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


Exhibition: Connected Voices in Learning

At our Universal Design for Learning symposium 2016,  AHEAD, in collaboration with the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, launched a brand new exhibition entitled Connected Voices in Learning. This Exhibition which will run at various events throughout 2016 and 2017, and aims to celebrate the huge diversity of people in our higher education system through the lens of universal design for learning (UDL) by examining the multitude of connections that exist between our leaders, our champions for change (student support staff) and most importantly, our learners.

Poem:  Here We Come 

Here we come, from all directions

like leaves on the wind in autumn

lone motes in the ebb and flow

of morning traffic.

Hopping off buses, jumping

out of our parents’ cars,

waving goodbye or just walking.

Some talking to others, most not,

this is the first day after all -

we don’t know anybody

and we’re trying to play it cool.

looking around at where we are

or staring down, at a map,

a timetable, a mobile phone.

Drawn towards the same place

with that name we’ve been savouring,

repeating to our parents,

our friends, to anyone who’ll listen.

This morning, we’re going to college.

College -

stepping into our tomorrow.

Weighed down with back packs,

folders, tablets, laptops,

pens, coffees, bottled water,

for some that’s plenty, maybe too much.

For others - that’s nothing, because

we’re carrying something else -

anxiety, or something bigger, maybe;

the hangover of a one night stand gone wrong,

an argument with a cheating lover,

a recent death in the family,

a problem with drink, or drugs, or both.

Or maybe we’ve once been told

that we’re simply the wrong sex,

the wrong religion, too old,

the wrong colour, not fit enough, disabled

in some way that didn’t make the grade before.

Maybe school just never felt right,

maybe this is our second try,

maybe that’s keeping us back all the time

holding us down, like chains or anchors.

Maybe we’re here, but ready to bolt

ready to throw it all away,

but we won’t, not yet.

In our hearts

we’ve stowed away hope

humanity’s oldest motivation

and like flames inside our ribcages

we hold our dreams,

some almost extinguished

some undiscovered like distant stars

and all we ask from you is that you see this

and give us a few things.


an environment that cares for

our minds, our bodies, our souls

somewhere to make friends.

A system of mentors we can trust

to turn up in both senses of the word.

To look for what we can’t see in ourselves.

Experts who are out there,

still learning themselves.

Eccentric, stern, passionate,

always inspiring us to work

harder than we want to

harder than we think we can.

And if you want to know

how hard it is for, just ask.

The best of you always do.

Give us these things

and we all become part of the plan.

A connected part of the whole.

Like the intricate parts of a watch

but less separate.

So much more than just one cog,

more like the people who invented the watch itself,

or tracked the sun through the sky,

plotted the cosmos or mapped

the soft machinery of the human heart.

Here we come, from all directions

like leaves on the wind in autumn

students who want to to stand

as graduates not just of a college

but of a way of life, a way of thinking,

a way of believing that anyone can be

the person they dream of being.

Our leaders in higher education have shone light on the inspirational words that have motivated their thinking with regard to the potential of higher education in Ireland.

Our champions for change have given us a window into their professional and personal lives through their intimate portraits, which share their proudest moments and personal passions.

Our learners have revealed the richness of their personal learning stories by contributing personally designed stamps and participating in the creation of an inspiring group poem.

Behind every student lies a personal story; a journey through an educational landscape that for some appear familiar and for others strange even foreign. This exhibition is both personal and public; unique but representative - of how our learners see their place in this interconnected web of experiences. Their individual voices tell of life stories shaped by circumstance, happenstance and opportunity.  Their words, images and designs expose their hearts and minds, a rich palette of artefacts symbolising the humanity of diversity - each unique but connected representing individual threads in a complex colourful pattern.

A postage stamp was once a key medium to connect individuals and their stories. It carried the power to transport your personal thoughts and feelings around the globe. The postal service was entrusted with this responsibility, a purveyor of your private communications who guided each unique letter through the great interconnected public communication network. In a sense it reminds us of our role - interconnected with each other to provide the guidance, support, direction and love to ensure that each learner arrives at their chosen destination.

Our artists and poets in 1916 were moved to act for the benefit of others; motivated by a vision for change that would cherish all our children equally. Words and images were a key weapon in changing hearts and minds.

Above all, this exhibition is about the unique qualities of people’s journeys – the inspirations, the barriers, the personalities - which help to shape our higher education ecosystem.

Organised and curated by AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access & Disability) and the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown.

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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