An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, launched a new bursary programme for third level students who are blind or vision impaired today, on World Sight Day, Thursday 12th October. The bursary is funded by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI).
Speaking today the Taoiseach said: “In a Republic of Opportunity, it’s important for us to think about how we can remove barriers to young people with sight loss accessing third level education. Going to college comes with extra challenges if you have a disability, so I would like to commend the NCBI for introducing this new bursary which will help students to cope with the extra costs they may face, allowing them to get the most from their college experience.”
While the total numbers of students with disabilities rose 4% from 2015 to 2016, the number of students who are blind or vision impaired actually fell by 10%. 
Chris White, CEO of NCBI: “The barriers that young people with sight loss face in progressing in education are complex and far reaching. Not only is there an impact on their educational attainment but also their employment aspirations and opportunities. It is NCBI’s hope that this bursary will go some way to offsetting the additional costs of living with sight loss for students moving on from second level and improve their opportunities.”
NCBI’s annual bursary is to the value of €3,000 per annum, with €1,500 available for a male student and €1,500 for a female student. This sum will be paid annually for up to four years, giving the students a total contribution of up to €6,000 towards their education. In addition, NCBI will offer a 6-month internship to one of the bursary recipients annually, helping them to gain work experience and giving them a chance to further prepare for employment.
Bobbie Hickey, a 19-year-old student from Dublin, who is currently completing a PLC course and hopes to move on to study media and communications in 2018, said: “Going to college is a big step for any young person but when you have a disability, there are additional challenges you have to overcome. I have sight loss and it everything takes a bit more effort and more determination to get ahead. It’s not impossible and support, like the bursary from NCBI, will help anyone who’s ready to take that step into third level.”
Senator Martin Conway, who is a member of NCBI’s Board of Directors, and has a vision impairment himself, also welcomed the initiative.
“Young people who are blind or vision impaired have the same dreams as everyone else. But they face greater challenges in making them a reality. I have first-hand experience of the many obstacles they have to overcome to get to college and to succeed while they are there. I’m delighted to see that NCBI is introducing not only the bursary, which will provide much-need financial aid, but also a chance for a student who is blind or vision impaired to complete a valuable internship with the organisation.”
For further information and an application form visit: http://www.ncbi.ie/children-families/
- AHEAD, Numbers of Students with Disabilities Studying in Higher Education in Ireland 2015/16.