I want to talk to you about the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE). If you are visiting from outside of Ireland but live in Europe, keep reading, as the scheme is open to students from the EU – including the UK, for the moment.
DARE is an Irish college application scheme for students with disabilities, which recognises that disability can have a significant impact on educational performance in school. It was introduced in Ireland as a response to the extremely competitive points system connected to the Leaving Certificate.
What is it for?
Students who are eligible for DARE eligible (i.e. meet the regulations and criteria) may be offered a place in college below the required number of points for the course of their choice.
Who can apply?
Students below the age of 23 years who apply to the Central Applications Office (CAO) – the Irish equivalent of UCAS – for a place in a college, university, or institute of technology in Ireland. That includes applicants from the UK and other EU countries.
Which ‘disabilities’ are considered?
You have to remove your Special Educational Needs hat for a moment, and investigate how difficulties and ‘diagnosis’ are categorised under DARE. These are:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger’s Syndrome)
Blind / Vision Impaired
Deaf / Hard of Hearing
DCD – Dyspraxia/Dysgraphia
Mental Health Conditions
Speech, Language and Communication Disorder
Significant Ongoing Illness
Specific Learning Difficulties
If you look at the screening criteria for each disability, the first line under the heading provides a descriptor, for example: Mental Health Condition (Including, but not exclusive – Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Clinical Depressive Conditions, Severe Anxiety, Severe Phobias, OCD, Severe Eating Disorders, Psychosis).
How many points are reduced?
This is completely the decision of individual colleges, universities etc. So there may be a greater or lesser reduction of required points in one college, than in another. My advice is to contact the relevant Disability Service, and ask them.
How many DARE college places are available?
Again, this is completely the decision of individual colleges, universities etc. So there may be more DARE places for Law in one college, than in another. Currently, the only university who maintains complete transparency is Trinity College Dublin who recently posted information on the number of DARE places available. My advice is to contact the relevant Disability Service, and ask them.
How do students apply?
The procedure is complicated and it would be useful if DARE gave a thought to the logic of how students and parents do this. Some of the application is online, some of the forms appear to be online, but in actuality have to be downloaded and printed out, because they have to be posted (mailed) to the CAO.
- From November of the final year in school, create a CAO account and indicate that you have a disability. Follow the online instructions for applying to DARE. You must do this before 1st February.
- Start gathering the paperwork immediately because it is complicated and time-consuming.
- You need Evidence of Disability from a medical or other relevant professional. The rules are very specific. Check the requirements for each disability.
- You need an Educational Impact Statement to be completed by the school. This form is long and takes some time to complete. If there are many students in the school applying to DARE, the form should be given to the school at the earliest opportunity.
All of the forms and guides can be downloaded directly from the DARE website.
How does DARE decide if a student is eligible?
DARE provide criteria for eligibility for each disability.
When do students find out if they are eligible?
Letters are usually posted to students after the conclusion of the last Leaving Certificate examination in late June.
Can I appeal a decision?
Yes, you can ask for a re-check of your application and decision by requesting a re-check through your CAO account.
If I am not DARE eligible can I still go to college?
Yes, if you pass your Leaving Certificate, and achieve the required level of points, you can still receive an offer through the CAO. You will still be supported by the Disability Service in college. In fact, once you have registered in college, you are no longer a DARE student. DARE is only connected to the offers and admissions process.
Speak to a DARE advisor at their nationwide advice clinics, visit the Disability Service in any institution on their Open Day, attend the Better Options college fair for students with disabilities, or ask someone who knows about the DARE scheme to provide a talk to your school or community group.