Updates and Events
Update on the Autism Friendly University Initiative [January 2019]
|Project Coordinator Appointed||Kirsten Hurley appointed as project coordinator in mid-October '18.|
|Old Bar Refurbishment (Autism-Friendly Space)||Butler & Cammoranesi architects have been commissioned for this project and building is due to commence in May '19 with the aim to open for Sept '19.|
|Training & Awareness Raising||Autism awareness training will be offered to staff and further events will be held in April (Autism Awareness Month).|
|Sensory, Space & Digital Audits||The sensory environment, navigation of physical spaces and engagement with digital interfaces can all pose challenges for students on the spectrum so audits will be carried out to highlight these challenges.|
|Student Feedback & Focus Groups||Focus groups were held to explore the needs of students & 'autism-friendly' eating spaces were identified as a significant need.|
|Establishment of Working Groups||Working groups involving staff from all across the University are being convened to further the 'autism-friendly agenda'.|
Project Coordinator Appointed
Kirsten Hurley was appointed Project Coordinator for the Autism Friendly University Initiative and took up the role in mid-October 2018. Kirsten has worked at UCC in various roles relating to autism since 2011, including coordinating both the development of the Diploma in Autism Studies and the online Certificate in Autism Studies.
The Old Bar Refurbishment (Autism-Friendly Space)
Butler & Cammoranesi architects have been commissioned for the refurbishment project. Following a number of visits to AS units in local schools and a consultation process with students with AS (focus groups and survey), the SU and relevant staff, the design team produced an initial plan of the layout of the building. This was again reviewed with students with AS and representatives from the Student’s Union and revisions to the initial design were made. The building will contain two sensory rooms and two respite rooms as well as an open plan ‘calm space’ which will be accessible to all first year students as well as students registered with the DSS. The focus groups revealed that a number of students with AS have difficulty eating in busy spaces on campus (such as the Main Rest) and so there will be space allocated within this building for eating. The building will also contain two accessible toilets (which will be designed according to best practice in this area and far exceed the legal requirements). The refurbishment is due to commence in May 2019 with an aim for completion by the start of the 2019 academic year.
Sensory, Space and Digital Audits
The sensory environment, the navigation of physical spaces and engagement with digital interfaces can pose significant difficulties for students with autism/AS. To highlight these difficulties (and put in place measures to ameliorate any challenges) a number of sensory, space and digital audits are being conducted with students. The findings will be presented to the relevant departments, services, and staff. Staff from Buildings & Estates and the Capital Projects Office have welcomed the opportunity to add ‘autism-friendly’ aspects to guidelines around both the development of new spaces and the management of current spaces on campus. Specific guidelines informed by international best practice in the field of autism-friendly design are being developed in conjunction with staff from these offices.
Establishment of Working Groups
To facilitate achieving the aims of the University-wide initiative, a number of working groups will be established to further the ‘autism-friendly’ agenda in conjunction with existing initiatives and strategies being implemented across the University.
Training and Awareness Raising
A one-day course designed for staff in higher education who support people with autism will be delivered on the 28th February by trainers from the National Autistic Society in the UK. 25 staff will be involved in the training. Other awareness events will be organized to coincide with Autism Awareness Month in April.