Minister Harris approves €5.4 million to help students with disabilities in higher education institutions

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 22 January, 2021

Books and money coins in the glass jar zoomed by the magnifying glass on blurred natural green background

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (January 22nd, 2021) approved a number of initiatives aimed at supporting students with disabilities to access and engage with higher education.

The initiatives, which involve 23 higher education institutions (HEI) and €5.4m in expenditure, are broad and are aimed at improving access to higher education for people with a disability, to improving college campuses and to assist staff with training and development.

 Among the projects are a number of projects for students with autism including the establishment of autism friendly rooms across nine different campuses, the development of assistive technology including for students with disabilities, an app to help students with visual or hearing impairment navigate their way around campus and specialist assistance for students who are deaf.

 Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “College can be an overwhelming experience but for people with disabilities, it can be extremely daunting.

 “These projects will make a transformational difference to people’s lives. For people with autism, there are autism-friendly rooms being established in nine colleges for when things get overwhelming. We are funding projects to make our colleges more accessible

 “We will also fund tactile wayfinding maps, loop systems for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Education is for everyone and people with disabilities need to be supported by their third level institutions

 “Importantly, we will use some of the funding for training staff and hiring new staff to help students with additional needs.”

 The initiatives will support the overall strategic development of disability services in higher education institutions.

 The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) aims to support students with a range of conditions and disabilities including sensory and physical disabilities, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism, mental health conditions and significant ongoing illness.

 The scope and reach of the FSD has changed significantly over the past twenty years. In 1999, it supported 300 students. By 2018/2019, the fund supported 13,000 students.

 Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive of the HEA, also welcomed the Minister’s announcement: “For many years now the FSD has been a key enabler in ensuring that students with disabilities can participate in higher education on an equal basis with their peers. It already provides funding that allow HEIs provide essential supports to students. The announcement today not only gives HEIs the opportunity to further develop and enhance these supports but also allows them to focus on the strategic development of disability supports and services. This is critical when we bear in mind the particular impact Covid-19 has had on vulnerable and disadvantaged learners and as we move to the development of next National Access Plan.”

Notes for Editor

These strategic initiatives involve 23 higher education institutions (HEI) and €5.4m in expenditure.


Higher Education Institution


Dublin City University

Universal Design & Inclusive Teaching practices – Creation of an Online Module (joint proposal with MIC)

Universal Design & Technology – Improving Accessibility

Universal Design & Physical Accessibility

Contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

National University of Ireland Galway

Embedding UDL

Accessible Campus

Assistive Technology (including contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

Fostering Mental Health & Well-being

Supporting Transitions

Trinity College Dublin

Sensory Processing Project

Inclusive Online Technology Project (including contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

Global Safety & Security Solution e.g. sensory assistance reporting

Physical Access Improvements

University College Cork

UDL Project Coordinator

Transitions in Canvas Module (virtual learning environment training)

UDL Modules

UDL Case Study Videos

Universal Design Champions

Postdoctoral Researcher

Accessibility add-on to Canvas

Upgrade Access Control to enable independent use by students with disabilities

Wayfinding (campus navigation for students with disabilities)

Sensory Spaces

Wheelchair accessible chemistry lab bench

Contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

Accessibility Guidelines and Checklist for Buildings in UCC

University College Dublin

Faculty development programme

Programme and module redesign

Technology-enhanced learning stage

Contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

University of Limerick

Strategic development of DSS student supports through an occupational therapy (OT) framework

Blended Learning Programme on AT, UDL and Accessibility in Higher Education

Captioning Outsourcing Project in Education (COPE) – Pilot

Exploring Best Practice for Hard of Hearing (HoH) students using technology in HE (joint project with TU Dublin)

Promoting Inclusive Mainstream Practice through the provision of Gaeilge and Irish English Text-To-Speech (TTS) resources (sectoral project led by UL and including DCU, NUIG, TCD, UCC, UCD, TU Dublin and MIC)

Developing a UL Universal Design Strategy

Maynooth University

Expand AT supports and build digital

Increase the accessibility of the virtual learning environment

Develop a UDL toolkit to guide inclusive teaching and learning practice

Technological University Dublin

High-Level Accessibility/Universal Design Audit

Wayfinding App

Universally Accessible/Inclusive Work and Social Spaces/ Energy/Napping Pods

Purchase of new and upgrade of AT

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Pilot Programme

‘Work in Mind’ Programme

TU Dublin Sensory Modulation Project including Project Manager

Sensory Project – Sensory App (joint project with TCD)

Contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

Pilot Hard of Hearing (HoH) Project (joint project with UL)

Athlone Institute of Technology

Upgrading and purchasing shared software and computing facilities

Learning support and AT training for students

Targeted ASD and mental health supports

UDL Symposium

TU Munster

Provision and mainstreaming of alternative formatting service

AT for Munster Technological University (MTU)

Developing accessibility and universal design of campuses

Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Mainstreaming AT supports

Mainstreaming student learning supports

Staff UDL investment

AT hardware

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Work Package 1: (A) Occupational Therapist Support Worker & (B) Autism-Friendly Sensory Pods

Work Package 2: Mental Health and Well-Being Learning Support Coordinators

Work Package 3: AT Support Coordinator

Work Package 4: Development Coordinator for UDL in GMIT

Miscellaneous: Equipment, licences, training

Institute of Technology Carlow

Autism Sensory Room

Implementing Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) standards across IT Carlow Learning Management System

Mobile technology supports for students with disabilities

Institute of Technology Sligo

AT service in collaboration with the current Disability & Learning support services

PC/laptop & relevant work materials

Letterkenny Institute of Technology

Skills for Study Software Package


Limerick Institute of Technology

UDL development project

Provision of additional highly focussed learning support for students with disabilities

Provision of relevant AT to students with the most severe need

Provision of expert AT training and support, with a focus on blended learning provision

Waterford Institute of Technology

Autism-friendly initiative to develop a sensory room

Enhancement of existing learning support services and upgrading of learning support and AT equipment

Development of Static Tactile Wayfinding Maps for the Blind/Visually Impaired

Mary Immaculate College

UDL Quiet Zone project

Partnerships for Digital Education Readiness

AT Room

Contribution to sectoral project led by UL)

Universal Design & Inclusive Teaching practices – Creation of an Online Module (joint proposal with DCU)

National College of Art and Design

Additional AT support hours

AT devices

AT software licencing

St Angela’s College

Installation of loop system for deaf and hard-of-hearing students

Accessibility audit

National College of Ireland

Sensory pod

ASD Training

Creating an autism-friendly environment in the library

Silvercloud license fee

UDL Audit and specialist

Shannon College

OCR Scanner

UDL expert

Student intern and other costs

Law Society of Ireland

Development of an AT loan service to students

Development of an access handbook





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