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Posted: 14 March 2006

UCD wins award for leadership in disability studies

UCD has received an O2 Ability Award for its leadership position on disability. The Awards, now in their second year, reward organisations that recognise the contribution that people with disabilities make to business.

The award was possible due to the success of UCD’s Certificate in Citizenship and Advocacy for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, launched in 2004. The course is co-ordinated by Anne O’Connor (BSocSc, MSocSc), UCD Centre for Disability Studies. She explained that the course is a pioneering access programme that offers a truly educational experience to people of a wide range of abilities.

Anne O'Connor, Certificate Programme Director, UCD Centre for Disability Studies
Pictured: Anne O'Connor, Certificate Programme Director, UCD Centre for Disability Studies

“Winning an O2 Ability Award has provided this programme with national recognition for this unique opportunity for students with intellectual disabilities. This experience has far-reaching consequences, not only for the educational benefits but also for increasing the self-esteem and feelings of self-worth the students.”

The course, the first of its kind in Europe, has made UCD an international leader in disability studies. Trinity College has developed a similar opportunity as a result of the success of UCD’s programme, and interest from universities across Europe and North America has grown. Anne said that proposals are in place for staff exchanges to the UK, Belgium and the US.

The course allows students with an intellectual or other disability to participate in university life, as it entails enrolling in UCD and attending classes part-time for one year. It aims to inform students about their rights as Irish and European citizens, and to develop their communication and self-advocacy skills.

The course is run in conjunction with other UCD Schools, in order to provide the students with the opportunity and the facilities in which to study subjects such as Information Technology and Horticulture and Environment. Anne O’Connor is a frontline member of staff and tutors some of the modules on the course. The other tutors are teachers and service providers within the disability field.

Forty students have graduated with Certificates in Citizenship and Advocacy from the course so far. There are currently 23 students in Belfield, and 12 more taking part in a pilot course outsourced to Ennis, Co. Clare (in conjunction with the Brothers of Charity).

Anne O’Connor said about the course: “The Centre for Disability Studies recognises that this programme has the ability to transform into a far greater initiative, benefiting all students and staff at UCD – an opportunity that should not be allowed to pass.”

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