Monday 22 December 2014

Funding call to keep disabled in education

Published 13/03/2014 | 02:30

Kayleigh Twomey of An Gaelcholáiste Mhuire, Cork with special needs assistant Lorraine O'Sullivan. Picture:  Clare Keogh
Kayleigh Twomey of An Gaelcholáiste Mhuire, Cork with special needs assistant Lorraine O'Sullivan. Picture: Clare Keogh
Jessica Ní Mhaoláin with Frank Lennon, Sales Manager for Ash Technologies. Picture: Clare Keogh

THOUSANDS of disabled children will be prematurely forced out of the education system unless technology support grants are expanded to cope with a surging Irish population, it has been warned.

The Assistive Technology Scheme provides funding to schools to help purchase equipment for pupils with special educational needs, and who require specialist equipment to access the curriculum.

Two youngsters hailed as "education miracles" outlined how the high-tech learning aids helped transform their school careers.

Kayleigh Twomey (15) and Jessica Ni Mhaolain (22) spoke out after disabled rights campaigner and Leaving Cert student, Joanne O'Riordan (17), made headlines by personally warning Taoiseach Enda Kenny not to cut key support budgets.

Joanne – who was born without arms and legs – was invited to address the United Nations in New York. Following Joanne's campaign, disabled education budgets subsequently avoided the worst of the budget cutbacks.

Glanmire, Co Cork, teen Kayleigh is now studying for her Junior Cert despite the cerebral palsy which has left her a quadriplegic and unable to communicate verbally.

However, her educational experience at Gaelcolaiste Mhuire in Cork has been transformed by the provision of a laptop, an iPad and a computerised alphabet board. Jessica is now in her final year of a BA Science & Public Health at University College Cork (UCC) even though she has a severe visual impairment.

"The help I have received from the Disability Support Service in UCC has been incredible. But I know they can only continue their work with proper funding."

The students' comments came at a special assistive technology workshop in UCC.

Irish Independent

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