As colleges across the land begin to welcome back students some are putting some extra measures in place to make sure the college is a safe and friendly environment for everyone.

Some colleges have introduced the JAM card system which helps those with additional needs or learning disabilities to have a more pleasant college experience.

JAM stands for “Just A Minute” and was developed specifically by Belfast-based social enterprise NOW Group, for people with learning disabilities to allow them to ask for “just a minute” of patience in customer service situations.

However, the JAM card can also be used by anyone with a communication barrier such as Asperger’s or autism. It can also be used by those with a brain injury or people who may feel self-conscious about their ability to effectively communicate when engaging with other people.

“The JAM card can be used simply and effectively by any of our students in a simple, effective non-verbal manner and it just one of a number of initiatives at our college which aims to provide assistance and support to students, not just in their educational pursuits but also in their everyday lives,” says Helen Ryan, principal of Cork College of Commerce. One of three colleges signed up to JAM.

National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and Dublin City University (DCU) are also using the JAM card.

The card can be either a plastic card carried in the wallet or purse, or users can download a free app from the Google Play Store or Apple store where they can use the app to create different messages on the card, and rate and review JAM-friendly businesses.

“The JAM card really is a communication tool for people with communication barriers, and various types of disabilities who need a little bit more extra time or patience in everyday situations or events,” says Cheryl Ball, training and development manager at NOW Group.

Developed by NOW Groups own participants because they felt there was a need for a way of indicating that they just needed a little bit more time and patience.

“It is becoming more common in colleges in the Republic of Ireland and up here we have the likes of Belfast Met, Northern Regional College and North West Regional College as well,” she adds.

Cheryl has already received emails from students asking her to get in touch with their colleges and universities because they would like to see this system in place where they are studying.

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