Education is becoming much more inclusive of all different sections of society. For those with MS, many opportunities exist to take part in different forms of education. From a short-term course taken as a hobby, to a formal qualification leading to employment. Meaningful education can be sourced and supported through a variety of organisations and institutions.
While education is becoming more available, there are particular issues people with MS encounter while sourcing appropriate courses and colleges:
- Difficulty with access routes.
- Physical accessibility is the main concern as facilities in lecture halls, libraries can be limiting.
- Environmental concerns such as sound and heat can be also problematic for people with MS.
- Visual problems and fatigue can pose some obstacles.
Having the right information can ensure that students can make informed choices in selecting courses and colleges.
MS Ireland recommend visiting the AHEAD website to find comprehensive information on accessing third-level education routes and support.
If you’re seeking a college place and are living with MS, there are some helpful things to know including the disability section on the CAO form and information about the DARE scheme and other access routes.
Central Applications Office (CAO)
All students in Ireland who are applying to college use the CAO. Information on the CAO can be found here.
Students living with disabilities, including MS may have additional information requested as part of this process. Providing this additional information may help to ensure that your are able to access various supports that may be available.
There are specific sections of the CAO form which are relevant to people living with a disability, including MS. You do not have to tell the CAO or your college about your MS, but you may find it helpful to do so as it may help you to access supports that may be beneficial to you through your education.
Completing the sections of the CAO form that are relevant to people living with a disability, including MS, may be useful in helping you to in accessing the DARE scheme https://accesscollege.ie/dare/ . The DARE scheme is a third-level admissions scheme for students with disabilities which may have had a negative impact on their second-level education. It offers college places at reduced points. Further information on Dare eligibility can be found here.
Not all colleges take part in the DARE scheme. Some individual settings offer supplementary admissions routes. You should contact the individual colleges directly for information on each.
Access to supports may be important to people living with MS to facilitate their pursuit of third-level education. Supports offered from one university or institute of technology to another may differ, so it is recommended that you reach out to the setting you are interested in applying to or that you may already be engaged in to find out more about what services or supports they offer to students living with MS. Some of these supports may include:
Disability Support/Access Services: Most universities and institutes of technology in Ireland have a dedicated Disability or Access office. These offices may provide a range of supports including academic accommodations and assistive technology, to ensure that
students living with conditions, including MS can participate fully in their chosen courses. Click here to find out more about Disability/Access Services.
Academic Accommodations: The Disability/Access Office may be able to arrange for academic accommodations tailored to individual needs. These may include extra time for exams, alternative examination formats, note-takers, and accessible classroom materials.
Assistive Technology: Students with various conditions, including MS may be able to access assistive technology and software, such as screen readers.
Personal Support: Personal support workers or personal assistants can be provided to assist with physical tasks, mobility and general support during the academic year.
Accessible Facilities: Educational institutions are generally required to provide accessible facilities, including ramps, elevators etc., to ensure that students with mobility challenges can access the campus.
Financial Support: Some students with MS may be eligible for financial support, such as grants or allowances, to help cover the additional costs associated with their disability. Information on additional financial supports can be found later on this page.
Counselling and Wellbeing Services: Institutions often offer counselling services to help students manage the emotional and psychological challenges they face during their time in education.
The Higher Education Authority Fund for Students with Disabilities is available for students with a disability who require additional supports and services in further or higher education. To qualify you must be registered with a college and registered with the college’s Disability/Access Office. The Disability or Access Officer will carry out a needs assessment which will identify your support needs and then submit an application to the Fund for Students with Disabilities on your behalf. The types of supports available include sign language interpreters, personal assistants and assistive technology. The Disability/Access Office can also provide students with learning support. This service may include support with study skills, reading techniques, memory techniques, essay writing, time management and examination preparation. One to one tuition is also available in most Institutions for students who need it. Any funding allocated to you will be administered through the disability or access office in the college. No money will go directly to you and it cannot be used to cover other costs such as food, books, or study materials.
The Higher Education Authority’s Fund for Students with Disabilities is also available to students doing FETAC Level 5 or 6 courses. In this instance you should contact the Further Education College Principle who will apply on your behalf.
Social Welfare Payments for students with disability
Students may be eligible for a Disability Allowance and an SUSI Grant. Students in receipt of a social welfare payment such as a Disability Allowance may be able to transfer to the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). Students can work while on the scheme without affecting their payment. To avail of the Back to Education Scheme students must be registered on a full time course. Also to qualify for BTEA you must have been in receipt of Disability Allowance for the previous six months. If eligible, it is then a case of transferring from one payment to another.
For more information on student finance contact the Higher Education Authority by clicking here.
Information on the SUSI Grant, click here.