New research conducted by AHEAD into the numbers of students with disabilities in higher education has found that the number of blind/visually impaired students participating fell 10% year on year, the second consecutive yearly fall in numbers.
The report entitled Numbers of Students with Disabilities Studying in Higher Education in Ireland 2015/16 recommends that further investigation is needed into the barriers which are preventing these students progressing through second level education and having the same opportunities as other students to go on to higher education and build careers.
“Solid evidence is needed to inform decisions about improving the transition for these students from second level education to further and higher education” said Ann Heelan, Executive Director of AHEAD. “Previous AHEAD research indicates that the teaching maths to blind and visually impaired students has been neglected at second level, despite Maths being an enrty requirement for many college courses, particularly the STEM subjects linked to future employment opportunities. It also found that these students are 50% less likely to go on to higher education than their classmates and that is just not acceptable if we wish to call ourselves an equitable and fair nation.”
The wider picture shows that the number of students with disabilities in higher education overall rose 4% year on year and that this cohort now make up 5.2% of the total student population.
Other recommendations identified by the report are the need for colleges to take a cross campus approach to inclusion rather than relying solely on add-on support services and the need for the professional development of guidance counsellors at second level to build capacity to provide students with disabilities with well-informed, quality advice.
“The numbers show that despite almost half of students with disabilities having some disability related to reading and writing” Heelan noted, “there is still a propensity to gravitate towards the Arts and Humanities in proportionally much higher numbers than the general student population. Students need to be better informed by career guidance counsellors if they are to make sound choices and fulfil their ambitions”.
To read the report in full and get more information visit www.ahead.ie.