TCD Sense - Project Outline

The TCD Sense project is in line with the Trinity and Disability Service Strategic Plans 2020-25 and Trinity Disability Service Strategic Plan 20-25.

The TCD Sense project is in line with the Trinity and Disability Service Strategic Plans 2020-25 and Trinity Disability Service Strategic Plan 20-25.

Mission: To create environments in Trinity that allow all students and staff with different sensory preferences to flourish, and to empower individuals to understand themselves as sensory beings.

Vision: Through collaboration and co-production, to develop variety of different sensory environments, supports and resources to meet the needs of all students and staff within Trinity.

Values: Collaboration, Empowerment, Innovation, Inclusion, Research-focused.

Staff Involvement

  • Kieran Lewis (Senior Occupational Therapist, Project Lead)
  • Jessica K Doyle (Project Officer)
  • Declan Treanor (Disability Service Director)
  • Aisling Claffey (Occupational Therapist)
  • Dr Clodagh Nolan (Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine)
  • Library staff (Peter Dudley, Siobhan Dunne & Geraldine Fitzgerald)
  • Science Faculty Staff (Professor Aine Kelly Dean of Undergraduate Science, Siobhan Mc Bennett, Ann-Marie Brady)
  • President of the TCD Student Union 2020-21, Eoin Hand (Led on Student Spaces – Zon Mac Leinn) and President of the TCD Student Union 2021-22, Leah Keogh
  • Oana Marian (Project Officer)
  • Scott Byrne (Disability Service Intern)
  • Students from the Trinity Ability Co-op will also actively engage in developments within the initiative.

Timeline of Activities:

  • Feb 2019: Sensory Audit Process carried out in Trinity Libraries and Science Laboratories.
  • May 2019: Presentation of findings at the national conference for the Association of Higher Education and Disability.
  • May 2019: Survey of students with Disabilities
  • September 2019: Kieran Lewis (Senior Occupational Therapist, Disability Service) assigned as project lead.
  • January 2020: Working group established between the Disability Service, Discipline of Occupational Therapy, as well as other stakeholders such as the Trinity Library, TCD SU, and the Science Faculty.
  • May 2020: Funding Proposal Submitted to the Higher Education Authority as a Strategic Initiatives relating to Disability Services in Higher Education Institutions.
  • January 2021: Funding of €233,934 was allocated by the HEA to the project.
  • May 2021: Additional funding for the Sensory Project was sourced from the Disability Service €83,500, Director of Student Services €80,000, TCDSU HEA funding for projects €30,000, Printing House Square furniture budget €16,500.
  • January 2021-December 2021: Activities within the project were planned across four interconnected strands. Please see Table 1 below for a detailed outline of progress to date and future plans.

Activities as set out in the FSD Strategic Initiative Application

As part of the funding proposal to the HEA, a detailed project plan was submitted. The activities with within the project were planned across four interconnected strands as outlined below:

  • Strand One: Student Approaches with the Disability Service
  • Strand Two: College Environment
  • Strand Three: Student and staff Awareness and Training
  • Strand Four: Research

Table 1 below outlines these proposed activities under the four strands, progress to date and future actions.

Proposed Activities

Progress to Date (December 2021)

Future Actions

Strand One: Student Approaches with the Disability Service

Revise Needs Assessment Process to incorporate initial assessment of sensory processing issues.

Website content developed that can be provided to students on sensory-based supports

Sensory-based question included in DS pre-needs assessment form & needs assessment format

Sensory Training format and toolkit of resources to be devised for all DS staff carrying out needs assessments
In academic year 2021-22

Noise Cancelling Headphones and headsets can now be provided to students from needs assessment process.


Individualised Sensory Based Occupational Therapy Approach for College Students.

Systematic review of sensory-based approaches in education on-going (submission British Journal of Occupational Therapy – Feb 2022)

Sensory-based equipment identified for use within Occupational Therapy approach

Environmental evaluation tool drafted to pilot with students in academic year 21-22

Focus groups with Occupational therapists within the Unilink Network of Occupational Therapists in Higher Education

Set out format of 1:1 OT approach to be piloted in the academic year 21-22 to then be reviewed

Strand Two: College Environment

Connection of approaches to other resources within student services such as TCD Sports.

Academic Registry connection to revise environments and operations at registration and in the Service Centre of the Watt building for all students to accommodate sensory needs. 

Global room connection – contact with Louise Staunton on audit of global room and design recommendations.

Presented project outline at student life committee (April 2020) – expressions of interest from Trinity Sports, Careers, Graduate Students Union

Follow up with Trinity Sports, Global Room, and Careers Advisory Service

Support Academic Registry with implementation of actions outlined

Follow up on Previous audit actions with the Science Faculty

Follow up meeting with Science Faculty - Prof Aine Kelly, Siobhan Mc Bennett and Ann-Marie Brady, with actions as follows:

Sensory Spaces included the JCR Hamilton design

Training session to be delivered to Science staff

Explore availability of additional spaces in the Hamilton as respite / sensory space – e.g. JCR Hamilton


Follow up on previous audit actions with the library in developing low distraction study spaces, improving acoustics of student common areas and stairways within library, and signage to improve wayfinding.

Follow up actions devised in response to Sensory Audit and Student Survey Findings in relation to the Trinity Libraries.

Zoning of areas throughout library which offer flexible sensory experiences to allow students to suit their sensory preferences.  Areas have been zoned and furniture installed

  • Pod desks and enclosed seating in the upper Lecky Library
  • Four individual bookable study rooms on Second Floor of Berkley Library to allows students to completely control visual and auditory stimuli.
  • Acoustic high-back seating inside the windows of the Ussher Library to provide acoustic and visual privacy and visual connection to nature
  • Low Sensory study room in the ATIC area of the Ussher Library and Hamilton Library

Creation of sensory spaces in the library to allow students to regulate their sensory systems

  • Sensory space located off the study area in the Upper Lecky Library
  • Repositioning of seating in the Berkley Foyer to single seat to reduce auditory stimuli to allow for a transition space from outside to the library.

Loan Scheme of Noise Cancelling Headphones and headset from the Library Service desks. Information prepared for the DS and Library Websites

Pod style desks in ‘Music Room’ located of the Ussher reading room to reduce
Pod Style desks in the Upper Hamilton Library
Study pods in the John Stearne medical library

Delivery sensory training to Library Staff

Place information on the library website and DS website when possible to run headphone loan scheme with COVID restrictions

Additional Audits with the following collaborators: Students Union, Trinity Sports, Trinity Careers Service, and Global Room.

Sensory App development with TU Dublin. (May 2020-December 2021)

Audit process carried out in 27 areas of Trinity Campus to inform development a sensory map. Tool adapted from Ecological Assessment devised by Prof Winnie Dunn and developed in collaboration with Disc of Occupational Therapy in TCD and Occupational Therapist in Technological University Dublin Disability Service.

Technological University Dublin are working on the development of online version of tool. This tool will allow for students to evaluate their sensory environments from their perspective as we all have different preferences. This will raise student awareness and for those attending an occupational therapist to review this in depth.

Carry out 4-5 additional audits to inform development of sensory map of Trinity and provide feeback to areas.


Pilot with students and staff

Collaborate Technological University Dublin on development of online version of the tool

Development Sensory spaces/rooms across the college campus. (Feb-December 2021)

Sensory design has been incorporated into the design of student spaces in the student spaces in the JCR Hamilton, Goldsmith Hall, Arts Building room 4017 and Trinity Centre for Health Sciences. Furniture has been selected to provide acoustic and visual privacy in the main spaces, as well as the creation of alcoves spaces in these environments.  Areas within student spaces zones for function, social, eating, quiet areas etc.
Respite space in the Arts Building is being re-furbished based upon sensory design principles, to provide an individual sensory space for students.
The shared-space between Disability Service and College Health (previously seminar space) in Printing House Square has been designed to be a functional space for group, presentation, meeting and casual set ups, with sensory design principles incorporated in this development.

Installation of furniture into Printing House Square


Strand Three: Student and staff Awareness and Training

Development of Workshops / Modules for Academic Staff on sensory processing and inclusive design & practice. (June, July, August 2020)

Development of Sensory Processing web information to inform all the developments of this project.
Social media account for @TCDSense to promote students and staff to think about sensory environments and their own preferences launched in July 2021. Plan devised for content and connection to TCD Communications on this.
Webinar delivered in March 2021 to staff and students, which has led to a high level of follow up contact and collaboration – videos from webinar located here:
Contact from the Healthy Trinity Online Tool to develop sensory information to be included on this platform.

Project officers working on developing sensory map with collaborators within Trinity.

Deliver training to staff upon request


Develop content for the Healthy Trinity Online Tool

Staff training module in development for student services, academic, administrative staff and any other TCD staff.

Coordinate additional training opportunities for key stakeholders with college (Library, Estates and Facilities, Accommodation, Student Services). (June, July, August 2021)

Currently developing toolkit of online resources available


Guidelines for inclusive design of new student spaces in Trinity to include sensory processing (December 2021)

Guidelines for student spaces (ZMcL) & sensory rooms developed.
Dublin City University have collaborated with Dr Magda Mustafa on Autism Friendly Design guidelines which are an excellent resource developed this year.
Sensory references included in the E3RI preliminary architectural brief
Connected with Architects on design of new accommodation in Trinity Hall but this has not progressed at present.


Strand Four: Research

Connection to the Discipline of Occupational Therapy (In place)

Strong research and practice connection in place with the Disc of Occupational Therapy through Dr Clodagh Nolan, who is leading on research activity within the project.


Connection to International Researchers / Networks (May, June 2020)

We have connected with Prof Winnie Dunn; whose Model of Sensory Processing informs the project development.
Have also presented on the project to occupational therapists within other HEIs nationally, and connected on similar developments such as the development of sensory spaces within libraries.


Research into the experiences of college students with sensory processing issues and to underpin developments throughout project (March 2021-December 2021).

Research focused upon analysis of survey of Trinity students with disabilities ‘Environmental Sensory Audit of Learning Spaces Student Survey’, the findings of which will be submitted for journal publication.
Systematic review on-going on sensory based approaches in education to inform the development of 1:1 Occupational Therapy Approach.
Research paper on-going in collaboration with the Trinity Library charting the background, rationale, and developments there as part of the sensory project.

To submit three papers to peer reviewed journals.

To present findings nationally and internationally.