AHEAD uses cookies to give you the best experience on our websites. By using this site you agree to our use of cookies as described in this Privacy Policy. Remove this message.
AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.

Text Size


AHEAD Conference 2021: Call for Papers


"At its core, teaching is emotional work."


– Dr David Rose

What: AHEAD’s annual international conference focussed on topics of inclusive practice and universal design in FET and higher education

Title of Conference: 'Reconnection: Placing Inclusion at the heart of online learning and support'

How: 100% online - Live weekly sessions every Friday supplemented by pre-recorded ‘anytime’ sessions and other opportunities for online engagement

When: 9th April-7th May 2021 - Taking place over 5 weeks (live sessions taking place every Thursday and Friday afternoon with pre-recorded content in between)

How much: €75 for members of AHEAD, €150 for non-members, students in FET or HE in Ireland can enter free of charge. All selected contributors will receive 10% discount.

Of interest to: Teaching and learning staff, disability support professionals, senior leadership and all staff working to deliver higher education and further education and training. Policy makers in education are also very welcome.

The pandemic has changed how we go about living, working and learning, and technology is playing an ever-increasing role in our everyday lives. The shift towards hybrid/online learning and support has made us challenge the boundaries of what is possible in further education and training and higher education settings. 

For all of us, staff and students alike, the pandemic means one thing for sure – fewer physical connections and a greater distance between us. That means fewer opportunities for chats with friends in the canteen to share problems, fewer chances to ask for or offer friendly support and big challenges for educators in building the emotional connection between them and their students that drives quality education.

This conference will explore how we can provide those connections in virtual environments and offer a high-quality educational experience by placing inclusion of staff and students at the heart of approaches to online teaching, learning and support. It will highlight innovative practice developed before and during the pandemic and look at how whole-college, universally designed, approaches to digital inclusion can provide a richer online learning experience for all students.

Register to Attend Conference 2021

Complete the Online submission form by 6th November 2020 to be considered for selection. AHEAD has also produced a Conference Submission Guide to support you with your proposal which includes key criteria for submissions and an estimated timeline for the submission process. If you would like to collaborate with co-contributor on content for the submission form you can use The Conference Submission Form Template to gather information however all submissions must be filled in via the online submission form.

Conference Submission Form

Conference Submission Guide

This online event will take place online over 5 weeks, each week with a focussed theme (outlined below) and we invite you to submit a proposal to share your research and good practice under these themes.


 "Welcome Everybody!"- Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the online classroom

The quick move to online and hybrid learning has resulted in huge challenges for educators over the last few months, with many thrown into remote learning with very little time to reflect and plan, all while supporting their students. This theme explores how educators can include all students, in particular those with disabilities, in the delivery of teaching and learning online and offer rich, accessible and engaging learning experiences that build meaningful learning connections between staff and students.

While not limited to this list, examples of the types of work that could be presented by students or educators under this theme could include:

  • Great practical examples of applying UDL in online settings – offering voice and choice in remote learning and assessment. How Technology enhanced learning can support inclusion.
  • Contributions from Students with Disabilities on their experiences of remote learning, positives and challenges faces – advice for educators from ‘the experts’
  • Research relating to inclusive pedagogy online or the application of UDL
  • Great examples of accessibility practices in online teaching delivery

Likely to be of interest to: Teachers, academics, teaching and learning staff, researchers and students 

 “I Did it My Way!”- Assistive Technology & Customised Learning

Remote learning has brought a mix of new opportunities and barriers for students with disabilities in accessing education like never before. But more and more, students are understanding how they can use both mainstream and assistive technologies to customise and streamline their learning experience, giving them more control, independence and agency.

Equally, educators are understanding the importance of promoting good tech use by students within their programmes and realising the part they have to play in providing materials which students can engage with successfully using their own technologies.

While not limited to this list, examples of the types of work that could be presented by students or educators under this theme could include:

  • Examples of projects and practice that promote inclusive tech use by students
  • Explorations of how mainstream technologies are playing a bigger and bigger part in providing learners with control over how they experience learning
  • Research relating to assistive technology use, importance during Covid-19 etc.
  • Contributions from Students with Disabilities on how they use assistive technologies and advice for educators from ‘the experts’ on how they can support this use through accessible practice

Likely to be of interest to: Students, assistive technology officers, FET staff, researchers 

 "What Can I Do for You?" Disability Support in Online Learning

The process of assessing the needs of students with disabilities and identifying appropriate supports largely looks at the overlap between the impact of disability and the demands of the course/environment. Since the pandemic, the latter has shifted significantly as we move towards online and hybrid approaches.

Facing into this reality, disability support staff, in conjunction with students and other colleagues, are creating dynamic and innovative new practices and initiatives that embrace modern technology. As we look toward a sustainable future for our students with disabilities, one that has them at the centre, now is an opportunity to share some of the innovative practices and projects that have embedded inclusion and the lessons learned which the sector needs to hold on to.

While not limited to this list, examples of the types of work that could be presented by students or educators under this theme could include:

  • Innovations in online needs assessment and support service delivery that support inclusion – here to stay?
  • New specific practice in providing reasonable accommodations in online environments for particular target groups (e.g. students who are hard of hearing)
  • Research on disability support in online environments
  • Examples of disability support service led projects which promote good inclusive practice across campus – how academics play their part in applying reasonable accommodations
  • Examples of disability support professionals engaging and involving students with disabilities in the design and delivery on their service

Likely to be of interest to: Disability support staff, access officers, SEN teachers in FET, students

 “Home Sweet Home!” College Wide Approaches that Support Inclusion for All in the Digital World

The swift move to remote and hybrid learning has magnified significant challenges that already existed around student access to online environments and accessibility of online teaching tools, materials and practices. The importance accessible digital infrastructure and staff awareness on how to apply inclusive practice and accessibility principles within their own remit is essential to delivering a quality experience fort student with disabilities.

With new legislation on the horizon in Ireland’s imminent transposition of the EU Web Accessibility Directive, this theme explores approaches that seek to embed inclusion and digital accessibility practices in the fabric of the college/centre through the implementation of college-wide policy, the featuring of accessibility and inclusion pointers in all staff guidance, the development college campaigns and toolkits, and wide scale professional development programmes relating to inclusion. It explores work that seeks to build a culture where inclusion is everyone’s business.

While not limited to this list, examples of the types of work that could be presented by students or educators under this theme could include:

  • Projects that take a whole college approach to ensuring digital accessibility and implementing Universal Design and/or UDL
  • Projects promoting digital accessibility or good inclusive practice in individual student services or student unions (e.g. library service, careers service, clubs and societies)
  • Exploring the importance of disability/access support professionals being ‘at the table’ in institutional pandemic response planning
  • Great examples of projects that involve students in designing and delivering the message of inclusion across campus
  • Student contributions on how they have contributed to shifting the culture in the institution to be more inclusive (e.g. through direct engagement, advocacy, promotional campaigns etc.)

Likely to be of interest to: Students and any staff members involved in applying whole college/centre/service approaches to inclusion – ICT, senior management, teaching and learning, examinations, disability support, libraries, careers etc.

 “Let’s Do Lunch?”: Virtually Connected Teachers and Learners

When faced with new approaches and environments alone, obstacles can seem insurmountable - however when we face them together, connections are built and creative solutions emerge. While the pandemic has meant that we must be more physically distant, we need to ensure that we foster rich virtual connections between staff and students to maintain wellbeing, share learning and meet the challenges of teaching, learning and living in the remote age.

This theme invites staff and students to share examples of good practice in building online social and professional/learning connections between staff, between students and between staff and students.

  • Building and maintaining communities of inclusive practice online – examples and advice. Keeping staff informally connected during remote delivery.
  • Projects and/or practice which promote social and/or learning connections between students (peer groups, buddy systems) in online settings
  • Student contributions on good practice in delivering clubs and societies online in an inclusive manner
  • Student contributions on how online societies/networks of students with disabilities are supporting each other

Likely to be of interest to: Academics, teaching and learning, students/student unions, disability support staff, FET professional


Formats AvAilable

There are a number of formats available for you to select a preference under. We recommend that you remain open to delivering in a format not indicated as your preferred format in your submission. Our schedule is very tight and we receive so many proposals that most people in fact end up contributing in a different format than their stated preference.

This conference will be delivered with a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions and if offered a slot at the event based on your proposal, you will also be notified at that stage of the offered session format and type (pre-record/live).

If you have any other ideas for a format not listed below for your submission you can also suggest an other format for example a round table session.

 Session Format Options

Snapshot Sessions (live or pre-recorded) – 10-min presentation – possibilities for some synchronous/asynchronous text interaction, concise delivery of the key messages you have to share with resources provided for further exploration (rated most preferred by previous attendees).

Deeper Dive (live or pre-recorded) – 25 mins presentation – possibilities for some synchronous/asynchronous text interaction/polling/mentimeter, concise delivery of the key messages you have to share with resources provided for further exploration.

Live Workshops (very limited) – 50 min - limited opportunities for full workshop sessions with mix of presentation, live discussion, breakout functionality etc.

Poster – visual (still image or short animated vid) displays of projects/practice.

Submission Process and Form

Complete the Online submission form by 6th November  2020 to be considered for selection. AHEAD has also produced a Conference Submission Guide to support you with your proposal which includes key criteria for submissions and an estimated timeline for the submission process.

Conference Submission Guide

Conference Submission Form


Any queries please contact Christine at christine.hynes@ahead.ie

This event is supported by The Higher Education Authority

The Higher Education Authority

Follow AHEAD

  • Follow AHEAD on Twitter
  • Join AHEAD on Facebook
  • See AHEAD on YouTube
  • Link in with AHEAD on Linked In

Search AHEAD