New report into ableism in academia in Ireland outlines significant hurdles faced by disabled people

Posted on: 03 December 2021

The Forum for Disabled Staff and Postgraduate Students in Trinity today launched a new report – Ableism in Academia Ireland – to mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The report, which can be read here, paints a picture of under-representation of disabled people in academic employment in Ireland and underlines that those employed face a number of significant hurdles linked to ableism.

It will act as a catalyst for further discussion and action within academia and inform developments at national level involving the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. 

The report was launched at an online event where a panel of experts linked it, via discussion, with the theme for this year’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities – Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 world.

The online event was in the context of the fast-approaching deadline set by the Disability Act for staff targets to be reached by 2024. Currently Trinity is meeting the minimum 3% staff target in relation to obligations under Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005. 

However, this target will rise to 6% of employees reporting a disability in the public sector and efforts and resources will be needed across the higher education sector in Ireland to meet this target. The report will outline barriers to potentially achieving the target and concrete issues to be addressed to meet it.

Forum Chair, Dr Vivian Rath, a disabled person and member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Disability Advisory Committee, and a Teaching Fellow in Trinity’s School of Education, said:

“This report clearly shows that disabled people are underrepresented in academic employment in Ireland and those who are employed face ableism. This ableism is characterised in negative attitudes, outdated perceptions, limited opportunities for progression, and a failure to provide their legal entitlement to reasonable accommodations such as flexible working practices. The higher education sector needs to do more to support disabled staff and central to this is increasing representation in leadership.”

Professor Lorraine Leeson, Trinity’s Associate Vice Provost for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion launched the report. She said:

“The work of the Forum for Disabled Staff and Postgraduate Students in Trinity has been insightful and informative. This report is based on the findings from a very stimulating and important event the Forum organised and hosted in summer 2021. I look forward to future engagement with the Forum through the work of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Office and taking the report observations and learnings forward.”

Speakers at the online event included:

  • Professor Lorraine Leeson, Associate Vice Provost for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, and Professor in Deaf Studies, Trinity
  • Dr Patricia McCarthy, Teaching Fellow, Education, Trinity, and Forum Vice-Chair
  • Dr Sara Hope Kift, Graduate Students’ Union Disability Rights Officer, Trinity
  • D?r Ross Woods, Higher Education Authority Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

For more information on the work of the Forum for Disabled Staff and Postgraduate Students, see:

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