In March 2004, the Centre for Disability Studies University College Dublin launched a new course, Certificate in Citizenship and Advocacy, for students with an intellectual disability. The Centre has adopted a partnership model with the Disability Service and Adult Education and the UCD Departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Crop Science, Horticulture and Forestry, and service providers in the area of intellectual disabilities.
The aim of this initiative is:
- to develop a National University of Ireland Certificate in Citizenship and Advocacy for students with intellectual disabilities,
- to develop strategies in education aimed at increasing societal inclusion and participation of people with intellectual disabilities,
- to develop previously uncharted routes to third-level education for people with intellectual disabilities.
Modules offered are:
- Rights and responsibilities
- Active citizenship
- Communication skills
- Information technology
- Horticulture and environment
- Reflective learning.
Assessment is based on individual development and takes the following forms:
- Individual course plan (ICP)
- Continuous assessment – class participation
- Learning journal – encompassing all modules
- Oral examinations: problem-solving techniques
- Walk-and-talk presentations
- Practical demonstration
- The development of skills in self-advocacy and empowerment for students with an intellectual disability
- The transfer of knowledge on rights and advocacy to students
- Successful participants to be awarded an NUI Certificate
The course has begun on a strong footing, with 17 students (plus 5 supporters) registered for the pilot programme, experiencing student life in UCD for the first time. Students have come from Dublin, Cork, Offaly, Wexford and Westmeath. A number of service providers are represented, including Rehabcare, NTDI, St John of God Services, St Michael’s House Services and Stewarts Hospital Services Ltd.
Abilities vary greatly within the class; this has been a challenge, but it has also been a learning curve for the tutors, who have adapted their teaching strategies and assessment procedures accordingly. As a result of an identified need, an extra module in literacy skills was developed for those requiring such support. Links with local literacy agencies will be established before students complete the certificate in June.
This first course is being evaluated to inform future courses and a report will be shared with partners. There is already interest in the next intake (October 2004). Course convenor Anne O’Connor believes that the development of this Certificate Course is the first step to inclusive third-level education for all students. It is her desire that ‘students with an intellectual disability can attend ‘mainstream’ third-level courses alongside other students—similar to those in the ACE Programme at University of Prince Edward Island in Canada.’