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Learning Supports Available in College/FE

Application to Third Level

All colleges welcome applications from students with disabilities, and aim to achieve a situation where no student who would otherwise gain admission will be prevented from doing so by reason of disability.

The Disability Support Service in the college should be the first point of contact. This service can provide valuable information and support about application procedures and also advise on available supports within the college.

CAO Application

All applications to third level colleges are processed centrally through the CAO system, including those of students with disabilities such as dyslexia who may be seeking additional support or alternative entry.

A student’s disability should be noted when making application on the CAO form.  This notifies the colleges that the student is applying to, and gives them time to contact each student to find out what special requirements or considerations they may need.

In the case of students with dyslexia, the colleges (through the CAO) will ask the student to submit an up-to-date psycho-educational assessment report (not more than 3 years old) which illustrates their dyslexic profile and details their learning support requirements at third level.

Some colleges offer an alternative entry route called D.A.R.E., the Disability Access Route to Higher Education ( ). This is targeted to students with disabilities, including significant dyslexia.  Alternative entry can allow access to courses by students who would otherwise not have access. It recognises the impact of the disability on points, i.e. that the student with dyslexia may not reach the points required.  Through the alternative entry route, colleges can assess students’ suitability and aptitude for courses on an individual basis.  School leavers who wish to be considered for DARE must apply as part of their CAO application ( before February 1st.  They will be asked to complete a Supplementary Information Form.

Many students who applied to D.A.R.E. in previous years were ineligible because they failed to submit appropriate evidence of disability documentation. Further information on D.A.R.E. can be found on their website including details on criteria. Contact details for all the participating colleges are included on the website, and colleges are happy to be contacted to discuss any queries. D.A.R.E. is only about access to college, not about assessing what supports a student may get in college.

Exemptions from language entry requirements is covered in the Language subsection.

While some courses can only be accessed directly through a degree course entry (e.g. medicine), many others can be accessed through the P.L.C. to Diploma to Degree route. This ladder system may take a year or two more, but the end result is the same. A degree is a degree, and whether it takes 3, 4 or 5 years to achieve, the end result is the same.

Support While at Third Level

Most third level institutions now have Disability Support Services.  The activities of these services vary from college to college, but they generally provide information, act as advocates and organise the provision of necessary supports for students with disabilities.  They also have an important role in creating a higher awareness of the needs of students with disabilities among the teaching staff of the college, and generally making the college a more accessible place to students with disabilities.

The types of supports which can be available in third level colleges are:

  • Lectures – copies of lecture notes, note-taking tuition, note-taker.
  • Course Materials – assistive technology, extra tuition, reading strategies, memory techniques, etc.
  • Examinations – use of assistive technology, extra time, disregard spelling, exam preparation and exam techniques.

Once a student has been accepted into college, it is very important to meet with the Disability Support service as soon as possible, to ensure that supports are put in place.  Colleges have to apply for funding for some supports; if the funding deadline has been passed, then it is often not possible to apply until the following year.  Therefore, it is essential to meet with the Disability Support service early in September and discuss any needs the student may have.

Support Outside of College: Many colleges provide special tutorial support for students with dyslexia.  However, if this is not available in a college, some dyslexic students might organise some specialised private tuition outside of college.  DAI offers tuition to adults, including third level students, in reading, spelling, essay writing, study skills and examination techniques. This tuition is designed for people with dyslexia and is given by specifically trained private teachers. A fee is usually charged. This is not part of the adult literacy programme and meets a very different set of needs.

AHEAD, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability have lots of information and advice in relation to dyslexia and related disability issues at third level and work.
Tel. 01-7164396

Below are links to the Disability Support Services in some of the Irish universities and colleges.

TCD (Trinity College Dublin)

UCD (University College Dublin)

UCC (University College Cork)

NUI Galway

DCU (Dublin City University)

NCAD (National College of Art and Design)

DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology)

IT Tallaght

Waterford IT

NCI (National College of Ireland)

Recommended Books

Dyslexia: Surviving and Succeeding at College by Sylvia Moody. ISBN: 978-0415430593.

Managing Dyslexia at University: A Resource for Students, Academic and Support Staff. ISBN: 978-1843123415.

Studying with Dyslexia. ISBN: 978-0749229184.

Dyslexia-Friendly Further and Higher Education. ISBN: 978-1847875860.

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DAI activities are part-funded by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 administered by Pobal), the Special Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS and KWETB.