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THE DUT MIDLANDS DISABILITY RIGHTS UNIT AIMS TO CREATE A DISABILITY FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT FOR STUDENTS LIVING WITH DISABILITY

THE DUT MIDLANDS DISABILITY RIGHTS UNIT AIMS TO CREATE A DISABILITY FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT FOR STUDENTS LIVING WITH DISABILITY

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Midlands Disability Rights Unit (DRU) aims to create a convenient environment for students with disabilities (SWD) through their educational programmes and services.

The Disability Rights Unit (DRU) is an office that provides support to students that are living with disabilities. The DRU support 361 students that are registered at DUT. They provide needed academic support and also ensure that students with disability have access to a fair learning environment. The main aim is to give students with disabilities an equal and fair environment, where their challenges are simplified. Furthermore, creating and maintaining a barrier-free environment that is unbiased. Thus, the DRU ensures the accessibility to fair and equitable education in the institution.

Ms Ayanda Nsele, Student Assistant under the Student Governance Department – Disability Rights Unit highlighted that DRU is committed to alleviating the innumerable challenges that students with disabilities encounter daily and creating a disability-friendly environment within the institution.

“The goal is to create an accessible environment that supports and caters for SWD, contribute to making the institution disability friendly and ensure that the learning process is also suitable for them,” stated Nsele.

She went on to unpack their services, saying that their responsibility is to ensure that students with disabilities are assisted with registration, residence accommodation and confirmation; encourage independence amongst SWD hence they do referrals to psychotherapy and psychological services, which plays a huge role in their development and growth in an educational environment; Enables SWD to adjust to the academic environment and be a liaison for financial resources available; Offer assistive devices, and computer lab that students can use; Give health-related support and act as general advocates for students living with disabilities.

DRU also have community engagement programmes that they implement in collaboration with different departments within the institution which includes but is not limited to Advancement and Alumni Relations Office, Student Counselling, HIV Center, Financial Aid and Student Housing. They visit schools/special schools to inform and educate students about the services offered at DUT and what DRU is all about it.

They host annual events such as Disability Orientation and Disability Awareness, where each event focus on a specific disability, consequently giving the institution and its people a learning window about the different type of disabilities that exist.

These programmes assist in educating the students about the different types of disabilities. The Mental Health Programme was one of their successful events in 2021. It was aimed at minimizing the number of people who commit suicide in the institution. They also held a Sign Language programme where they taught basic sign language and how to communicate with hearing-impaired students.

“ Among other challenges that students with disabilities face, it includes not being to able adjust in a classroom environment or access the facilities in the institution. The office then ensures that students receive assistive devices or wheelchairs. In terms of achieving positive learning outcomes, the office tries to create a relationship between a lecturer and a student by ensuring that the lecturer is aware of the student’s disability and knows how to accommodate them ( interpreter or scribe). Also doing chores in their residences is a challenge, therefore the office assists in getting a caregiver/helper that will ensure that the chores are done and their lives are simplified,” further explained Nsele.

Having disabled students participating in sports and starting and running successful businesses was the DRU biggest highlight for the year 2021.

Pictured: DUT Disability Rights Units (DRU) and Student Governance Office staff

Sindisiwe Ndlovu

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