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Students with disabilities say they need more time to finish courses

Pupils at school doing homework

Ireland – Third-level students with certain disabilities say they should not have to suffer financial penalties if they need extra time to complete a college course, and have called on the Government to facilitate them.

Currently students who do not complete 60 credits each year are deemed part-time and lose the SUSI grant covering the €3,000 annual registration fee and other maintenance. Students who use wheelchairs or have visual or hearing impairments have to balance their academic work with a range of additional challenges.

Vicky Matthew has been a wheelchair user for 12 years. But her disability is not stopping her from pursuing a degree in sport and business at IT Sligo. Vicky lives in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and travels to Sligo each day. She gets up at 6am and takes a wheelchair accessible bus, which she campaigned for, to college.

Vicky spends much of her day at the gym, learning to teach both able-bodied and disabled students. But the two-hour round trip to college and the challenges of campus life make her days longer and more tiring than for other students.

A personal assistant helps Vicky on days when she has swimming instruction or field trips.

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