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INHEF Launch

Steering Group INHEF

(Back row: left to right) Dr Deirdre Corby [DCU], Dr Carmel Toff Andersen [DCU], Ms Martina Neylon [LIT], Dr Máire Leane [UCC], Ms Edel Lynn [AIT], Dr Orla Slattery [MIC], Dr Sinéad Foran [WIT], Ms Gina Grant [Donegal ETB Board Member]

(Front row: left to right) Trinity College Provost Patrick Prendergast, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Mr Stephen Lyons [Graduate TU Dublin], Mr Des Aston [TCD], Dr Anne O’Byrne [MIC], Prof. Michael Shevlin [TCD]

Mr Ciaran Bulman, Mr Stephen Lyons, Ms Elizebeth Lyons.

(Left to right) Mr Ciaran Bulman, Mr Stephen Lyons, Ms Elizabeth Lyons.

The Inclusive National Higher Education Forum [INHEF] was launched in Trinity College Dublin on Thursday, 10th October 2019. INHEF is Ireland’s first national forum dedicated to fostering a culture of inclusion amongst inclusive higher education providers by the development of post-secondary opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities.

A report, titled ‘Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities in the Republic of Ireland – A National Response’, was co-launched by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, alongside graduating digital media student from TU Dublin, Tallaght, Mr Stephen Lyons.

The INHEF notes that people with intellectual disabilities have been largely absent from higher education in Ireland, despite increasing numbers now attending mainstream secondary schools, which they argue has led to higher levels of underemployment and unemployment among this group.

In 2014 there were 16 such courses, running in 16 colleges throughout the country. However, by 2019 that number had fallen to just 10 inclusive education initiatives, catering for 106 students in total.

The report highlights a lack of funding for resources that support people with intellectual disabilities in accessing higher education. Transition pathways to post-secondary provision for these students are often ad-hoc and making the progression to post-school educational provision relies heavily on the capacity of families.

The report calls for a national response to support people with intellectual disabilities transitioning from secondary education into further and higher education or employment.

At the launch Minister Mitchell O’Connor stated: “The ten higher education institutions offering special options for people with intellectual disabilities are enriching the lives and prospects of students and their families. I look forward to future engagement with the Inclusive National Higher Education Forum on the report and its findings. I am very pleased that there has already been constructive discussions with officials from my Department and SOLAS.”

“For far too long, people with intellectual disabilities have been excluded from the same opportunities as their peers. We now have evidence they want to avail of the educational and employment opportunities that will enable them to lead independent lives” said Mr Des Aston, Chair of the Inclusive National Higher Education Forum and National and Schools Coordinator at Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He added, “Already, across Ireland, we have exemplars of how higher education can engage in enabling people with intellectual disabilities to achieve their lifelong goals.”

Mr Stephen Lyons who has recently achieved a level 8 minor award in digital media from TU Dublin, Tallaght spoke about his experience of going to college “I couldn’t get a job, all doors were closed, until I got through the door of college”. Mr Lyons spoke passionately encouraging other students with intellectual disabilities to advocate for the same opportunities as their peers. “You’re on your own journey but you have to go a bit of a distance, everybody is equal!”.

The vision of INHEF is to embed inclusive education initiatives and alternative access routes into the higher education landscape in the Republic of Ireland so that students with intellectual disabilities have meaningful post-secondary educational opportunities available to them. The INHEF are calling for partners in Government, higher and further education, and the employers’ community to help to achieve their goals.

INHEF have launched a new website which includes essential information on all 10 inclusive education initiatives that are accessible for students with intellectual disabilities across Ireland.

Contact details for INHEF are in the Contact Page of this website.

Stephen Lyons and 19 Stories of Social Inclusion

Stephen Lyons and 19 Stories of Social Inclusion

Stephen Lyons co-launched the Inclusive National Higher Education Forum in Trinity College on the 10th October 2019. Stephen started his presentation by telling the audience that when he was born, the doctor turned to his mother and said “one day he’ll be famous”. Stephen said that this was true as he has now graduated with a degree from Tallagh Institute of Technology. He studied Creative Digital Media there with the support of Ciarán from WALK.

At the launch Stephen spoke about his experiences in college and the value of a third level education to him. His story was previously documented in ’19 Stories of Social Inclusion’, a project funded by the National Disability Authority and managed by Trinity College and Inclusion Ireland. 

The stories capture the diverse ways that people with disabilities belong and contribute to their communities. 19 stories were chosen to highlight Article 19 of the UNCRPD, the right to live independently and be included in the community – a key underpinning of social inclusion for people with disabilities. 

You can see all 19 stories of social inclusion on Inclusion Ireland’s website.

You can also read the report on the project here, ‘19 Stories of Social Inclusion – Ireland: Stories of Belonging, Contributing an Connecting’

Campaigning for Human Rights and Equality

Course Name

Campaigning for Human Rights and Equality

Course Provider

Limerick Institute of Technology


Award Name: Certificate of Attendance

Attendance Options

1 day per week for 14 weeks


Moylish Limerick, Ennis and Thurles

Course Provider

Limerick Institute of Technology

Course Description

This course runs for 14 days including orientation and evaluation. There are 6 modules of 2 days each and the overall focus of the course is to identify an important issue central to the experience of the participants and to develop a campaign to progress change in this area.

Module Title: CRPD

This module is a detailed review of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the meaning of ratification and an extensive exploration of the meaning of the Optional Protocol. It looks at the Disability Act and the implementations necessary to ensure compliance with the CRPD. It will look at the obligations of the Irish Government and how its progress with implementation is monitored.

Module Title: Decision Making and Capacity

This module looks at how decisions are made, how they are supported and how participation in decision making is supported. It looks at the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act and what the meaning of capacity is in terms of students’ lives.

Module Title: Law and Policy

This module will look at the laws and policies that affect aspects of students’ lives. This will be driven by the issues students feel are the most important in their lives and how current laws discriminate against them. It will look at how laws and policy are changed and how to participate and influence change.

Module Title: Equality

This module explores the meaning of equality and discrimination. It looks at ways people with disabilities are discriminated against and what would need to change to ensure full inclusion. It specifically looks at the Equal Status Act 2000 and Equality Act 2004. Current research in this area will be reviewed.

Module Title: Government and National Organisation

This module looks at how local and national government works. It explores how individuals can become more effective and responsible citizens. It also looks at the important national organisations involved in influencing change in the areas of inclusion and equality. This module will assist learners to develop their knowledge of how democracy works and to encourage more effective participation as citizens. It looks at the Public Sector Duty and what organisations need to do to make sure that they are accessible and inclusive.

Module Title: Campaigning

This module explores what campaigns are and how an effective campaign works. It develops a process people can follow to establish, plan, lead and run a campaign through active participation. It will explore the use of various media and the involvement of influencers to affect a positive outcome. 

Who to Contact

Martina Neylon

Course Coordinator

Ability Programme DCU

Course Name


Course Provider

Dublin City University

Course Description

DCU Ability promotes the employability of young people (eighteen to twenty-nine) with disabilities to gain the skills, competencies and experiences needed to be career-ready, by creating meaningful and tailored pathways into education, training and work placements, using a person-centred approach.

Dublin City University are working in partnership with St Michael’s House, campus businesses and other disability service providers to harness their joint expertise, resources and facilities.

DCU Ability will support 100 young people and provide training programmes, career advice and occupational therapist support in the work placements. Bespoke personal development plans will enable these young people to transition from school to employment or education.

The programme works closely with companies who can offer a job placement, to give Ability students an experience of what it is like to be in the workplace.

DCU Ability is co-financed by the Irish Government and the ESF Programme for Employability Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.

Who to Contact

Mary Petrie

Programme Tutor

Learning Together Programme – Blanchardstown Campus

Course Name

Learning Together Programme

Course Provider

TU Dublin, Blanchardstown Campus


QQI Level 3

Attendance Options

Full time. 4 days per week. 2-year programme.

As this programme is a partnership with Avista, it is only open to students from this service.


Blanchardstown Campus

Awarding Body

Quality & Qualifications Ireland

Course Description

The programme aims to support students to explore their strengths and interests and to develop goals for their future.

By completing modules in personal development, work experience and career preparation students are prepared for employment and life after college. Students also complete a range of modules in creative arts, horticulture and sports where they are in class with undergraduate students from other programmes.  Students learn about communication, team working, personal and interpersonal skills, social skills, personal awareness, independence, the world of work, self-advocacy, and assertiveness skills.

Students are supported to take a full part in college life by joining various clubs and societies of interest to them. Graduates from the programme in recent years have been successful in attaining employment, others have completed further education.

Course Modules:
• Creative Studies
• Drama
• Art & Music
• Sports Coaching & Personal Training
• Horticulture
• Digital Media

Who to Contact

Photo of Deirdre Bonar from TUD

Deirdre Bonar

Lecturer and Programme Coordinator


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