AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.

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Introducing Students with Disabilities Advisory Group

AHEAD and USI are delighted to introduce our newly formed, co-chaired, advisory group:

Students with Disabilities Advisory Group
A diverse group of students working to promote accessible and inclusive learning environments

The 8 enthusiastic and engaged members will inform the strategy and policy of AHEAD and USI concerning the inclusion of students with disabilities in Higher and Further Education. The group will bring a strong disabled student voice into FET and HE policy.

The group is co-chaired by Marie Lyons, Vice President for Equality and Citizenship at USI and Courtney McGrath, AHEAD Board Member.

Meet the Group Members

Alzbeta Jajdinova

My name is Alzbeta Hajdinova, I am a student at the Institute of Technology in Athlone doing my final year in BA (Hons) Business Psychology. I came to Ireland 13 years ago with my two children and husband. I have been gradually developing my skills in the English language, working as a cleaner and later as a care assistant. The health issues of fibromyalgia forced me to give up this physically hard job. I am hoping to use my academic knowledge and life experience in supporting students with similar problems so they can live satisfying professional and personal lives.

Charles Gallagher

My name is Charles Gallagher. I'm a 19 year old from Co.Donegal doing a PLC course in Marino College Of Further Education. I got involved in this group because i feel people with all types of disabilities need to have a voice and that the stigma around certain invisible disabilities need to be squashed. This year has been very hard for all those in Education but especially those even specific learning disabilities like Dyslexia or other disabilities like ADD/ADHD. I hope to ease this in the coming year for these students and other students with disabilities.

Aniyamuzaala James Rwampigi

Aniyamuzaala is a Part Time PhD Candidate at University College Dublin and a Humanitarian Action professional and Researcher on topics of Accessibility, Assistive technology, Disability Rights and Diversity Inclusion. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics Degree from Kyambogo University, Uganda and a Master of advanced studies in Humanitarian Action Degree from University of Geneva, Switzerland. He has a fellowship certificate in Human Rights from Columbia University, New York(2010). He is a user of Hearing Assistive technologies. James served as an advisor for UN Habitat Youth advisory board on issues of inclusion of youth with disabilities (2015-2017).

John Byrne

I am a 3rd-year Accounting student at Institute of Technology, Carlow. When I was 7 years old I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a disability affecting physical co-ordination. I was fortunate enough to receive a computer & extra classes with wonderful Special Needs Assistants throughout both primary & secondary school. I was incredibly lucky to have these supports. For too many students with disabilities in Ireland, these supports are simply not adequate. That is why I wanted to serve in the Students with Disabilities Advisory group, to promote an accessible and inclusive learning environment for all students with disabilities in Ireland.

Lauren McCauley

I’m Lauren and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at eighteen. I managed this condition throughout my undergraduate degree and graduated with a first-class honours BSc in Health and Society from DCU in 2019. My thesis looked at the issues faced by people with invisible disabilities and invisible chronic illnesses. I am a passionate MS advocate and have been involved with numerous awareness campaigns, articles, and fundraising events with MS Ireland. I have also been a patient advisor on several studies and reports concerning people with MS. At present, I am working as a PhD researcher in DCU looking at infection prevention and control in nursing care.

Michaela Waters

Michaela is currently studying Business and Accounting in Maynooth University. She is active in Maynooth’s Student’s Union and she is HEAR Senator in Student Senate 2020-21. Her lockdown achievement involves studying to be a Special Needs Assistant! She is an activist for young voices and believes in youth empowerment. She is passionate about the inclusion of students with disabilities within the student learning experience. She is delighted to be involved with the Advisory Group and looks forward to highlighting the student's voices, so they are able to thrive in an educational environment.

Saoirse Connolly

I am a final year BA student in NUI Galway who has been accepted into a Masters in International and comparative Disability Law and Policy also at NUIG. I am the chair and co-founder of Cumas Society, NUIG’s student led society for students with a disability. I am the head of the NUIG Student Union Disability Rights Officer’s crew and work closely with the Disability Rights Officer on various student led initiatives to make NUIG a more accessible place for all.

Victoria Matthews

Hi I’m Victoria Matthew from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. I’m studying Sport with Business at IT Sligo. I am an active disability advocate working both on campus and nationally on key campaigns to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in Ireland. I’m a founding member and chair of IT Sligo Disability and Inclusion Sports Club. I’m also involved in a number of organisations focussed on inclusion including a board member of Donegal Centre for Independent Living, member of Ahead/USI Disabled Students Advisory Group, member of Independent Living Movement Ireland and The European Network on Independent Living. I enjoy swimming and playing wheelchair basketball.

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