Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced the roll-out of the PATH 4 project provided under the National Access Plan that will support inclusive universally designed higher education environments as well as autistic students and students with an intellectual disability.
Funding of €3 million under Phase 1 of PATH 4 was provided to higher education institutions to implement universal design and inclusive practices on their campuses, and enhance opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities in higher education.
The Higher Education Authority has now allocated the funding which will be used in a range of projects and activities including:
- Development and implementation of universal design policies and practices across higher education institutions.
- Accessibility audits of built and digital spaces, as well as provision of quiet and sensory spaces with institutions working towards autism-friendly campuses.
- Digital accessibility of institutions’ websites and e-learning infrastructures.
- Staff and student universal design for learning (UDL) resources and curriculum development.
- Capacity building through CPD including training for UDL badge.
- Activities towards preparedness for the competitive funding call for new 3-year pathfinding pilot programmes/course provision for students with intellectual disabilities.
- Cross-sectoral activities such as the development of a National Charter for UD, Community of Practice and UD Symposium for Tertiary Education.
Speaking, Minister Harris said, “this is a really important investment in education, in access to education and inclusion. I want to thank all third level institutions for their leadership and vision in turning our plans into a reality.”
“While benefiting all students, it will be of particular benefit students with disabilities, including students with autism. It will improve access and make our campuses better places to be. It is just the start too. Later this year, we will issue a competitive funding call for new 3-year pathfinding pilot programmes/course provision for students with intellectual disabilities with a funding stream of €3 million a year over 3 years.”
Inclusion is one of the core strategic goals for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. A key ambition for the department is to ensure that we provide more opportunities in higher education for all reflecting the diversity of our population.
This means recognising the needs of vulnerable learners, people who are most marginalised and people with special and additional needs. It means assisting people in accessing and progressing through further education and training and higher education.
This important development will help to build on the existing but limited provision already available in higher education institutions for students with intellectual disabilities. These measures to be put in place under a new PATH Strand 4: Universal Design for All and Improving opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities to engage in Higher Education.
The Higher Education Authority and the National Disability Authority evaluated each of the projects under Phase 1 of PATH 4 and approved the release of funding.