Third level institutions have been encouraged to facilitate greater access and participation for people from marginalized groups who have traditionally been excluded from higher education. In Ireland, as elsewhere, people with disabilities have been included in this process. Few studies have explored the quality of access and participation for students with disabilities within higher education, and this small scale qualitative study aimed to explore this issue. Students with disabilities reported variable access experiences within higher education and physical access remains a serious obstacle to full participation. Generally, there was a low level of awareness of student needs in relation to assistive provision and assessment. A positive and informed staff/college attitude proved crucial in ensuring access and equitable treatment. This research highlights the inherent limitations in the current piecemeal institutional response to provision for students with disabilities. A comprehensive access service is required that addresses the needs of all marginalized groups and becomes an integral part of the third level institution.
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