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

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AHEAD Conference 2021: Register Now


"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 Thursday and Friday supplemented by pre-recorded ‘anytime’ sessions and other opportunities for online engagement

When: 6th 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.

Click here to see a list of current AHEAD Members

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

AHEAD Conference 2021 Schedule


 "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" AT and 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



Any queries please contact Niamh at niamh.grennan@ahead.ie

This event is supported by The Higher Education Authority

The Higher Education Authority

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