A new bursary programme for third level students who are blind or vision impaired was launched today, a Fine Gael Senator said.
Senator Martin Conway said: “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 was born with congenital cataracts in both eyes which together with other complications left me with 16% eyesight for the rest of my life.
“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.
“My own story so far is a positive one and while I have had many barriers to overcome, plenty of setbacks and no doubt there will be lots more challenges along the way, I believe that I am part of the Republic of Opportunity which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar talks about.
“I succeeded in going to University College Dublin and getting a degree in Economics and Politics which ultimately led me to Leinster house where I am now a member of Seanad Éireann and the first ever legally blind member of the Oireachtas.
“I believe we need to create a society where there is a level playing pitch for everybody and it is the State’s responsibility to create that equality.
“It is important to remember today that when visually impaired students are given the proper supports and given the same opportunities as their peers, there is no limit to what they can achieve,” Senator Conway said.
“One of the principal reasons I entered politics was to use my own life experience of fighting inequality to help build an equal society where the pitch is level for everybody.
“Today marks World Sight Day, the most important advocacy and communications event on the eye health calendar.
“This new third level education bursary, funded by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), will hopefully go some way to addressing any obstacles visually impaired students face.
“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, the 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.
“I know first-hand the crippling additional medical costs from endless doctor’s appointments facing families caring for a child with a disability.
“Fine Gael in Government is committed to supporting people with disabilities to reach their full potential,” the Clare Senator said.