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Digital exam papers extended to Junior Cycle students

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has extended to Junior Cycle students a measure which makes it easier for some visually impaired candidates to sit State exams.

The body has told schools that digital versions of examination papers will be provided this year to eligible visually impaired Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate students.

The provision means that candidates can zoom in and enlarge sections of the paper as they require.

The scheme has been expanded following a successful legal challenge by a 14-year-old Junior Cycle candidate with a severe visual impairment.

Last October, the child and her family requested that the SEC provide digital exam papers to enable her to access the examinations on an equal footing to her peers.

At the time digital papers were only available to Leaving Certificate candidates.

After the SEC refused to expand the provision, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) assisted the candidate in a complaint of disability discrimination to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

That complaint was settled prior to hearing with the SEC agreeing to extend its current scheme to include this student and all other eligible visually impaired Junior Cycle candidates in the 2024 examinations.

The mother of the child in question, Aoife Kearney, said it was shocking that yet another legal action had to be taken to bring this change about.

“Parents should not have to seek redress through the WRC to tackle the exclusion of visually impaired students in accessing an equal education,” she said.

IHREC Director Deirdre Malone said it was delighted with the outcome of the case “while remaining disappointed that it had to be taken in the first place, and that it has come so late in the year for students who need to avail of it”.

“We need to see greater digitisation in the future to ensure examinations are as inclusive and acessible as they can be”, she said.

Students with a vision impairment can find out about eligibility and the application process through their school.

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