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Julie McElroy in conversation with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Researcher aims to raise awareness of assistive technology

Dr Julie McElroy, of the Centre for Work-Based Learning, is using ´╗┐her academic and personal experience to enhance the use of technology for students with disabilities

A Research Assistant at Strathclyde is aiming to use her academic and personal experience to enhance the use of technology for students with disabilities.

Dr Julie McElroy, of the Centre for Work-Based Learning in Strathclyde’s International Public Policy Institute, has profound deafness and Cerebral Palsy. She recently completed her PhD in Assistive Technology, in which she investigated the experiences of tertiary education students with disabilities who use this type of technology in their learning.

She plans to use her research to develop a framework that can be used by education bodies to offer a better understanding of the key issues around assistive technology.

Julie took her PhD at the University of the West of Scotland and graduated on Wednesday 12 July.    

She said: “I want my research to influence the discussion to investigate disabled student experiences, understand their perspectives and hopefully contribute to a better understanding of students’ use of assistive technology and the extent to which it can enhance student learning and engagement.

“I’ve had an incredible educational journey but also an incredible life journey. I never thought I would end up studying for a PhD; I am grateful for the education which, along with my personal motto of drive, motivation and passion, has helped me achieved goals along the way.

“I feel very fortunate that I have been able to secure this prestigious post at Strathclyde looking at equality and widening access in relation to work-based learning. It intersects with the knowledge I have built in my PhD research.”

Julie gained HNC, HND and PDA qualifications at Cardonald College – now part of Glasgow Clyde College - before taking her first degree course at UWS. During this course, she was awarded the UWS Court Medal 2010 for highest achieving student, the Adult Learner of the Year Award 2012 from the Scottish Learning Partnership and the Glasgow Lord Provost Award in 2012.

Before joining Strathclyde, Julie had, while receiving orthotic treatment as a child, visited the National Centre of Prosthetics and Orthotics, based at the University.

She said: “My line manager has identified my talent and potential to succeed in mainstream education while managing challenges associated with my disability. Strathclyde is a prestigious University and it has been captivating to see its work in widening access. It has the potential to adapt and pioneer new openings when catering for a diversified workforce.

“My departmental colleagues are approachable and dynamic - we all value contributions from each other. I have been able to shape the vision of the research work I have been involved with and network with key people along the way.

“Being part of a unique division like the International Public Policy Institute has allowed me to see and explore new knowledge exchange.”

David Wilson, Executive Director of the International Public Policy Institute, said: “Julie is an inspirational colleague. She brings an incredible drive and determination to all her academic, sport and charitable work. In her role with the Centre for Work-based Learning as an early career researcher, Julie is now exploring ways to widen access to learning for young people in the justice system.   And on a daily basis, she has helped me and my team to develop a whole new perspective on how to address barriers to effective working for colleagues with disabilities”

Julie is also active in volunteering and outdoor pursuits, particularly through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scotland. She earned a Gold Award through activities including climbing in the Andes and learning practical skills, and went on to gain a Diamond Award through a Tall Ships expedition and a walk on the eight-mile Strathkelvin Railway Path.      

She was one of 10 honorary batonbearers who attended Her Majesty The Queen’s launch of the Glasgow 2014 Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace and was a torchbearer in the relay leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. She was a volunteer for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and has also done voluntary work with Girlguiding Scotland, and the National Trust for Scotland.

In addition, she has climbed Ben Lomond, run 10k and 15k races and taken part in canoeing events.

18 July 2017