DARE or not, there are supports for all students if they want them
More than 4,500 students were deemed eligible to apply to the CAO this year using the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE), which facilitates entry on reduced points for a student who has one of a number of qualifying conditions/disabilities.
That figure is up by almost 5,000 on last year, which shows how many more students are availing of the opportunity to seek to minimise any disadvantage that they may feel they have suffered in their education arising from their condition/disability.
DARE assists students who may not have reached their full potential at Leaving Certificate as a result of their condition/disability, although colleges have a quota of places that they fill in this way.
So, for one reason or another, not every student who applies via DARE is successful in their application.
Some will have gained entry to college in the normal way, on the basis of their CAO points, while some DARE applicants may not get an offer.
A student who enters via DARE will automatically get support in college if they choose to accept it, and many institutions ensure that all DARE applicants are contacted by their disability office.
However, college supports are available to all students with a disability, whether they have been brought to the college's attention via the DARE route or not.
For example, many students with dyslexia do not qualify for DARE as they have worked hard and improved their literacy during their time at school.
However, if the student has a psychological report confirming a diagnosis of dyslexia, they will be able to receive dyslexia support, such as spelling and grammar waivers, or longer access to library materials.
Students can access these supports even if they have not been considered eligible for support during second level school.
Hopefully, any student who has any learning difficulty, on-going illness, mental health issue or any other type of disability - whether they applied for DARE or not - indicated this on their CAO form. This allows the college to contact these students to assist them with their needs.
Even if a student has not advised the college in advance, they can access support by contacting the student support or disability office.
Many students, both with and without a disability, find the transition to third level extremely challenging so being aware of what support is available and how to access is important for every first year.
The service offered is practical and confidential. Students should meet with a disability officers early in first year to explore what may be on offer. They are under no obligation to accept these supports but it is helpful to know what is available.