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Disabilities should be highlighted

Tomorrow, Saturday January 22, Trinity College hosts its rescheduled open day from 10am to 2pm; its original open day scheduled for December 1 was cancelled because of the snow. An event guide, with a timetable of all talks, is available on the Trinity website, www.tcd.ie

Tomorrow also sees a series of HEAR and DARE advice clinics from 10am to 2pm in venues around the country: Cork (UCC's Kampus Kitchen); Dublin (the NCI, IFSC, Dublin 1); Donegal (Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey); Galway (the Arts Millennium Building in NUI Galway), Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co Kildare; Limerick (UL); Athlone (Athlone Institute of Technology) and finally in the Glencarn Hotel, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan. All details are available on www.accesscollege.ie

Q I am a little confused as to whether I should apply through DARE (the Disability Access Route to Education) or just tick the box relating to disability on the CAO application form.

A You should begin by ticking the box, or clicking the button on the online application.

For many years now, CAO has provided the opportunity for applicants to bring to the attention of higher education institutes any relevant difficulty or disability by ticking the appropriate box provided on the CAO application form.

Applicants are not obliged to disclose such details, but CAO encourages them to provide this information, and emphasises that the information will not adversely affect an application in any way.

As the CAO handbook explains, this allows HEIs to consider, in consultation with you, any specific support needs you may have in a higher education institution. If you do not wish to disclose your disability and/or specific learning difficulty on the application form, you may do so at any time on entering a Higher Education Institution and reasonable accommodation will be made at that stage if possible.

All students with a disability, irrespective of whether they come through DARE or not, are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level. Hundreds of students with a disability are studying in all faculties in universities and other colleges.

DARE is a more recent development of the disability entry routes. Each college or university taking part in the DARE scheme has allocated a limited number of places on a reduced-points basis for students entering through DARE.

If you are applying for the DARE scheme, as a first step you must tick the box on the CAO paper form or click the button online. You will then be required to fill out the various supplementary information forms (SIFs), as directed. Evidence is required confirming that your disability has had a significant impact on your educational performance, and you must also meet the minimum entry and subject requirements of the colleges or universities to which you are applying, and compete for one of the quota places based on your Leaving Certificate results.

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Last year, 1,650 offers were made to the DARE and HEAR schemes, out of 1,900 eligible applicants in HEAR and 931 eligible applicants in DARE. Many of those who were eligible on grounds of disability did better than expected in their Leaving Certificate and didn't need the points reduction, while others did not meet the minimum entry requirements for the courses they chose.

Anne Heelan, executive director of Association for Higher Education Access and Disability reminds applicants: "Not all colleges are part of DARE, especially the Institutes of Technology, yet many of these give consideration to students with disabilities in their entry process. Students should contact the college disability or access officer directly and ask about supports."

Even if students fail to get a place through the DARE quota on reduced points, the criteria for supports in college are much broader. So students should still tick the box, or click the online button to alert the college to their application.

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