DCU has become the first university in Ireland to introduce a JAM Card, which allows those with learning difficulties, Autism and or communication barriers to tell others that they may need “Just A Minute”.
The JAM Card aims to help those who are reluctant or often unable to inform others about their condition, to do so in a simple, yet effective, non-verbal way. It can also be used by those who have a brain injury and people who otherwise feel self-conscious about their ability to effectively communicate when engaging with others
DCU has now joined Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and the Luas in recognising the card after launching the initiative on their Glasnevin campus on Tuesday, February 4th.
The JAM Card was developed by the NOW Group, a social enterprise service who are based in Belfast.
“For some people taking the step into higher education can be very daunting. We are so pleased that a major institution like DCU recognises that the JAM Card can help break down some of these barriers,” shared Chief Executive of NOW, Maeve Monaghan.
DCU is also the world’s first autism-friendly university and claims to be constantly looking for ways to make the learning and social environment more comfortable for students with autism.
“When the card was launched in the Republic of Ireland just before Christmas, we heard about it and immediately realised it fitted in perfectly to what we wanted for DCU,” said Director of DCU Student Support and Development, Claire Bohan.
“It is a very simple yet effective way of raising awareness of the fact that all students are different and some students may just need a little bit more time to do what they need to do at a service point or with a member of staff. We wanted to lead the way in third-level in Ireland,” Dr Bohan said.
How exactly can one use the cards? If a student, staff member or member of the public present the card at a customer-service facing point such as The Helix, the Restaurant, the Library, Student Advice Centre, Registry and so on, it indicates to that member of staff that the student may need a little bit more patience or time from the member of staff – it should just take a quick flash of the card or the JAM Card App, with no explanation needed.
Mia Duffy, a Computer Science student in DCU, gave her opinion on the new initiative. “I think that these JAM cards will become very useful for students on the spectrum when they interact with people,” she said. “I think when autistic students show their cards, it will teach people to be a bit more patient with them because they can be very quiet and sometimes overwhelmed.”
“I also believe it will help me when talking to my lecturers if I have difficulty with projects and exams” continued Duffy.
The reaction so far has been “phenomenal” according to Dr Bohan.
As well as introducing these cards, DCU has a number of others services that they say make the college autism-friendly, such as Sensory Pods across all 3 campuses, quiet hours built into every university organised student-facing event such as orientation and open days and into the Clubs and Societies Days. As well as that, DCU also has the first neuro-divergent society in the world.
“We are building in guidelines to our colour schemes when refurbishing a room or a building; doing training with academic, administrative and professional staff so that they understand the small changes that can make a difference to students with autism. We keep building and adding,” said Dr Bohan.
For those who wish to access the JAM Cards, they are available from the Student Advice Centres and in the Disability and Learning Support Offices through the Autism- Friendly Coordinator across both Glasnevin and St. Patricks campus. Students can also download the app free of charge from the App Store and Google Play for free.
When it comes to DCU’s future, Dr Bohan outlined how they will “continue to grow and develop the initiative and, most importantly, streamline it into everything we do”.
Image Credit: DCU