The official launch of the LIT Advocacy Programme.
“Third level education should be for everyone, you should be able to experience college like your brothers and sisters.” These were some of the passionate words spoken by Senator Kieran O’Donnell when he spoke at the launch of the newly updated LIT Advocacy Programme specialising in advocacy, leadership and independent living’ for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Senator was speaking to a large attentive audience including past students of the certificate LIT Advocacy Programme, social care practitioners, Social Science students, agency personnel and academic staff at the Millennium Theatre in LIT. In a wonderful and authentic address, O’Donnell applauded LIT for being ‘pioneers’ in this area. Senator O’Donnell is himself a committed ambassador to the disability sector, and at the event, he knew most of the people attending with disabilities and their families by their first name. He was highly complimentary regarding the official vision of the Department of Applied Social Sciences in LIT because of its commitment to: “the endeavour of courageous social change, in a society where people matter.”He spoke of the need for more programmes of this kind to ensure that students with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to access a ‘third level college experience’
He challenged the future students to be open to the new challenge of a third level experience and like all students, it will be tough to walk through the door on the first day, but that by doing a programme like this, they too will enhance their own learning and progression.
The audience also heard from three past students with a disability who have graduated from the programme since it began in 2009. They also heard the views of the programme from service managers in the Daughters of Charity, Rehabcare and Brothers of Charity. Cathy Jones, Head of Department of Applied Social Sciences MC’d the event and Marian Duggan Head of Faculty of Business and Humanities opened the proceedings on Friday. Martina Neylon, programme leader created a moving video of key moments in the 7-year history of the programme to the music ‘search for the hero inside yourself’ which totally uplifted the full house at the theatre.
Cathy Jones stated that: “We have been running this programme for over 7 years. This year we engaged with past students and service providers and set up a steering committee to review this programme whilst also exploring future progression paths, including accreditation’ This launch marks the completion of stage one of the steering groups’ work and our new programme begins in January 2017. Stage two to look at further programmes will begin next year.’
Marian Duggan stated that ‘this is a very exciting time for Higher Education and for the services supporting people with intellectual disability due to the ‘New Directions’ programme within the sector, with its key focus on access to education. It is very timely that we have established this steering group in collaboration with our community partners and past students to ensure we make real this commitment to education access’.
Cathy Jones concluded the ceremony with the poignant quote from Nelson Mandela ‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’.
The large audience left on Friday thoroughly inspired by all speakers at the launch, the launch proceedings and the post-launch discussion, it truly was a collective celebration of difference and diversity.