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In a bid to address challenges faced by the Durban University of Technology (DUT) community living with disabilities the University held a staff disability workshop on Wednesday (17 July 2019) at the Riverside Hotel, Durban North.

Hosted by the Disability unit that is run by Gugu Sacolo (Durban) and Thobeka Nxumalo-Shozi (Midlands Campus), the workshop was an initiative by both Midlands campus office for Student Services and Development and the office of the Dean of Students.

This workshop saw its platform being utilised by DUT staff but also had presentations from DUT students, the Institutions external stakeholders such as NSFAS and the office of the Presidency to name but a few.

In his welcoming remarks, Dr David Mohale, Director: Special Projects at the office of the Principal&Vice-Chancellor, said it was not only crucial for the institution to address such issues but it was also vital that when matters are being addressed, those who are the centre of topic of discussion are also present to add onto the dialogue and enlighten key decision makers of their challenges.

Furthermore, Dr Mohale encouraged the attendants of the workshop to find tangible solutions that also address issues of equity where people living with disabilities and the institution is concerned.

A presentation by two students highlighted the plight faced by students living with disabilities. Siphiwe Zuma an Interior Design third year student emotionally expressed how he ended up inventing an umbrella that could be attached to students’ backpacks while they move around during rainy days. Zuma further echoed that students living with disabilities are suffering in silence. In supporting Zuma’s sentiments Xolani Kunene, a third year Civil Engineering student said there were many challenges that they faced especially with the provision of services around the institution.

“The registration process for students living with disabilities has to be one of the most strenuous processes especially since services provided by the university are scattered all over campuses, commuting from one campus to the other is an issue. I remember one of my fellow peers was soaking wet after having to move from Campus to Campus in order to sort out his registration. Vehicles designed to commute students, university buildings are also not disability friendly,” said Zuma.

Kunene also expressed issues around funding that are faced by students living with disabilities. “Not only is the DUT Financial Aid office not easily accessible but we also face the challenge of having the National Student Financial Aid addressing students living with disabilities last. By the time we are addressed, there is minimal to no time available to compile all the necessary required documentation,” expressed Kunene.

DUT students and staff were not the only people that expressed challenges where disability was concerned but Lesa Bradshaw a recruitment specialist from BradShaw Leroux Recruitment and Assessment Specialists Disability Integration Consultants shared her experiences of being mistreated directly and indirectly over the years. “I remember when I was studying my MBA at one of the Institutions in town, they wanted to carry me up the staircase so I could attend their student induction, but I refused profusely because I expected such a big institution to have its campuses disability friendly and ended up proposing solutions such as having the speakers recorded on a cellphone so that I could have access to what was being discussed. However, I urged them to address this challenge and when I returned to attend classes and write my exams, they were able to accommodate me,” said Bradshaw.

Some of the other challenges that were addressed by most speakers at the workshop were: Students relying on other students for help, having being placed on the ground-floor but facing depilated resources, offices without ramps, challenges with buying groceries, exam venues that are not disability friendly to name but a few.

This workshop was also attended by legal representatives from the office of the Presidency, a representative from NSFAS, a representative from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), different departments from DUT, Heads of Departments from DUT and students living with disabilities as well as executive management.

Pictured: Philani Zuma during his presentation at the workshop.

Noxolo Memela

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