chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up home circle comment double-caret-left double-caret-right like like2 twitter epale-arrow-up text-bubble cloud stop caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right file-text


Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



EPALE Discussion: How can we improve adult learning for people with disabilities?

by EPALE Moderator

/epale/cs/file/learners-disabilitiesLearners with Disabilities

Learners with Disabilities

As part of EPALE’s June focus on persons with disabilities, we would like to hear your views on how we can improve adult learning for people with disabilities.

The discussion is open to everyone and will take place on this page on 8 June 2017 at 2:00pm CEST. It will be moderated by EPALE’s Thematic Coordinator for Learner Support, Gina Ebner.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with the EPALE community your experience, views and questions on the topic. We would love to hear your opinions on:

  • strategies for adult education for people with disabilities in your country
  • what a good strategy should contain
  • good practice examples from your country or organisation.

** This discussion has now been closed.


Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn


  • Christine Bertram's picture

    I am very much looking forward to the discussion on Thursday.


    The blog posts that are uploaded so far have been very insightful and thought provoking and the discussion paper from Ireland has been very interesting for me in terms of strategic focus.

    Would be great to hear what other blog posts and resources people found most thought provoking.

  • Michelle Kinsella's picture

    I am interested in how dyslexia is supported across the EU adult learning sector.  For instance, what are the requirements (from the point of view of the learning centre) that must be met in order to support the needs of learners with dyslexia and also, are there support or access officers in place in Further Education centres?

    I'm really looking forward to the discussion. 

  • Susana Oliveira's picture

    Dear colleagues,

    Greetings from Portugal and thank you very much for bringing this discussion to EPALE! I would be very interested in knowing how adult education for this specific target group works in your countries, namely, in terms of strategy and funding. Is there a specific strategy for persons with disabilities? And how is it funded in your countries, do you have a "lot" for working with persons with disabilities or is the funding allocated to adult education in general? Thank you very much and wish you a nice discussion!

  • Dora Redruello's picture

    Dear colleagues,


    Hello from APCC – Cerebral Palsy Association of Coimbra. I work in the area of education and training for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. It is a great initiative the promotion of this discussion since we are living difficult  times regarding politics and strategies for people with special needs and other socially excluded groups of citizens. We run training programs and a validation centre for people with disabilities successfully but we are feeling constrains concerning funding and positive discrimination strategies, once so important for the engagement of these groups.

    Now, I would like to ask all of you, particularly regarding one of most needed target groups, which is people with mental illness, what is happening in your countries or institutions? Are there any successful initiatives, either nationally implement or regionally?

  • Jonny Lear's picture

    My name is Jonny Lear, Content Coordinator for the UK National Support Service.

    I am looking forward to tomorrow’s discussion and interested in learning more about the strategies in place in other countries to improve adult learning for people with disabilities. I am particularly interested in the social barriers surrounding hidden impairments such as learning disabilities and mental health.

    Interesting read before the discussion tomorrow for those looking at startegies around Mental Health:

    Dr Mark Richardson, RecoverED, Wales: Where is Widening Participation in mental health?



  • Mark Richardson's picture

    I'm afraid I've entered this discussion a little late - been a busy day. Jonny - but for me one of the most challenging barriers in mental health and edcation is twofold - that providers of learning struggle to understand learning need - and this struggle is often through faulty perceptions linked to issues such as a lack of individual ability in the student or more emphasis on therapy. Or otherwise the internal stigma (as we describe it) that an individual who experiences mental distress can often bring with them. Often approaches will make an obvious challenge to the stigma we might all be aware of such as prejudice but then struggle to deal with that (confidence, aspiration, feelings of inferiority etc) internal stuff. But the internal stigma is often crippling.

    This is why we approach engagement within a framework (CREATE) which establishes how each person can work within and use the same core themes to understand and to interpret stigma but from different viewpoints (as well as other key action points).

    In other words, we would suggest, this is about the existence of an interpretive gap - if that makes sense? where we need a mutually defining framework to fill this gap.

  • Christine Clement's picture

    Dear all

    Very interesting topic!

    I am interested in possible relationships between specific disabilities and low levels in basic skills, especially with respect to literacy skills, in native speakers.

    Do you know about research or do you have reasons otherwise to see or don't see relationships between adult literacy learners (native speakers) and:

    -lower cognitive lower levels (IQ under 80)


    -Specific Language Impairment

    -auditory difficulties (hearing impairment and/or auditory processing difficulties)


    Secondly, we have some discussions about a similar topic in The Netherlands. What is your opinion: should we include this -nature is the main cause- group in the definition of adult literacy learners, or include only problems caused by nurture (bad / short education, etc)?

    What is your opinion? All info & opinions are welcome!

    Best wishes


  • Gina Ebner's picture

    Dear all,

    thank you for posting your reflections and questions already! I'm sure we'll have a very lively debate tomorrow. In the meantime: if you have any interesting projects or initiatives on the topic, please post them already now!

    Talk to you tomorrow!


  • Christian BERNHARD's picture

    Dear Gina,

    it is not a project, but a very nice blogpost of a reputated researcher in Germany about the topic of including people with disabilities. She reflects well what providers need to do in their attitude towards people with diablities.


  • Clare Mc Laughlin's picture

    Thank you Christian,


    That is a really interesting blog.



  • Honor Broderick's picture


    Epilepsy Ireland have run a pre employment training course for people with epilepsy in a third level college in Sligo in the North West of Ireland since 1998. The course runs for a year. It provides people with epilepsy who may not normally have the opportunity to attend courses in third level education the opportunity to experience college life. The course delivers several modules throughout the year. It aims to help people with epilepsy to; Identify their own personal goals and plan to achieve them. To build confidence and self esteem. To decide upon the career of their of their choice and to learn about the nature and management of epilepsy. We have a very positive progression rate for our students. This was recognized by AONTAS who awarded us The National Star Award for "An outstanding contribution to Adult Education in 2013.

  • Altheo VALENTINI's picture

    Dear all,

    I am also looking forward to the dabate tomorrow, which I have also promoted among the participants at the PROFARM blended course for case managers/job coaches in Social Farming.

    The main objective of the PROFARM project is to experiment a model that can contribute to the well-being, professional/personal growth and the social integration of VET students with disabilities in the field of agricultural production. The final aim is to reshape horizontal integration through individuals with disabilities, their families, schools, social-health services and private partnerships, to facilitate the employment and social inclusion of young disabled persons through Social Farming (SF). More in detail, the project will focus on identifying cross-policy synergies and multi-professional partnerships to ensure integrated services in favour of the user/student as a person.

    We are now carrying out a blended course for the case managers and job coaches who will take part at the experimentation of the PROFARM model. If you are interested, the online session of the course is freely available at the LEARN section of our website, where you will find a video gallery, our video-modules and reports.

    This week, we had the chance to interview Mr. Klaus Lachwitz, president of Inclusion International, who gave us a very interesting overview on CRPD, ICF and the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020!


  • Daniela Garau's picture

    Dear all,

    This topic is very interesting. I'm a special needs teacher in La Spezia CPIA school in Italy. It's a school for adult people. There are a lot of  Adults with Special Needs.

    I usually do a multisensorial didactics with the use of PC because technology enhances learning.

    I am interested about good pactice, projects or initiatives on the topic.

    Best whishes,



  • Clare Mc Laughlin's picture

    I am very looking forward to the discussion today.

    My main area of interest is the access to art for the Visually Impaired.

    Clare Mc Laughlin

    Visual Artist based in Ireland

  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    Hi Clare,

    You are too modest in your introduction!

    Colleagues may be very interested in your Seen-Unseen access to art project for the visually impaired.

    Looking forward to the discussion later.

  • Unai Delgado's picture

    Dear all,

    I am looking forward to today’s discussion. I am the responsible of functional diversity in Radio ECCA which is a non-profit institution being run by a Board made up of representatives from different public and private sectors. Its mission is to facilitate the best possible training to the largest number of people, especially to those who most need it.
    We have developed a project: "A design for everyone"  in order to offer lifelong training for those people with hearing, visual or physical disabilities.This is possible thanks to the implementation of the set of adjustments, applied to any educational action made with the ECCA System, making it accessible to those with functional diversity. 

    We are so interested in learning more about the strategies and actions that have been made in other countries to improve adult learning for people with disabilities.


    I am sure we´ll have a very interesting debate in the next hours.

    Best whises,

    Unai Delgado

  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    Hello Unai,

    My name is Sinead Whitty. I'm the EPALE Officer for Ireland.

    As you mentioned radio, you might be interested in the following videos, which show how, with support, adult learners with disabilities can fulfil their ambitions to work in the media.

    See Michael Gannon discuss his experience as a student of Media Studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

    See Darren Noonan who with Enable Ireland’s support, realised his dream of becoming a radio DJ


    Looking forward to the discussion!

  • Kerstin Hagblom's picture

    The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools, SPSM

    The task of the agency is to ensure that children, young people and adults – regardless of functional ability – have adequate conditions to fulfil their educational goals. This is done through special needs support, education in special needs schools, accessible teaching materials and government funding.

    If you are interested, please have a look: You will find information in English by following this link. Information is also available in many other languages used in Sweden. 


    You can also listen to the presented information on the site, "talande webb".


    Some information is presented on sign language. And why not check out what is available about sign language in English:!


  • Julija MELNIKOVA's picture

    Dear Colleagues,


    My name is Julija. I work at Klaipeda university, Klaipeda, Lithuania. We are interested in new approaches nad methods of education of students (adult learners) with disabilities. Look forward to new ideas..


    Best wishes,




  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    Hi Julija,

    You might like to talk to Michelle Kinsella from the Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI). She has posted earlier in this thread. The DAI has great expertise in inclusive teaching methods.


  • Monika Daoudi-Rosenhammer's picture


    I´m looking foward to the discussion today. 

    I am responsible for trainings and courses for adult learners for a service provider for people with intellectual disabilities (Lebenshilfe Salzburg). And the need is huge.

    I´m very interested in strategies to implement inclusive adult education with the focus on learners with intellectual diabilities throughout the country as a standard in the educational scenery.

    Best wishes



  • Honor Broderick's picture

    I did post something but am not sure if people can see it

  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    We look forward to Honor Broderick, course leader of Training For Success, joining the discussion today.

    Training for Success is an award-winning course (QQI level 4) for people with epilepsy. The course is run from the Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland. Applications are open for the next intake in August 2017.

  • Jan DEKELVER's picture


    I'm looking forward to the discussion. 
    I am involved in the project.(KA2-Erasmus+) This project aims at making higher education campuses more inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities. At the campus of Thomas More in Belgium (Geel) we combine this project with a training for people with intellectual disabilties in adult education. As they are now studiying on the same campus, this offers a lot of opportunities for inclusive activities: sports, leasure activities, having lunch on campus etc. We also introduces BlueAssist as a means of communication and support. 
    See you in five...


    Jan Dekelver

  • Gina Ebner's picture

    Hi Jan,

    sounds very interesting! Have you had a look at

    Does this compare to your work?


  • Karine Nicolay's picture

    Hi Gina can you post the full link again? It doesn't work at this side...

  • Gina Ebner's picture
  • Karine Nicolay's picture


  • Karine Nicolay's picture

    Hi Jan, welcome to the discussion! I know the project and think very highly of it. Could you perhaps post the picture of the students with intellectual disabilities when they graduated and got their diploma from the minister?

  • Jan DEKELVER's picture
  • Honor Broderick's picture

    I am very interested in the contribution from Jan Dekelver. Our Training for Success students are also gaining huge benefits from their experience in a third level college. They participate in all college activities and share all of the same facilities as other students attending the Institute of Technology, Sligo. Some have played football on college teams.  They chat to students doing degree courses about their experiences and are highly influenced by this social contact regarding their own futures.

  • Rumen HALACHEV's picture

    /epale/en/file/epale-welcomeEPALE Welcome

    Good afternoon everyone and welcome to EPALE’s discussion on how we can improve adult learning for people with disabilities.

    Today we'll be talking about strategies for adult education for people with disabilities in your country, what a good strategy should contain, and good practice examples. Our moderator today is Gina Ebner – Secretary-General of EAEA who will be helped by Aleksandra Kozyra, Membership and Events Officer at EAEA.

    • Please introduce yourself when you write your first contribution
    • Log in to post/reply to comments in real time (refresh the page to see new comments).
    • To reply to a comment, just hit reply!  If you want to start a new thread, write your contribution in the comment box at the bottom.
    • If you have any questions, the EPALE team are ready to help. Just email

    Some important notes on how to interact:

    • We want to make sure everybody feels comfortable on EPALE! You will meet some high-level researchers and experts here, but all thoughts are welcome and valuable – just jump in and write.
    • If you have a lot to say, please divide your contribution in digestible segments
    • And finally, please respect others' views and be polite (even if you disagree!)
  • Gina Ebner's picture

    Dear all,

    thank you so much for your interest in this discussion! We’re very happy that there’s a lot of interest and a particular thank you to all of you who already posted beforehand. We will start to discuss some of the issues that have been raised already and will then, in the 2nd half of the discussion, move to more strategic reflections. 

    Let's get started with a first question that has been raised earlier: What are the requirements that must be met for organisations that offer programmes for people with disabilities?

    Looking forward to your thoughts!


  • Sharon Thornton's picture



    National Requirements-registeration for training delivery

    Well trained staff- ongoing CPD


    Focus on outcomes from the training

    IT infrastructure 





  • Martina Karaskova's picture

    I think the most mnportant thing is educated staff that is willing to push the boundaries and make some changes. Alse buildings and services must be made accesible, computers, braille font signs... these are all in category I would call "physical and material neccessities". 

  • Brian Caul's picture

    Hello everyone,

    My name is Brian Caul and my work background for 30 years was as a teacher and manager in higher education. Currently I chair the Board of CRAICNI, a training agency which works with public and private organizations, youth and community groups, and groups from minority ethnic backgrounds, to encourage inclusion and celebrate cultural diversity in Northern Ireland. I am also a volunteer with Action on Hearing Loss, a UK national voluntary organization. 

  • Jonny Lear's picture

    Welcome Brian and everyone joining today. 

  • Sharon Thornton's picture



    My name is Sharon Thornton and i work with National Leanring Network providing training and education to a range of people with disabilities within Sligo & Leitrim.  We are funded through our local ETB and through the HSE.  


    Looking forward to learning from the experience of other providers.



  • Brian Caul's picture

    Reflecting on my experiences, the crucial requirements relating to support  for learners with disabilities are:

    • Avoid stereotypes! Learners with disabilities are all individuals with differing learning needs.
    • Blended learning probably suits many such learners. While online participation is great when the learner could not otherwise physically access a course, strategies should also take into account the importance for some of face-to-face peer group contact. Non-verbal communication, facial gestures, postures, are important reinforcers.  Feedback and review in one-to-one tutorials may also be essential for some learners to gauge whether the pace, methods and support resources are satisfactory.  
    • All strategies should make full use of statutory rights. In particular the “Disabled Student’s Allowance” or its equivalent, provides an important self-determination for the learner, for instance by covering the costs of amanuenses, interpreters, essential home-based equipment, software. It is therefore vitally important that the course providers have or find the expertise to carry out individual assessments of need in order to satisfy the funders.  
    • Marketing of courses is vital, making use of the many excellent voluntary organizations for people with disabilities. Sadly there is a great under-representation of people with disabilities in further and higher education. This can cause a passive belief that there is no point in trying because the odds are stacked against getting third level qualifications. Of course, this then negatively affects career opportunities.        
  • Gina Ebner's picture

    Could you tell us more about this? Thanks!

  • Brian Caul's picture

    Thank you for your question. 

    Higher education students in UK can apply for a DSA if they have long term health conditions; mental health conditions; specific learning dissiculties like dyslexia or dyspraxia; or other form of physical disability.  the condition must be assessed s affecting one's ability to study. 

    From the 1980s, the avai;ability of DSAs led to a massive improvement in our own student support, with the students collaborating with professional assessors or medical staff to establish needs. The students were therefore able to exercise some self-determination and independent action.   

  • Elfa Hermannsdóttir's picture

    Hello all,

    my name is Elfa and I work in Iceland at a Lifelong learning center. We are responsible for courses for the disabled that are over 18 amongst other things. Previously I worked in the VI sector. 

  • Cormac Woods's picture


    Im not sure is anyone on?


  • Gina Ebner's picture

    On and commenting! Will you introduce yourself and tell us a bit more?

    Thanks Gina

  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    Hi Cormac,

    Yes, you are in the right place! Welcome!

    You can see comments and questions by scrolling or by refreshing the page.

    I hope you find the discussion beneficial.

  • Sinead Whitty's picture

    Hi Everyone,

    My name is Sinead Whitty. I'm the new EPALE officer for Ireland, having spent the past 20 years teaching undergrad and postgrad adult learners.

    I'm excited for the discussion and I know that a number of Irish practitioners are here today to share their expertise and insights.Like them, I am looking forward to learning from all contributors.

  • Gina Ebner's picture

    Yes, indeed! Can I ask you and your Irish colleagues - why do you think this is? Is there a specific effort / strategy / support in Ireland? 


  • Eleonora DI LIBERTO's picture

    Hello, I'm writing you from Uniamoci Onlus, an organization working with adults with disability (mental and/or physical) in Italy where I'm and educator and project manager. For us the main requirements to offer programmes for people with disabilities are the ability to meet the interests and needs of the learners with disability, keeping in mind that they are "adult", use flexible teaching methods (mostly based on learning by doing, work in  agroup setting and the pleasure of discovery), and ability to use a different approach with each learner.

  • Aleksandra Kozyra's picture

    Hi Eleonora, thank you for your comment! Could you give us a few examples of the flexible teaching methods you use? Especially related to the pleasure of discovery!

  • Michelle Kinsella's picture
    hi, my name is Michelle and I am a further/higher education tutor. At present I am working as the support and development officer at Dyslexia Association of Ireland. One of the requirements specified by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) in Ireland, in order to support dyslexic students, is the need for a full psychological educational assessment. The further education centre of college require this from the student before they can provide any reasonable accommodations which would level the playing field for the learner. These assessments are very expensive costing anything between 490-600 euro. There is no state provision for these assessments and so the learner must pay for an assessment, thus placing those learners with dyslexia at a further disadvantage not to mention creating another barrier to participation. As Sharon from NLN has pointed out above, this has further consequences for career opportunities.
  • Pages