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


The John Kelly Award for UDL in Further & Higher Education

What ARE the John Kelly AwardS?

The John Kelly Awards for Universal Design in Further and Higher Education recognise the innovative practice of teaching staff in further and higher education engaging with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to deliver a more inclusive learning experience for their students. The award aims to celebrate and promote the use of UDL in further education and higher education settings.

Applications are now open for the 2024 John Kelly Awards for Universal Design! The Awards celebrate individuals and organisations who are engaging in innovative and excellent practice using the Universal Design for Learning framework and delivering a more inclusive learning experience for their learners across the Irish tertiary landscape. The Awards are a collaboration between UCD and ourselves, AHEAD.

There are two categories of award:

Individual: this is targeted at practitioners who have demonstrated their commitment to UDL by undertaking the Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning and making exciting changes to their practice above and beyond their initial redesign.

UDL in Collaboration (Institutions): for Higher Education Institutions or Further Education & Training Colleges that are developing a systematic approach to embedding UDL into their institutional/organisational culture, practices, structures, and policies and create more inclusive learning environments and communities.

Applications for both categories are now open until April 21st. Apply now for the John Kelly Awards!

The awards are named after the late Professor John Kelly, former Registrar of UCD and founding Chair of AHEAD in recognition of his pioneering work. John sadly passed away last year. We were delighted that he could address the audience in person at the awards final in October 2022.

Apply now for the John Kelly Awards!

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2023 John Kelly Awards!

Shortlisted finalists 2023

Further Education and Training

Higher Education

Keynote Presentation: Sustaining Momentum in Universal Design in Tertiary Education from Dr Loui Lord Nelson

See Loui's keynote slides.


 Background on the UDL Badge 

As part of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning's open access digital badge initiative, AHEAD and UCD Access & Lifelong Learning teamed up to create the digital badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning.

In short, together we designed instructions and learning materials for a short introductory professional development course on universal design for learning and in partnership with the Forum, made these materials freely available to institutions interested in rolling it out locally by suitable course facilitators.

Every participant who completes the course makes real change to their practice and receives the Forum's Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning in recognition of their work. You can find out more information about the digital badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning here.

 The Story of the John Kelly Awards

In 2018, AHEAD celebrated 30 years of shaping a future where students with disabilities can succeed. The origins of the organisation start in University College Dublin in 1988 when then Registrar Prof. John Kelly decided to do something about the challenges facing students with disabilities in his institution. Prof. Kelly led a movement right from the beginning which developed into the founding of AHEAD and he remained central to the organisation as Chair of the Board of AHEAD until 2005. In 2019, AHEAD launched the John Kelly Award for Universal Design in Teaching and Learning in honour of his work in the field. In 2022, the awards have been redeveloped to serve a wider cohort of the UDL community and to allow for further categories to be developed over time.  For more about this history of AHEAD, click here to read our story.

Prof. John Kelly celebrates AHEAD's 30th birthday with AHEAD Director Ann Heelan and the rest of the AHEAD team

 How it Works 

Once the submission date has passed, initial screening will be conducted by AHEAD and UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. A panel of international experts will review each application and score based on the rubrics. The three applications per category with the highest score will be shortlisted. Feedback will be provided to all applicants.

To be eligible to win the overall prize, shortlisted applicants must give a short presentation as part of the John Kelly Awards Final Ceremony in late 2024. An expert judging panel in attendance will then meet behind closed doors to discuss the presentations of the shortlist and select overall winners, which will be announced at the event.

Apply now for the John Kelly Awards!

In partnership with UCD 

This initiative is delivered by AHEAD and UCD as part of key strategic partnership to promote universal design in further and higher education

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Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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