DARE deadlines are looming, but you don’t have to be eligible to get supports in college
CAO applicants should have noticed that they were asked to declare if they have a disability or specific learning difficulty. Information provided in this section of the form allows higher education colleges to contact applicants to obtain further details about their needs and gives the institution the opportunity to advise individuals on the supports available to them during their studies.
Once an applicant indicates their disability through the CAO application, they will be given the opportunity to apply for the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) programme.
DARE offers successful applicants the opportunity to avail of reduced points entry to CAO courses. Colleges participating in the scheme reserve a certain number of places, for which eligible applicants compete.
However, it is important to realise that you don't have to be eligible for DARE to get supports in college.
Eligibility for DARE is based on both evidence of a disability and educational impact of this disability. DARE prioritises applicants who have a physical or sensory disability as well as those who are also eligible for the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme, which offers reduced-points entry and college support to school-leavers from backgrounds of socio economic disadvantage.
DARE will consider applications from people who have a significant ongoing illness, including diabetes, mental health issues, learning difficulties, sensory issues, mobility issues, autism, dyspraxia etc. While it is not essential for applicants with a disability to apply through DARE, if an applicant wishes to be considered, there is a timeline to be followed. Presuming a student has met the requirement to apply to the CAO by February 1, the next step is completion of the Supplementary Information Form (Section A) seeking details about the disability, how it impacted on their education and the supports received at second level. The deadline for this is March 1.
There are also two forms available for download on the CAO website (cao.ie), which must be filled out by relevant professionals. One is the Educational Impact Statement (Section B) to be completed by a learning support teacher, guidance counsellor, visiting teacher or year head, and the other, Evidence of Disability (Section C), should be completed by a health care professional. A list of appropriate professionals is available from the accesscollege.ie website.
These forms and any other paperwork requested, such as psychological assessments, GP or consultants' letters, should be forwarded to the CAO by April 1.
These take time to collect, and both schools and health care professionals can have a large number to complete at this time of year. Therefore, applicants must ensure they get the forms to the relevant people as early as possible. Further information on evidence of disabilities, age limits of reports and application procedures in general can be found at accesscollege.ie.
While many higher education institutions participate in DARE (list available on accesscollege.ie), some do not and these institutions tend to operate their own version of this programme. If a student intends to apply for a college that does not participate in DARE, it is important to contact the admissions office or disability support office to get more information on any access schemes that may be in place.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin.