UCT set to become wheelchair friendly

UCT had been reported to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for discriminating against those with disabilities.

Earlier this month disabled students protested outside the University’s Bremmer Building, stating that they’re being discriminated against by the institution.

The protest was led by disabled electrical engineering student Kanyisa Ntombini who said that the university does not adequately accommodate those who are differently abled.

Complaints included a 24-hour study area for the disabled being too small and only containing one computer with a magnifier.

The student wellness programme was also said to be understaffed, resulting in long waiting-lists for appointments.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said that the university secured the R11.5 million from private investors to go towards the university’s disability unit.

The funding will be used to enhance the range of support services offered to disabled students and a portion of the money will be allocated for bursaries and sign language interpreters.

“This is a grant that has been secured to assist with things like fees and other forms of support for students with a disability. UCT has done significant work to support students and staff with disability on campus, and this includes making the facilities on campus accessible for people with disabilities.

“All new buildings on campus have to conform to strict accessibility requirements. Also, when any significant maintenance, upgrade and renovation of existing buildings occur, accessibility challenges are being addressed. An amount of R750 000 was set aside in 2016 for retrofitting infrastructure when demands for access become apparent,” said Mr Moholola.

He said the university has an “access map” which guides those with mobility impairments on how to navigate the design and location of some of the buildings.

He said the disability unit also provides a wide range of support to students with assistive software for those who are blind, deaf or using hearing aids.

“In 2016, UCT employed two sign language interpreters for the four registered deaf students, who were also provided with peer note takers, a senior student who sits in class with them and take notes. These note takers are paid by the disability unit.

“Note takers for lectures and scribes for tests and exams are also provided for students with limited upper limb function, such as students with quadriplegia, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and more.

“Magnetic induction loop technology has been fitted to 38 lecture venues for students who make use of hearing aids and cochlear implants,” said Mr Moholola.

Parent Elizabeth du Toit of Vredehoek, in a letter to the Cape Times, praised the disability unit.

She said her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, is subsequently learning disabled and also dyslexic, studied at UCT from 2010 to 2014 and again this year.

“There are about 40 differently adapted computers in the disability centre that cater for every individual need. There are also places to rest. Accommodations are made for reading material and for needs around writing examinations.

“I am aware that choosing a university on a mountain adds an extra burden.

Yet, I have to confess that the Disability Unit has made our daughter’s study possible and without them smoothing her path she would not have successfully completed her three degrees. (She went to Stellenbosch for her Master’s in 2015-2016).

“I am terribly sorry to hear that students with mobility challenges have difficulty in acquiring suitable places of residence and I am sad that UCT is publicly being portrayed in such a negative light because of it,” she wrote.

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