Waterford Institute of Technology has been awarded €144,332 for initiatives aimed at supporting students with disabilities to access and engage with higher education, Fine Gael Senator John Cummins has said.
Senator Cummins said, “I am pleased that my colleague, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, has allocated funding across Higher Education Institutions for a broad range of initiatives and that WIT has been included to enable it to provide these much needed supports and facilities.
The projects at WIT will include:
An Autism Friendly initiative to develop a sensory room – €45,000
Enhancement of existing Learning Support Services and Upgrading of Learning Support and AT Equipment- €88,582
Development of Static Tactile Wayfinding Maps for Blind/Visually Impaired Persons - €15,750
“These projects 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. 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.
“Fine Gael has been determined to support the Higher and Further Education through the challenges of Covid-19, and to ensure that educational opportunities remain and are made more accessible to everyone, particularly the most vulnerable in our society, and I am delighted that WIT will benefit under this funding, Senator Cummins concluded.
Announcing the funding, 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 ones to help students with additional needs.”