that University literally and figuratively begins with yoU! Third level is not about other people it is about what you want to do, what you are passionate about and it is important to access the supports that will work for you. University ends with whY! I often ask students to start thinking about their why, why are they coming to college, what do you want to achieve? Often the answers can help students start thinking of the supports they may want to avail of and gives them a clear idea of what will work for them and what will not.  

We all need support in life and in college. Support can look different for everyone, for some students it may be academic support but for others it may be support around organisation, time management, transport or managing stress. I think it is important for students to know that supports are available and if you are unsure about accessing them ask questions, send an email, pick up the phone! There are people at all third-level institutions who are eager to assist you in whatever way they can. 

About the Author

Blog Author Caoilinn KennedyCaoilinn Kennedy has been the Student Support Officer for students with disabilities at the University of Limerick for over 5 years. In this blog, Caoilinn goes through a guide to what supports a disability office can offer students as well as an insight into what conversations she has with her students about engaging in student life. 

Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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