Pilot scheme a welcome development for equality in education for students with visual impairments
Community Law & Mediation (CLM) welcomes the decision by the State Examinations Commission to commence a pilot scheme enabling visually-impaired students to access digital versions of their exam papers.
The decision was made on foot of a lengthy campaign by Eithne Walsh, head of advocacy and communication with Féach, whose son is a visually impaired student and is due to sit the Leaving Certificate in 2023.
Eithne and her son had repeatedly requested that he be provided with a digital copy of his Leaving Certificate examination – to date, only paper-based exams have been allowed – but their requests were refused by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). CLM provided legal advocacy support to the family, and wrote to the SEC highlighting the fact that that it was acting in breach of its statutory duty under s.6 and s.7 of the Education Act 1998 and that its refusal to provide reasonable accommodation was a breach of the student’s rights to equality, education, and his imprescriptible rights as a child.
While the announcement of a pilot scheme is really positive news, this addresses just one of the many obstacles faced by students with visual impairments. For example, they do not currently have the same level of access to past (modified) papers that their fellow students have; the format of the oral examinations is particularly challenging for students who are visually impaired; and decisions made under the Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations (RACE) Scheme are often published at short notice, leaving the students affected with little time to appeal if they do not get the supports they need under the Scheme.
Community Law & Mediation will continue to advocate on behalf of families and young people who are affected by issues such as these.
If you have a query related to the education rights of your child, contact us for free legal advice: 01 847 7804.