The fund for students with disabilities provides funding to students with disabilities attending courses in third level institutions and in post leaving certificate centres.
The purpose of the fund is to provide students with serious physical and-or sensory disabilities with grant assistance towards the cost of special equipment, special materials and technological aids, targeted transport services, personal assistants and sign language interpreters. The fund operates on a discretionary basis.
Applications were submitted to my Department in October 2003, together with relevant supporting documentation, for consideration for funding for the current academic year. Decisions on those applications were taken by an ad hoc advisory group which, in 2003, consisted of representatives of my Department, a representative from the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, AHEAD, and a representative from the recently established National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, within the Higher Education Authority.
The Deputy will, no doubt, be aware that one of the key recommendations of the report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education has now been implemented, namely, the establishment of the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education, national office, within the Higher Education Authority. The national office is now operational, taking over the administration of a number of access measures from the Department, including the fund for students with disabilities.
The student currently referred to was an applicant to the 2003 fund for students with disabilities. In this case it was considered that, while some assistance could be approved, insufficient documentation was supplied with the application in October last to approve all the supports requested. The student support unit of my Department advised the student in question that his application would be considered further in the event of more recent, relevant documentation being provided, through the disability officer in the third level institution attended by the student.
The disability officer in question has since provided further documentation and this has been forwarded to the national office for further consideration of the application.