Trinity’s University Council has approved a new policy to improve implementation of Reasonable Accommodations for students with disabilities studying at Trinity. Reasonable Accommodations are defined as “any action that helps to alleviate a substantial disadvantage due to a disability and/or a significant ongoing illness”.
The new policy and code of practice will streamline the current procedures for putting teaching, learning and exam accommodations in place for students who are registered with the Disability Service. Reasonable Accommodations vary depending on the needs of a student, their disability type, and course-requirements but may include supports such as additional time in examinations, special library borrowing privileges, use of assistive technologies for notetaking or learning, Irish Sign Language interpreting, or course materials in alternative/ accessible formats.
Commenting on the changes, the Director of the Disability Service, Declan Treanor said: “These documents provide clarity on defining what Reasonable Accommodations are and Trinity’s statutory responsibility to ensure our teaching, learning, and assessment practices are accessible to students with disabilities.”
The Disability Service have also begun developing technological solutions to support these changes. From the 2018/19 academic year, the relevant staff in Schools and the Academic Registry will be able to access information on students with disabilities directly through my.tcd.ie. Treanor noted that this will improve student support and academic outcomes through increased efficiency:“Ensuring a quicker turnaround in communicating and implementing Reasonable Accommodations through specified turnaround times and direct reporting.”
Both of Trinity’s student unions have been supportive of this policy throughout the development process. Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) Education Officer, Alice MacPherson commented: “This policy is an incredibly positive step. It is wonderful to see that Trinity is taking responsibility for students with disabilities and committing to enhancing their student experience. It is now crucial that the policy is implemented locally to ensure its success.”
Speaking of the impact of these changes on students, Treanor stated that: “These changes are designed to make things easier and quicker for students with disabilities seeking support in Trinity to get the Reasonable Accommodations they need. There will be no changes to the current confidentiality of student information. The privacy of individual new and continuing students will be kept the same—only the relevant staff who need to know a student’s accommodation will be told, and, as always, this will only be done with the student’s consent. We will be contacting the students currently registered with us via email to explain the changes in detail but any student with a particular concern or question about these changes can email their Disability Officer in confidence.”
The new Reasonable Accommodations policy applies to all students, including postgraduates. Welcoming these improvements on behalf of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), President Shane Collins said that: “In dealing with research students, the policy presents an understanding of how accommodations, particularly non-standard reasonable accommodations, are quite different to that of the larger student populace which is both welcomed and essential.”
The number of students registered with disabilities has grown significantly since the Disability Service was established. The Trinity Disability Service was established in 2000, with over 1400 students currently, representing about 8% of the total student population.
According to the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, Trinity had the largest cohort of students registered with a disability of any higher education institution in Ireland in 2015/2016.