AHEAD and the Union of Students in Ireland are happy to present the Power of Disability 2024: a conference for students and by students taking place February 7th and 8th.
This two-day online event will include discussions, presentations and feedback sessions encouraging students with disabilities to be leaders on their own campuses and will build practical skills on self-advocacy and constructive advocacy.
Day 1 of the conference will focus on the student voice including sessions on sharing what it's like to be disabled, with an introduction to the students with disabilities advisory group, and session about postgraduate experience and assistive technology.
Day 2 of the event focuses on student empowerment and advocacy. Getting involved in student politics, constructive advocacy and two legal sessions on knowing your rights as a disabled person both on a personal level, as well as an EU level.
Registration is free to attend, but registration is limited so you must book a spot in advance.
11:15 AM- 11:45 AM: Welcome and Introduction with the Students with Disabilities Advisory Group
11:45 AM- 12:35 PM: Diversity of Learners/ Social Engagement
- Dara Ryder, CEO, AHEAD
Dara Ryder CEO, AHEAD
Dara Ryder is Chief Executive Officer of AHEAD, having previously managed AHEAD’s digital presence and developed a suite of online CPD programmes relating to inclusive practice in his role as Digital Media and eLearning Manager there.
After graduating from Queens University in 2005, Dara joined Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education as a lecturer, where he became interested in inclusive education when working first-hand with students with disabilities in his classroom. When the opportunity arose in 2008, he joined AHEAD where he has been working ever since on creating inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities.
Dr Richard Healy Research and Policy Officer, AHEAD
Richard received has a PhD from Maynooth University. His research was informed by the current drug service user narrative in Ireland, primarily methadone maintenance treatment and he continues to advocate for the human rights of those who engage with Irish services. Most of this work is carried out with the Service User Rights in Action, a group of which Richard is a member. Richard works in AHEAD as Policy and Research Officer. He conducts research projects such as our annual participation rates data on students with disabilities engaged in disability support services and is responsible for writing policy submissions.
12:35 PM Small Comfort Break
13:00 PM-14:30 PM: Developing of a disabled postgraduate advocacy community
- Dr Vivian Rath, National Disabled Postgraduate Advisory Committee
Dr Vivian Rath National Disabled Postgraduate Advisory Committee
Vivian is the Organiser of the National Disabled Postgraduate Advisory Committee and the TCD Forum for Disabled Staff and Postgraduate Students. Vivian is an academic, a human and disability rights advocate and a change maker. He is currently an Adjunct Teaching Fellow in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) School of Education and the Research Officer with the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD). His Ph.D, titled the “social engagement experiences of disabled students in higher education in Ireland”, focused on the areas of disabled student social engagement, transitions, voice and belonging.
Alexa MacDermot Postgraduate student- UCD
Alexa will complete her Gender Studies MA in August 2024, and her thesis will examine the lived experiences of neurodivergent women in their personal relationships and in the workplace. She was given a positive autism assessment in February 2023 and is dedicated to exploring the impact of mid-life assessment on neurodivergent women. Alexa hosts The Neurogender Podcast that explores current research on neurodivergence, and is hoping to set up UCD's first Neurodiversity Society.
Sinead Lynch PhD Student- DCU
Sinead is a PhD student in DCU’s Institute of Education. She previously did an undergraduate Psychology degree in DCU as an online education student and was a class rep for four years. From this, she developed an interest in how students with disabilities manage the juggling of personal and professional lives required by online education and decided to research this in my PhD. She is really excited to be part of the AHEAD/USI Student Advisory Working Group and be part of advocating for a more inclusive higher education system, and is looking forward to working with lots of great people.
Sarah Anne Dudley Postgraduate student- UCD
Aoife Price Researcher on the Disability Advocacy Research in Europe (DARE project), European Disability Forum.
Aoife is an Early Stage Researcher on the Disability Advocacy Research in Europe (DARE), part of the Marie Sokolowski-Curie Actions, and working with the European Disability Forum for the duration of the project. She is a PhD candidate in Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She graduated with an MSc in Applied Social Research from Trinity College Dublin and a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Limerick. Prior to taking up her current role she worked in the area of youth mental health and led the national mental health project with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) which resulted in the publication of the USI National Report on Student Mental Health in Third Level Education.
14:30 PM- 15:40 PM: Lunch Break
15:45 PM-16:30 PM: Assistive Technology
- Steven Bradley, Student
Steven Bradley Student
Steven will complete his BA Arts in Community Development in May this year but hopes to progress to level 8 in September. Steven has a passion for assistive technology and he is doing his 3rd year dissertation on ‘Education to the labour market, A case study of the challenges, faced by the disabled adults’. Steven has a cerebral palsy diagnosis with hydrocephalus since birth and is dedicated to helping others with disabilities to improve their lives
16:30 PM- 17:00 PM: What's next? WAM
- Banba Fitzgerald, AHEAD- GetAHEAD Officer
Banba Fitzgerald AHEAD- GetAHEAD Officer
Banba Fitzgerald holds two first class honours degrees from University College Dublin including a BSc in Science and an MSc in Business & Biotherapeutics. She is very passionate about the healthcare and disability sectors and has personal experience with hidden disabilities. Her background has largely been in the pharmaceutical and medical communications industries with experience in a variety of areas including project and event management. At present, Banba is currently working in AHEAD as GetAHEAD Officer and is dedicated to making a meaningful difference in the disability community.
Philip Carroll AHEAD- WAM Project Officer
Philip joined the AHEAD team in 2022 and is working on The Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) Programme which aims to promote access to the employment for graduates with disabilities and build the capacity of employers to integrate disability into the mainstream workplace. Not only is Philip working on the WAM Programme, but he is also a former participant of the WAM Programme in 2018. Philip strives to use this unique perspective of the challenges faced by graduates with disabilities in the workplace, to offer support and guidance as they begin their respective careers.
11:15 AM- 12:15 PM: Student Feedback Session
- Caoimhe Cronin, AHEAD- Student Engagement Officer
Caoimhe Cronin AHEAD- Student Engagement Officer
Caoimhe is the Student Engagement Officer for AHEAD. Her role in AHEAD as the Student Engagement Officer is to coordinate and initiate student outreach to build a strong and thriving community of students with disabilities.
With her previous experience as Vice President and President of the NCAD Students' Union, she spearheaded the development and implementation of campaigns, policies, and initiatives to support students' welfare and engagement, including the Healthy Campus Initiative and the Period Poverty Campaign. She has also worked on nationwide student movement activities on behalf of the M.O. with over 1300 members. She has recently been diagnosed with a disability herself and is passionate about advocating and connecting with students with disabilities studying in both HEI's and FET's.
12:15 PM- 13:00 PM: Knowing your Rights
- Dr. Charles O'Mahony, Lecturer in Law at University of Galway
Dr. Charles O'Mahony Lecturer in Law at University of Galway
Charles joined the School of Law at the University of Galway in 2012 as a lecturer, later becoming the Head of School from 2017 to 2021. He earned a PhD from the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, University of Galway, focusing on 'Diversion: A Comparative Study of Law and Policy Relating to Defendants and Offenders with Mental Health Problems and Intellectual Disability.' During his career, Charles served as the President of the Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT) for two terms. Prior to his academic role, he worked as Amnesty International Ireland's Legal Officer, on its mental health campaign, and as a legal researcher for the Law Reform Commission of Ireland. His academic qualifications include an LLM from University College London, another LLM in Public Law from University of Galway, and a BA in Law and History, followed by a LLB from the University of Galway. He is part of the Crime, Punishment and Justice Research Cluster at the School of Law. Charles teaches modules on Health Law and Policy, Comparative Disability Law, and An Introduction to the Irish Legal System. Current research projects explore access to justice for persons with disabilities in Ireland, and human rights and mental health law reform.
13:00 PM - 14:00 PM: Lunch Break
14:00 PM- 15:00 PM: Getting involved in Student Politics (USI)
- James Curry, USI Vice President of Equality and Citizenship
James Curry USI Vice President of Equality and Citizenship
James Curry is the Vice President for Equality & Citizenship for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). He represents over a quarter of a million students in third level education under the remit of equality and citizenship which encompasses: race, gender, sexuality, disabilities and so much more.
15:00 PM- 16:00 PM: Constructive Advocacy
- Mr. Adam Harris, Founder and CEO of AsIAm Irelands Autism Charity
Mr. Adam Harris Founder and CEO of AsIAm Irelands Autism Charity
Adam set up AsIAm based on his own experiences growing up as a young autistic person in Ireland. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome from an early age, the condition was far less understood or even known as it is today. Having spent his initial school years within the special education stream, he moved to a mainstream school in Second Class and was supported by an SNA. Adam Harris is the Founder and CEO of AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity. Adam founded the organisation based on his own experiences growing up on the autism spectrum. Today, AsIAm provides support to the autism people and their families, advocates on behalf of the community, and works to support public and private sector organisations and communities in becoming inclusive and accessible. A Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awardee, Adam is a frequent contributor to media and conferences in Ireland and overseas. He has also sat and advised on many government consultative and policy committees on disability rights and inclusion. From Greystones in Co Wicklow, Adam was appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in July 2020.
Mr. Ken Kilbride CEO of ADHD Ireland
Ken Kilbride is the CEO at ADHD Ireland. Ken has over 25 years experience in senior management positions in a wide range of both very large and very small not for profit organisations in Ireland (drinkware.ie; Consumers Association; Fianna Fail). His role with ADHD Ireland is to enact the vision and strategy of the Board, and in the words of Captain James T Kirk take this ADHD organisation to where no ADHD organisation has ever been before.
16:00 PM- 16:45 PM: Disability Law in the EU
- Prof. Delia Ferri, Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology
Prof. Delia Ferri Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology
Delia Ferri is a Professor of Law at Maynooth University (MU) School of Law and Criminology, where she lectures primarily in the fields of EU law and International and European Disability Law and acts as Director of the Postgraduate Research (PhD) Programmes in Law. Since March 2020, she is the co-Director of the MU Assisting Living & Learning (ALL) Institute, an interdisciplinary research institute, which includes more than 120 researchers and academics from across several MU Departments and Schools, and promotes person-centred systems and evidence-based policies that empower people across their life course.
SUPPORTED BY the HEA
The core funding received by AHEAD for its higher education activities is provided by the Higher Education Authority.
Co-Secretary for Disability Power Ireland.
Leesa Flynn Co-Secretary for Disability Power Ireland.
Leesa Flynn is a newly qualified primary teacher, having qualified in Maynooth University in 2023. She is the first wheelchair user to complete this course. She previously served on the Maynooth Students’ Union Senate as Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) Senator from 2021-22. Having first-hand experience as a wheelchair/walking-frame user, Leesa feels as though she can relate to a lot of the common struggles students with disabilities face in the higher education system. Aside from her teaching career, Leesa is also a disability advocate, giving talks both online and in person. She is also Co-Secretary for Disability Power Ireland.
She has attended many Power of Disability conferences over the years, and she is so excited to be MCing this year’s one, alongside Caoimhe.
AHEAD- Student Engagement Officer