I recently had the honour of being the guest speaker at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) Leader and Advocacy Graduation at the Millennium Theatre and it was an incredible life changing experience. The Leadership and Advocacy (LAA) programme for people with intellectual disabilities was set up by the LIT Social Care degree programme in conjunction with LIT Lifelong Learning and in partnership with organisations providing services to people with disability in the greater Limerick, Clare and Tipperary areas. As of May 2014, over 100 students have graduated from the programme that started in 2009. The disability services supporting the programme include the Brothers of Charity Limerick and Clare, Enable Ireland, Daughters of Charity, RehabCare, Moorehaven Centre, and St. Joseph’s Charleville. Students attend classes at the LIT Moylish campus one day per week and are joined in class activities by 1st and 2nd year social care student co-learners as part of the Active Citizenship and Personal Development modules in the social care degree programme. Mary Conroy, co-learner tells me, “It’s been an honour to be part of the programme, and we formed good relations with the advocacy students. It was a pleasure to be with them every week.”
The main aim of the programme is to deliver classes in a college setting that are relevant to the lives of individuals with intellectual disability. The classes aim to assist students in evaluating their own lives and allow them to increase expectations for their futures. LAA hopes to facilitate its students in becoming more aware of their rights as citizens and to empower them to exercise these rights. The programme learning material is tailored each year to the needs of the group and covers the following modules: Advocacy, Leadership, Human Rights, Citizenship, Agents of Change, Communications and Teamwork. Material is delivered through lectures, workshops and co-learning assignments with the students of the B.A. Applied Social Studies in Social Care.
The LAA programme has been recognized by Aontas and the National Learning Network for its contributions to adult and community education and was shortlisted for a national Aontas STAR Award in 2013 and 2014.
Each year the students, along with the programme facilitator Martina Neylon and Social Care lecturer Jennifer Moran Stritch, choose projects that they wish to complete as part of their classwork. Examples of these projects include a visit to the Dail, production of a radio show for WIREDFM and a DVD on human rights, advocacy presentations, building an online blog about the experience of attending college, an LIT disability awareness day, surveys and research with LIT students and staff on attitudes towards disability, and a public Q&A session with local TDs on disability services and advocacy. “The biggest thing about this programme is that it provides opportunity,” says Leadership facilitator Martina Neylon. “The classes open up another channel for development for people with disability to be fully included in the college community. Most of our students would never have expected to go to college, and their families never would have expected them to either. Now that the door is open, who knows what possibilities are next?” As Jennifer tells me of the awards day, “Today was just a wonderful celebration of people learning, growing and being together.”
To learn more about the programme or to inquire about enrolment, please go to http://www.lit.ie/FlexibleLearning/Courses/Pages/184.aspx or contact Leadership and Advocacy at [email protected] or the LIT Flexible Learning Office at 061-293802.
See other LIT Graduations HERE.