School Disability Awareness Programme


In May 2010, DCIL delivered a disability programme to third and fourth class children from St. Aengus’ primary school in Bridgend. The aim of the programme was to educate children about disability in a fun and positive way and to develop a positive attitude towards people with disability. The programme was a Pilot project and proved to be a great success.

The Project

The Disability Awareness Programme is delivered by Jennifer Doherty, with the help of a personal assistant (PA). It is aimed at children between third and sixth class, and is delivered over two weekly one-hour sessions. Children have an opportunity to learn about different types of disabilities, physical, sensory and hidden disabilities. They discuss the barriers and challenges that these people might face, and ways that these can be overcome. They are encouraged to think about physical barriers in their school and around their local area, as well as educational barriers and people’s attitudes towards those with disabilities. Students learn about independent living and the role of a PA, and how their jobs can differ depending on the needs of the particular person they are working with. By describing the job of a PA and the work of DCIL, children learn that people with disabilities can be independent, control their own lives and take their own decisions, given the correct help and support. The children also have an opportunity to learn about assistive aids and technology, print their own name in Braille and meet a guide dog.

In October 2015, DCIL welcomed new recruit - Richard Alcorn, who took over from Jennifer Doherty as our Disability Awareness Officer on our Schools Project. We wish him every success and thank Jennifer for her outstanding contribution to the schools project to date.

Since the pilot program in 2010, DCIL have delivered the disability awareness program to a total of forty classes, to approximately 1200 children around Donegal. Feedback from teachers, parents and the children themselves has been very positive. DCIL will hopefully change the perception of people with disabilities by continuing to visiting schools around Donegal. We are very grateful to the Letterkenny Credit Union for sponsoring this programme from March to May 2013.

Schools who have taken part in this programme.

Scoil Mhuire Buncrana, Transition Year Students 2017

Loreto Convent Letterkenny, Transition Year Students 2017

Loreto Convent Letterkenny, Transition Year Students 2017

Ballyshannon School, Transition Year Students 2017

Falcarragh School, Transition Year Students 2017

St.Columba Comprehensive School in Glenties, TY Students 2017

Loreto Convent Letterkenny, Transition Year Students 2016

Carndonagh Community School, TY Student 2016

Crana College in Buncrana, Transition Year Students 2015

Ballinamore Vocational School in Cloghan, TY Students 2015

St Patrick’s NS Lurgybrack, Scoil Phádraig Drumkeen
& Trentagh National School

Pupils from St. Patrick’s NS Lurgybrack, Scoil Phádraig Drumkeen and Trentagh National School have been learning about disability recently. DCIL has created a program to encourage children to think positively about disability. DCIL believe that a person’s perception of disability is something that occurs at a young age but often lasts a lifetime and therefore it is important that we ensure that children can learn about disability in a positive manner and within a forum that nurtures and allows for their many questions and experiences.

The children were asked to discuss the barriers and challenges that people with disabilities might face, and how these can be overcome. They also learned how people with disabilities can live independently with the aid of personal Assistants (PA’s), mobility aids and assistive technology. This will help to create a more positive perception of people with disabilities, which in turn will impact greatly on the experiences of pupils with disabilities during their time in school.

Pictured here is Jennifer Doherty & OJ meeting the pupils and their teacher from Trentagh National School

The program was delivered to the schools by DCIL staff member Jennifer Doherty and DCIL personal assistant Kerry McGlynn. Jennifer was also accompanied by her guide dog OJ, who is always very popular with the children.

DCIL has been delivering disability awareness training to primary schools around Donegal since 2010, and feedback from teachers and pupils has been very positive. We hope to continue this work in the future, subject to funding going forward. We would like to commend the commitment of the class teachers and principals in all schools who have participated so far.

St Aengus School Bridgend

(3rd & 4th Class) participate in Disability Awareness Programme provided by the Donegal Centre for Independent Living.

The children took part in an essay competition. They were asked to write an essay entitled “What I have learned about disability”.

Pictured here at St. Aengus School Brigend, Rosaleen Bradley, Jennifer Doherty, Paul Fagan of TRACS, Essay winners: Laura McMonagle & Erin Whoriskey

Winnings Essay’s from 3rd & 4th class St. Aengus School Brigend

What I learned about Disability

Jennifer thought us about disabilities. Disabilities are something like being blind, deaf, disabled and speechless. Jennifer taught us about different types of disabilities. Disabilities is not bad. If you are blind you have a guide dog. If you are deaf you have to use sign language. If you are disabled you have to get someone to help. OJ is Jennifer’s dog. OJ helps Jennifer around the town. Jennifer has a PA; a PA is a personal assistant. Jennifer brought in a DVD. The DVD was about a girl called Joanne. Joanne was born with no arms or legs. The DVD was happy and sad. Jennifer taught us to be nice to people with disabilities. Thank you Jennifer and OJ!!!

By Erin Whoriskey 3rd Class

Saint Mura’s Primary School, Toobin

(3rd & 4th Class) participate in Disability Awareness Programme provided by the Donegal Centre for Independent Living.

Third and forth class pupils at Saint Mura’s primary school in Toobin have been learning about disability and they were asked to write an essay entitled “What I have learned about disability”.

Pictured here at St Mura’s School, Tooban, Ms Johnston , Ms Roddy, Katie Taggart, Killian O’Rourke, Rosaleen Bradley and Jennifer Doherty

Winning Essays from 4th & 5th Class St Mura’s School, Tooban

What I learned about Disability.

To have a disability means that sometimes you can’t do some things that able bodied people can do. There are many different types of disability such as physical or sensory disabilities. An example of a sensory disability is if you were blind and if you were paralysed you would have a physical disability.

You can get things to help people with disabilities such as if you are blind you can use a machine that tells you how full your cup and you can get a colour detector to tell you what colour things are. You could also use a cane or a guide dog when you are going out and about.

I have met a girl called Jenifur who is blind and she uses a guide dog and sometimes a PA (Personal Assistant).

I have learned that sometimes disabled people get excluded, like if they wanted to go somewhere that had steps and no ramps or if the doors were not wide enough or if they did not allow guide dogs.

We could make sure disabled children could come to our school by making all the steps into ramps, putting in hand rails and making sure all the doors are wide enough. If they were in a wheelchair we could make sure they were comfortable at their desk and outside we could play games that they could play.

Katie Taggart 4th Class

What I learned about Disability

Over the past few weeks, we in third class have been visited by Jennifur from DCIL and her guide dog OJ. Jennifur came in to help us understand what it’s like to have a disability.

Out teacher encouraged us to ask Jennifur lots of questions about what its like to be blind. I was curious to know how she can see the food on her plate so I asked her “ how do you eat your dinner” ahe told me that sometimes people tell her what is on the plate, but usually she knows what food it is by feeling it with her fork. I tried this at home with my eyes closed but i didn’t have a clue what was on my plate, so I think Jennifur must have a great sense of feel.

On Jennifurs second visit to us, she brought in a few gadjets that she uses to help her in her daily life . She brought in her phone which had a voice on it telling her the letters when she is sending a text message. She also brought in a colour detector and showed us how it worked. My favourite part of the visit was getting to know OJ the guide dog. She said that OJ kept her safe from traffic when she was crossing the road. We all got our names done in brail and we were called up one by one and we also got to pet OJ. OJ is a lovely dog and i really enjoyed this.

Over the two weeks that DCIL visited us, I learned about what it’s like to have a disability. I learned about the importance of offering help first before going ahead and helping. I learned that, just because a person has a disability that does not mean that they cannot live as normal a life as the rest of us. Overall I really enjoyed the visit to our school.

Killian O’Rourke 3rd Class

Scoil Naisiunta Primary School, Drumfries

(4th,5th & 6th class) participate in Disability Awareness Programme provided by the Donegal Centre for Independent Living.

The children took part in an essay competition. They were asked to write an essay entitled “What I have learned about disability”.

Above - Pupils of Scoil Naisiunta Primary School who participated in the Programme

Pictured is Essay winner David Doherty 4th class, with Jennifer Dotherty , Rosaleen Bradley (DCIL) and his teacher.

Winning Essay from Scoil Naisiunta Primary School, Drumfries.

What I learned about Disability

One day a girl called Jennifer Doherty came into school. She is blind and she has a guide dog called OJ. Jennifer came in to teach us about disabilities. I really enjoyed her teaching us. Her assistant Deirdre have us a Braille book. There are lots of disabilities like being deaf, blind, losing limbs and when you can’t speak.

If you have an eyesight disability you don’t have full vision. There are some impairments that can be treated medically, but some can’t be corrected medically. A hearing disability includes people who are completely deaf. People that can hear a little bit sometimes get a hearing aid. People who can’t hear us use sign language to communicate.

Invisible disabilities are disabilities like have no eye sight like Jennifer. Jennifer showed us a video about a disabled girl. She had no arms or legs. She had a wheelchair and at school all the children helped her and were all good friends. Jennifer showed us how to guide a blind person. First you ask them if they need help. Then you let them hold your elbow and walk them and say when you’re at the destination.

If you want a guide dog you have to pay €38,000, but Jennifer only had to pay €1 because she had a disability so she needed him. Jennifer used a cane before she got OJ. Jennifer had to do all kinds of tests to see what dog she could have.

Jennifer had a device that made Braille Labels. It had scissors to cut it and it had letters. Some Braille books are really big especially maths books.

Guide dogs have passports like OJ. We saw OJ’s passport. Jennifer had to get two seats on the plane to let OJ lie down. Jennifer used 3 brushes, one was for losing hairs, one was just brushing him and one was for combing off his hairs.

Most Guide Dogs get a micro chip in their neck to track the dog. OJ has his own toys. He never takes anyone else’s toys. OJ had a whistle so if he goes far away Jennifer would blow the whistle and OJ would come straight back.

OJ has to get a rabies injection every four years.

Jennifer had technology like a talking phone and a talking computer. Before she got a guide dog she had to use a cane. You get it in your hand and you use your wrist to wave it over and back so you do not hit anything.

Her guide dog OJ only works when he has his harness on. When you take the harness off OJ lies on the floor and we got to pet him. Her personal assistant Deirdre has to take Jennifer places. They use technology and personal assistants to help the person to be independent. Jennifer had to be on a waiting list to get a guide dog and when it retires it gets a good home to stay there. She had to wait 6 months on the waiting list. Then she had to get OJ in County Cork. On the way home Jennifer had to stop to let OJ have a drink of water. It took eight hours to get home. She had to sign a form to say that she would take care of the Guide Dog. When he came into school we petted him and he gave us his paw. He is very cute.

When Jennifer got OJ he did silly things before she got him she already had a pet dog called Dougle. He is white and very small. One day Jennifer put the two raw steaks on a pan and OJ jumped up and took the steaks from the pan. He ate one and Dougle her pet dog ate the other raw steak. It was very funny! Everyone started laughing when she told us.

I learned a lot about disabilities. I wish Jennifer, Deirdre and OJ could come to our Drumfris school every Wednesday because I want to learn a lot more about disabilities. I can now write my name in Braille. Here it is .:::.::…::::.

I can write a lot of other things in Braille also. I really enjoyed you and OJ especially the video. It was rally good. I loved every minute. I really loved petting OJ. He was really soft and very furry. I wish he was my dog because he knows a lot of tricks. I would love if I could learn my dog to be as good as OJ. I would love to learn a lot more about Jennifer and OJ. I would love another dog like OJ. Thank you for coming to our school.

Thank you Deirdre, Jennifer and OJ.

The End

by David Doherty 4th class.