The Role of the Disability Officer and the Disability Service in Higher Ed in Ireland
The Inclusive Education Road Map is a series of outputs produced by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD), in collaboration with the Disability Advisers Working Network (DAWN). It brings together two years of research on the inclusion of students with disabilities in higher education and concludes that an inclusive approach based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles would provide an effective framework to include and improve the retention of, not only students with disabilities, but a diverse range of students including migrants, mature students, international students, and students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
This publication which is one output of the Road Map series, recognises that students with disabilities must be included in all aspects of college life, and while this activity is often negotiated by the staff of the Disability/Access Office, supporting these students is not just an activity exclusive to Disability Support Services. It is everyone’s job. The challenge is to recognise that collaboration is required across the whole college, along with the commitment of senior staff. While Disability Services have and will continue to provide an essential and unique service to students with disabilities, essential investment is needed across institutions to upskill all staff, such as staff working in admissions, librarians, academics and those involved with Erasmus initiatives, placement and careers. In order to make this happen the values of inclusion, embedded in Disability Support Services, need to be recognised and promoted across institutions, and the role of Disability Support Officers professionalised. The professionalisation of the role of Disability Support Officer is a step in facilitating their changing role on campus from one of supporting the student to one which also works collaboratively with staff across the campus to create a college that is fully inclusive.