When you have a disability you’re afraid that people won’t understand you, you won’t fit in, or you don’t belong
My name is Gillian and I’m a final year mature student in Maynooth University. I’m studying Social Policy and Sociology. I love college but education has been challenging for me. I have a visual impairment and this means that sometimes I need a walking cane; my coursework and reading materials are adapted; I use support software; and I have assistance in formatting assignments before submitting them. It can be exhausting and makes the learning journey difficult at times. I have to rely on other people and different support systems every step of the way. When you have a disability you’re afraid that people won’t understand you, you won’t fit in, or you don’t belong.
I went back after 10 years as a mature student
I went back after 10 years as a mature student with Pearse College of Further Education and completed their University Access QQI Level 5 programme.
In my first few weeks at Maynooth, I was really nervous. But the staff in the Access Office were amazing. They were welcoming and supportive, they fought to keep me in college, and they were there to help me overcome every barrier I faced. It was the Access Office and my family that got me through and I am so thankful to them for that support.
I hope that I can help other people with disabilities to take opportunities and face their fears
I’m now a Maynooth Access Programme Ambassador. I’ve just won a Student Recognition Award, and I’m a Student Orientation Leader. I am so proud to have come this far and I hope that I can help other people with disabilities to take opportunities and face their fears. Don’t let that voice in your head tell you ‘I’ve got a disability’ or I’m too old’: you can do it.
I met a young woman in first year who has a disability on campus recently. She told me that because she met me at the Open Day last year, she realised that she too could go to college. That felt amazing and it means so much that I am helping to pave the way for others. I want to be a trailblazer!
If you’re thinking of going to college or going back to education don’t let fear get in your way
If you’re thinking of going to college or going back to education, don’t let fear get in your way. You can do it. You will find your own community and your own friends. They might be in your class, through a programme like Access or in a college society. Don’t give up. If you don’t take the opportunities, you’ll never know what is out there for you and what you’re good at. You can help others in similar situations and pave the way forward.
Find out about education and training options by visiting www.onestepup.ie or calling the One Step Up Freephone helpline at 1800 303 696 or contact Sam O’Brien-Olinger, AONTAS Information and Policy Officer via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.