The decision by the State Examinations Commission to start a pilot scheme allowing visually impaired students to access digital versions of their exam papers has been welcomed by Community Law & Mediation (CLM).
The move follows a campaign by Eithne Walsh (head of advocacy and communication with Féach) to allow access to digital copies of examination papers from the State Examinations Commission (SEC). Walsh’s son is visually impaired and due to sit the Leaving Certificate next year.
CLM provided legal-advocacy support to the family, and wrote to the SEC highlighting the fact that it was acting in breach of its statutory duty under the Education Act 1998 to provide “reasonable accommodation”.
Access to past papers
CLM said: “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.”