Independent candidate Mary Davis has promised to appoint someone with an intellectual disability to the Council of State if she becomes president.
The Aras hopeful, who was responsible for bringing the Special Olympics to Ireland in 2003, said one of her main goals would be to ensure the highest possible standard of care for people with a disability.
Ms Davis said: "I pledge that I will do everything in my power to pursue those objectives.
"People with an intellectual disability will be directly represented on my Council of State for the first time ever in our history."
The role of the Council is to advise the president in the exercise of his or her reserve powers.
For example, the president must consult the Council before he or she can convene a meeting of one or both Houses of the Oireachtas and before exercising powers in refusing to sign legislation or referring proposed laws to the Supreme Court.
It comprises the Taoiseach, Tanaiste, Chief Justice and President of the High Court, along with former office holders and up to seven other members.
Ms Davis, who has in the past worked with children with special needs, said it is those who live without hope and have no one else to speak up for them in terms of dignity and equality who need her help. Down syndrome and autism are considered to be intellectual disabilities.
Ms Davis made her pledge at the Inclusion Ireland conference, where she also vowed to insist on the highest possible standards in every residential care centre in the country.
Ms Davis said it was shocking that one of the first consequences of the recession was the shelving of the Disability Act and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act.