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


AHEAD 2024 Panorama: Widening the Lens for Systemic Inclusion in Tertiary Education 

The rapidly growing diversity in our further education and training (FET) and higher education (HE) learner population has brought greater recognition of the need to ensure that ‘inclusion is everyone’s business’. A growing number of students with disabilities, greater ethnic and socio-economic diversity, and rising numbers of second language learners amongst, have further highlighted the complex and intersecting identities within our institutions. All staff have a part to play in ensuring we create programmes, services and environments which enable them to access, participate and flourish in all aspects of the educational experience.  

In an Irish context, important goals concerning disability inclusion and universal design are embedded in national FET and HE strategy, and evidence exists of significant engagement in professional development, (forthcoming, Healy et al.). 

But the same research highlights a lack of strategic focus on universal design at the institutional level, and challenges to creating implementation structures which support its sustainable application.  

This conference explores strategies and structures which sustainably embed universal design and disability-inclusive approaches in institutional policy and practice, embracing the ever-complex identities of all learners. The aim is to take a panoramic view of our institutional approaches to inclusion and create a space for reflection, networking and the broadening of our horizons. 

Drawing on the literature, we’ll be focussing on ideas and actions in four key pillars of our institutions (Burgstahler, 2009; Kelly and Padden, 2018), and how they interact and intertwine to create a more inclusive environment for our students: 

  • Teaching & Learning 

  • Supports, Services & Social Engagement 

  • Physical Environment 

  • Digital Environment 

The conference will take place hybrid (online and in-person) from March 20th - 21st  from Croke Park Conference Centre in Dublin, Ireland.

 We welcome submissions from staff and students working within and across the UD pillars on the following topics:

  • Strategic projects to embed universal design and/or disability-inclusive approaches in practice.  

  • Engaging leaders in the universal design agenda. 

  • Responding to diversity and intersectionality through inclusive new policy initiatives. 

  • Cross-institution structures and collaborations driving inclusion (e.g., committees, communities of practice). 

  • New innovations in individualised supports for learners with disabilities. 

  • Leveraging AI for the systemic inclusion of learners with disabilities. 

  • Tertiary partnerships promoting a shared understanding of universal design or disability-inclusive practice across FET and HE institutions. 

  • New research in the field of universal design or the inclusion of students with disabilities in tertiary education.  

how to submit to ahead 2024 panorama

Please send your completed submission forms to events@ahead.ie by 5pm November 22nd 2023.

Download the Submission Guide & Form

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The core funding received by AHEAD for its higher education activities is provided by the Higher Education Authority.

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The core funding received by AHEAD for its further education activities on fostering inclusion is provided by SOLAS.

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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