Friday 28 October 2016

Visually impaired graduate's calls out SNA cuts in inspirational message

David Kearns

Published 25/02/2016 | 09:23

Jessica Ní Mhaoláin gradating from UCC Credit: Facebook
Jessica Ní Mhaoláin gradating from UCC Credit: Facebook

An inspirational student with seriously impaired vision has written a touching Facebook post warning against cuts to Special Needs Assistants.

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Thousands have shared the remarkable post in support of 24-year-old Cork woman Jessica Ní Mhaoláin, who on Wednesday received a Masters in Government from University College Cork.

Writing hours before her graduation, Ms Ní Mhaoláin said until SNA were introduced, she “couldn’t learn like other kids…  [because] of my sight; I relied on sound alone.

“Every child has a right to education, and it's near impossible for a child to learn if they rely on sound alone.

She continued: “When I eventually got the invaluable resource of an SNA's help, I had the help to do things I couldn't; notes, explanations, descriptions of what was going on in class.

“Simply put, I would not have finished primary school without the help of my SNA. I definitely would not have sat either my Junior or Leaving Cert without an SNA. Having an SNA put me on a level playing field with my classmates, simple as.”

Tomorrow morning at 10am I will be conferred with a Masters in Government in UCC. This is my second conferring in two...

Posted by Jessica Ní Mhaoláin on Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The detailed post has already been share more than 6,000 times and has been liked some 27,000 times in the last 48 hours.

Ms Ní Mhaoláin was born with Oculocutaneous Albinism, which makes it difficult for her to see beyond five feet.

She also has nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes, which makes it difficult for her eyes to focus.

“Beyond five feet, life is a blur. Glasses don't help, laser won't improve my sight. On top of that, I struggle to focus.

“Imagine yourself sitting in a classroom, surrounded by other students and a teacher… relying only on sound to learn how to spell, add and subtract, read, and write.”

Speaking out against cuts to SNAs, Ms Ní Mhaoláin continues, saying she feels in a position to speak about the issue because she has required SNA help throughout her academic life.

“What is wrong with this society when it is deemed ok for a SENO or Department official to cut an SNA from a child for the sake of a financial bottom line?

“Because while I'm graduating tomorrow morning, there will be children and parents in Cork who were where my parents once were.

"And they will be wondering whether their child will achieve an education like I have, because an SNA and a chance to learn equally as others do has been taken away from them for the sake of saving money.”

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