Ability Programme

Our Ability Progamme is partially funded by a wider funding programme also called Ability, which is co-financed by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.

Our new online Ability Programme

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are delighted to announce the launch of an online version of our Ability Programme, “Ability Online”. Adults with Down syndrome are offered the opportunity to study a range of topics from our Adult Education Programme over a ten week course.  We are inviting adults to take part in our new online Ability Programme, which will combine online tasks and group zoom discussions.  The online workshops aim to equip adults with the skills to live and work independently, while the zoom sessions aim to support social connections & friendships.  An online version of this programme gives adults from every branch in Ireland the chance to take part in the programme. 

Ability Online is partially funded  through a larger progamme called Ability which is co-financed by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020. The course is open to members with Down syndrome who are 18-29 years old.  The programme is free of charge to Down Syndrome Ireland members.

For more information about this new online programme download your copy of the Ability Online Prospectus



Here is some feedback from our current students:


 I really enjoyed the course so far. It is lovely to meet people from other parts of Ireland  on Zoom.  I would encourage people to take part in this course because they would be working to improve their ability and their Independence (Michelle Whelehan, Co. Meath)


I took part in the online ability course as my parents thought it would be interesting for me as I took a year out of my 3rd level hospitality course due to covid-19.  My parents were right I am really enjoying the course .  I would advise anyone thinking about taking part to do so as it’s very interesting good fun and very educational (Stephen Doherty, Donegal)


I am so delighted to be a part of the Ability online group. I look forward to our Zoom sessions every week and now even more so as I am off work due to level 5 restrictions.I would highly recommend this programme to all young adults as it is a very different experience and there is so much to learn from the course but also from other likeminded people. It most definitely improves our skills in the areas of conversation, listening and IT. Well done Down Syndrome Ireland (Conor Griffin, Kerry).



People with Down syndrome want to work and represent a substantial source of untapped commitment and talent. In Ireland, less than 5% of adults with Down syndrome secure meaningful employment and we in Down Syndrome Ireland are working to change that. 

Our Ability Programme breaks down barriers and provides people with Down syndrome access to meaningful employment opportunities.


Aimed at all school leavers and adults with Down syndrome across the country, the approach of the programme is two-pronged:

  • We offer a bespoke person-centred education and training programme which prepares adults with Down syndrome for employment.
  • We also develop direct links with employers around the country through a programme of partnership initiatives aimed at securing long-term employment for adults with Down syndrome across a broad range of sectors.


Education and Training

Down Syndrome Ireland run adult education programmes that offer an alternative option to the traditional day-service route.  School-leavers have the option of studying our literacy and technology course, Latch – On or our active citizenship course, My Opinion My Vote (MOTE).    We also run a bespoke Work Skills course which is designed to help adults with Down syndrome close the gap between education and meaningful employment in the world of work.

The course is compiled of interactive videos centred on employment and is based on a project developed by Accenture called the Skills to Succeed Academy

The course is divided into three modules:

-You and Your Career looks at the individual and what their interests and motivations are. Students also learn about the different types of jobs and careers that are available.

-Getting a Job examines the practical process of applying for a job. Students will practise all aspects from job adverts, application forms, CVs and interviews.

-Success in Work prepares students for professional life and looks at social behaviour expected in the workplace. Students will practise roleplays and learn about timekeeping.

If possible, students are encouraged to take part in work experience in their local area during their course.

We offer students a number of options. 

  • Students can study all three courses together giving a full-time alternative to entering a day centre.
  • Adults who have already completed our existing education programmes, Latch-On and MOTE, can avail of our Work Skills Course (1 day per week for 2 years or 2 days per week for 1 year, depending on the commitments of students).
  • School leavers and adults aged 18-30 who have not previously participated in our programmes will be offered a new three-year programme, which will run 4 days a week.


You can download further information about our Ability Programme here.

If you would like to find out about or start an adult education course in your area, please contact Lisa Martin – Head of Adult Education at lisamartin@downsyndrome.ie or call us on 01-5632450.



Supporting adults to make informed choices about their work and careers and providing them with the necessary resources to seek, obtain and be successful in gaining employment is a core element of the programme.

For this reason, Ability also consists of pre-employment training, varied work experiences and specific work placements in the students’ local community which are likely to progress into meaningful employment.

To date, we have helped support adults gain meaningful employment opportunities with employers such as in hair salons across Ireland as a result of our hairdressing assistant training programme with ALFAPARF Milano. Industries that we have successfully placed adults with Down syndrome into meaningful are as follows but not limited to: hairdressing salons, office administration, retail, hospitality which include hotels, bars, cafes, restaurants, leisure centres, opticians, manufacturing, childcare.  We are always looking to partner with new employers and explore new exciting opportunities for adults with Down syndrome. 

We aim to have 220 school leavers and adults with Down syndrome graduate the Ability Programme and gain meaningful employment by 2021 and are currently engaging with a wide range of progressive organisations who see people with disabilities as key to making their organisation more diverse and inclusive.

Interested in finding out more? Please contact our Head of Employment, Aoife Gaffney by email at aoife@downsyndrome.ie.


Are you an employer?

If you are interested in employing a person with Down syndrome, take a look at the following information pack for employers that we have developed to help give an overview of our process and goals. 

Companies that employ people with Down syndrome report that those employees are committed and motivated, and often only need an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities.

The positive impact on the person with Down syndrome is substantial. Working helps improve confidence, increase social connectivity and integrate the individual into the local community.

If you are an employer, we ask you not to make assumptions about what a person with Down syndrome can do. We ask you to consider the skills, abilities and aspirations of each individual. 

We can provide support to you around looking at job roles and responsibilities in your organisation that would provide meaningful work for an adult with Down syndrome.  We can also provide support around contracts and any materials that may need to be written to support the individual and employer training to ensure awareness around working with adults with Down syndrome.

If you are an employer who wishes to employ a person with Down syndrome, we are here to support you. Please contact our Head of Employment, Aoife Gaffney at aoife@downsyndrome.ie.


I’m an employer, how do I get involved?  

  • Please watch our employment FAQ video in the above ‘Are you an employer’ section. 
  • Download our Employer Introductory Pack, designed to give employers a full run down or supports/advice and benefits to employing a person with Down syndrome. 
  • If you have any further questions please reach out to our Head of Employment – Aofie Gaffney by email at aoife@downsyndrome.ie 


I am a parent/person with Down syndrome, I want to find a job, what do I do?  

  • If you need advice or have further questions please reach out to our Head of Employment – Aofie Gaffney by email at aoife@downsyndrome.ie 
  • When we have job postings we ask that you keep an eye on our member Digest, our website, and social media platforms as we advertise across all of these when positions become available. 


How can I prepare myself to be “employment/job ready”? 

There are lots of skills you can practice at home, with your family & friends and out in the community.  These will all help you towards becoming a more independent and confident adult.  It will also help you prepare for work. You can practice: 

  • Conversation skills – small talk, staying on topic, knowing the difference between personal & professional conversations. 
  • Independence Skills – problem-solving, making decisions, being on time, traveling on public transport, managing your money. 
  • Communication Skills – introducing yourself to someone new, having good eye contact & body language, following instructions, communicating your choices, expressing your opinion, showing an interest in other people. 
  • Boundaries & Behaviour – knowing what appropriate personal space is, being sure of privacy (private places & private behaviours), knowing the different ways to act and communicate with colleagues compared to friends & family.