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


Top Tips for New College Students with Disabilities

Watch our Top 5 Tips video below or read the longer Top 10 Tips article beneath it. We've covered all the little things you might not think of!

Making the move to college

In the run up to the Leaving Cert, students tend not to think beyond the exam and don’t imagine what college life will be like. You may not know what is ahead and making the transition to a more independent learning environment, often away from home, can be daunting on a number of fronts. While the transition is something all students have to manage, students with disabilities may have some additional factors to consider. So here are our top ten tips for making the transition to third level a smooth one:

  1. Do your paperwork: Accept your offer, make sure you fulfill all registration requirements.
  2. Notify Social Welfare: Students in receipt of a social welfare payment must provide a certificate from the school/college in question confirming registration, commencement and attendance at the course, to their local social welfare office.
  3. Check out your financial entitlements: Students with disabilities may be entitled to the higher education maintenance grant. This grant is administered by SUSI to students who are studying fulltime in third level education, subject to a means test. Check out the student finance website or visit www.susi.ie.
  4. Contact Disability Support Service/ Access Office as soon as you are registered with the college. All supports/ accommodations are arranged through them. Things like assistive technology, note taking services, learning supports, all come through the Disability Office. Students attending a VEC need to contact the designated disability support person or the school Principal. You may not be aware what’s available, so do go talk to them and find out.
  5. Think about whether to disclose your disability or not. You may be afraid that this will go against you but this is simply not the case. Colleges are legally prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of disability and we advise you to link in with the appropriate support services at the start of the year so they can help you keep on track and not feel overwhelmed.
  6. Get involved! Don’t be shy, college life is not just about academia, it’s also about making new friends. In first few weeks no-one knows anyone else and the majority are in the same boat so join in, go to freshers week, join clubs. As a new student visit the college Students Union office and check out the events calendar. Most colleges have a range of student societies and clubs and joining one of these is a great way to meet people and make new friends.
  7. Arrange an orientation. This can be done via the Disability Support Office, or you can explore other options. Colleges can be extremely busy and crowded places so students with mobility or sensory impairments should arrange for an orientation prior to the start of term. This will enable them to become familiar with routes to and from lectures, the canteen, the library, the students union offices, etc. This will also give wheelchair users a chance to anticipate for and address any access issues they have before they start college.
  8. Sort somewhere to live. If your college is located far from home then you need to organise accommodation as soon as you receive an offer of a college place. Accommodation in or near universities and colleges is notoriously difficult to find once college starts and may require extensive search. If you require adapted accessible accommodation, this can be even more difficult to find so contact the Disability Office in your college for advice.
  9. Figure out how you’ll get to and from college. Can you access public transport or will you have to arrange an alternative, for example Vantastic, a door to door subsidized wheelchair accessible transport service for the Dublin area. There is a huge demand for this service, and others like it, so it is worth contacting them and making arrangements well before the start of the academic year.
  10. Enjoy it (and go to class!.....most of the time)

For further information about your entitlements to supports for students with disabilities in third level please contact us

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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