Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.

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Realist?
Realist
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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What is Disability

There is  no standard definition of disability, despite much debate on the issue. Current definitions vary across Europe.

In the Irish context, the legal definition of disability is outlined in the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004 and the Disability Act 2005. This definition is broad and includes people who have physical, learning, sensory, psychiatric or medical conditions. In contrast, the EPSEN Act 2004 defines special educational needs as ‘a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition’.

The trend in recent years has been for definitions of disability to reflect the shift from a medical a social model of disability, which has a focus on environmental factors. It holds that people with disabilities are prevented from achieving their full potential, not because of their abilty, but by the attitudes and conventions of society at large.

In the social model, a disabled person might have certain impairments, but it is the barriers in the environment (i.e attitudes, discriminatory practices, or stairs without ramps, etc.) and in the world around them, which actually ’disable’ a person.

A report from The Review Group on Access and Participation of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education used the following definition:

'A student is disabled if he/she requires a facility which is outside of the mainstream of the college in order to participate fully in Higher Education and without which the student would be educationally disadvantaged in comparison with their peers'.

People may choose to keep the fact that they have a disabilty private. Disabilities are not always visible - for example, it may not be obvious that a person is deaf, or has a learning disability. Mental illness can also be an invisible diability.

Visible disabilities on the other hand, are noticeable through casual observation - an immediately recognisable physical impairment might be obvious by the presence of a guide dog, or a wheelchair.

A person may have multiple physical disabilities caused by a primary condition such as Cerebral Palsy, but have perfect mental and cognitive ability.

People who have acquired disabilities, following an accident or an illness, may face additional challenges in making physical or psychological adjustments to their new situation.

The important fact is that whatever the disability, there is also ABILITY, and the person should always come first - their disability is not the totality of who they are in the world.

Students too are much more than their disability, and in the context of education and career guidance, it is important to respond to their needs on an individual basis.

Check out the new DisAbility access Map from AHEAD



Useful Links
AHEAD - Association for Higher Education Access and Disability  
Independent non-profit organisation working to promote full access to and participation in further and higher education for students with disabilities and to enhance their employment prospects on graduation
Center for Independent Living 
A National Voice for Independent Living in Ireland
Disability Federation of Ireland - DFI 
National support organisation for voluntary disability organisations in Ireland who provide services to people with disabilities and disabling conditions
Enable Ireland 
Provides free services to children and adults with disabilities and their families.