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


The Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities 

The WAM programme at AHEAD are running a free training webinar aimed at current WAM employers and potential WAM employers. 

When: Wednesday 2nd June from 11.30am - 1.00pm

The WAM Programme is the transition to employment initiative of AHEAD. It offers graduates with disabilities the benefit of a minimum 6-month fully paid and mentored work internships with high profile employers. WAM was established in 2005 and, to date, have placed over 500 graduates with both private and public sector employers. 


People with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the workforce. In the 2016 Census, there were over 580,000 people with a disability of working age and only 22.3% of these were in employment compared to 53.4% of the overall population. This means, people with disabilities are less than half as likely to be in employment than those without a disability. The European Commission Country Report for Ireland 2019 found that Ireland has one of the lowest employment rates for people with disabilities and has one of the highest gaps between people with and without disabilities in employment.

So what can we do to improve Ireland’s low employment rate for people with disabilities?

It’s time to look at how hiring people with disabilities is not just preventing risk of poverty and generating tax revenue but also why and how hiring people with disabilities is good for your business! 

This webinar will be launching and highlighting the key findings of a recent national survey commissioned by AHEAD looking at employer attitudes to hiring and recruiting people with disabilities.

  • 83% of employers believe that hiring people with disabilities is of benefit to the organisation
  • However, only 54%  of employers offer disclosure during the recruitment process.

More findings and results will be highlighted during the webinar followed by Noel Joyce, an innovator and person with a disability and from WAM employer, Bank of Ireland, who became the first Irish business to gain ‘Disability Smart Standard’ accreditation.

 Speaker Information

Noel Joyce - Key Note

After a mountain biking accident confined him to a wheelchair and ended his career in the military  Noel Joyce returned to education to study Industrial Design in the Institute of Technology Carlow. While studying he and several other like minded designers established Designhub, a collaborative effort aimed at helping designers to get work or develop startups. As part of Designhubs efforts he started Applydea, creators of the worlds first magnetic stylus and breezy gardening, a gardening product company. 

Noel went on to help build HAX one of SOSVs startup accelerators based in China where he designed and developed over 250 hardware startups products, working in areas as varied as robotics, to consumer goods, to health and wellness products to industrial IOT and more. . He was active in this role for 8 years and has dealt with startups from all over the globe giving him a cultural insight into how to work with people from all walks of life. 

Noel has also spent some time lecturing. He has worked in Universities such as The university of Limerick, The National College of Art and Design, Singapore University of Technology and Design and most recently New York University Abu Dhabi delivering insight into Education around the subjects of entrepreneurship, design and innovation.

 A problem solver and maker at heart, he enjoys bringing new value to people’s lives through design. His experience of having lived life as an able-bodied individual and with a disability gives him a unique perspective on the design development of new ideas.

Alan Wright – Accessibility Optimisation Lead (Bank of Ireland)

With a focus on Accessibility and Disability inclusion, Alan leads the Bank of Ireland’s Inclusion and Diversity – Accessibility Network, to build an organisation representative of the society the Bank serves, designed to increase workforce diversity and to foster an inclusive employee experience and embed wellbeing and accessibility across every facet of the organisation.

Alan joined the Bank of Ireland Accessibility Network in February 2019 and in his time has led the Bank to achieve Bronze level of the Business Disability Forum’s, Disability Standard, becoming the first Irish organisation to achieve this accreditation as a ‘Disability Smart’ company.

Alan have introduced a number of initiatives such as a Reasonable Accommodations Passport & Guide to provide all colleagues with a clear understanding of the accommodations that can be made to reduce or remove barriers in the workplace to introducing the JAM Card to all BoI branches where over 2,000 frontline staff received training on dealing with customers with a communication barrier.

Dara Ryder - Chief Executive Officer 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.

Caroline McGrotty - Employment Manager, AHEAD

Caroline oversees AHEAD’s projects relating to the transition to employment for students and graduates with disabilities, namely GetAHEAD and The WAM Programme which is a work placement programme. Caroline holds qualifications in Deaf Studies, Irish Sign Language Teaching and Equality Studies. Caroline has over 14 years’ experience of working and volunteering within the disability sector and various organisations within the Deaf community where she is currently Chairperson of the Sign Language Interpreting Service funded by the Citizens Information Board

Watch back on this webinar

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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