There are several support systems for students with disabilities who are undertaking courses at third level. Many third-level colleges have a disability or access service which is responsible for giving support and advice to students with disabilities - see 'How to apply' below.
The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) is a voluntary organisation that promotes the participation of students with disabilities in third-level education. The AHEAD website has a range of information about educational supports for students with disabilities at third level. It includes advice to students about how to deal with lectures and tutorials and how to use the library. There is information about admissions procedures, accommodation, student services and disability supports and services.
The AHEAD website also has a list of third-level disability services, as well as associations that could be of assistance to you.
If you have a disability, a specific learning difficulty or a significant ongoing illness, you can let the third-level institution know about it - either during the application process or at any time during your course - so that they can consider, in consultation with yourself, any specific support needs you may have in college. If you choose to give this information during the application process (though you are not obliged to do this) you should tick the relevant box on your application form to the Central Applications Office (CAO). Giving this information on the form will not adversely affect your application in any way. In fact, it is by ticking this box that you get the option of the Disability Access Route to Education - see below.
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) aims to improve access to college for school-leavers with a disability or specific learning difficulty by allocating a number of third-level places to them on a reduced points basis. To be eligible for the scheme you must provide evidence that your disability has affected your educational performance significantly – see ‘Supplementary Information Form’ below.
You must also be aged under 23 on 1 January 2014.
Each of the third-level colleges participating in the scheme has reserved a number of course places for school-leavers who are eligible for DARE. You can find details of the places available through DARE on the websites of the participating third-level colleges.
You apply for DARE through the Central Applications Office (CAO) – see ‘How to apply’ below. Once you have been accepted as eligible for DARE, you then compete for the reduced point places based on your Leaving Certificate results. A reduced point place means that you may get a place on a third-level course with fewer than the full CAO points. For example, if you are eligible for DARE and you get 430 Leaving Certificate points, you may be offered a place on a course that requires 470 points through the standard CAO procedure. However, you must meet the college matriculation requirements and any specific course entry requirements.
Whether you apply for college through DARE or through the standard CAO procedure, there is a range of supports for student with disabilities while they are at college. The supports available vary from college to college but may include: an orientation programme; study skills and extra tuition if required; access to assistive technology and training; mentoring.
To be eligible for DARE you must provide additional information on the Supplementary Information Form.
If you tick the box on the online CAO form that asks if you have a disability or specific learning difficulty, you will be directed to the online Supplementary Information Form. If you are making a paper application, you can request a paper version of the Supplementary Information Form.
The form has 3 sections as follows:
Supports for students with disabilities
If you have indicated on your CAO form that you have a disability or specific learning difficulty, the college's Disability Service will be informed as soon as you accept a place, and they will get in touch with you to work out what supports they can provide.
Even if you didn't tick this box on the CAO form, you can still access the available supports by contacting the college's Disability Service at any stage during your time in college.
DARE admission route
If you wish to apply for a college place under the DARE scheme you should apply through the Central Applications Office (CAO). When you are filling in the CAO form online you must complete the part of the form to say that you have a disability or specific learning difficulty. You will then be directed to the separate online Supplementary Information Form.
If you prefer, you can contact the CAO and ask for paper versions of the main form and the Supplementary Information Form.
Sections B and C can only be sent to the CAO in paper form. The CAO advises all students to get a certificate of posting when sending documents by post.
Key dates for 2014 applications using DARE
November 2013 - the online application facility for 2014 opens.
1 February 2014 - your main application (online or paper) must reach the CAO by 5.15 p.m.
1 March 2014 - the following 3 items must reach the CAO 5.15 p.m.
1 April 2014, the rest of the Supplementary Information Form must reach the CAO by 5.15 p.m. These are:
No applications will be accepted after these closing dates. The closing dates are very strict because DARE is an additional application procedure which needs extra processing time.
You will get a letter in late June 2014 (after the Leaving Certificate exam) telling you whether you are eligible for the DARE scheme. If you are told you are not eligible you can ask for your application to be reviewed. If you are not eligible for DARE you can still get into college if you meet the entry requirements for your chosen course.
The CAO helpline at (091) 509 800 can help you with your DARE application. You can find further information in this list of frequently asked questions on the Access College website. You can also contact the access services of the colleges participating in the DARE scheme.
The DARE programme runs nationwide information sessions for students and their parents/guardians to deal with queries about preparing the application.
You can download a detailed Application Guide (pdf) to help with your application.
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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.