On 18 November, SpeakOutUP in conjunction with BOLD UP, a committee under the UP Disability unit, held a Disability Awareness Month Webinar. The webinar was divided into three segments, each highlighting a specific theme related to the topic.
Segment 1 sought to address the theme of lived experiences of persons with disabilities, segment 2 unpacked barriers faced in the university space and society in general with policy implementation, and the last segment addressed attitudes and discrimination directed at individuals facing disability.
Some points that were underscored were the fact that some lecturers use visual aids like pictures in the content of their lessons which disadvantages visually impaired students. The discussion called for inclusivity in their facilitation of lessons to ensure that every student understands what is being taught regardless of their disability. It was also suggested that lecturers evaluate the documents that they upload onto clickUP as students who use screen readers like NVDA or Jaws were unable to access lecture content. Other suggestions that were made included asking the university to put medical aid kits in several buildings to ensure students with epilepsy and Hypertensive Heart Disease could receive emergency assistance in the case of an unlikely event.
Other important points that were brought up included the concept of silent forms of discrimination that individuals with disabilities encounter. It was ascertained that “people surrounding those with disabilities must understand [that] those with disabilities [are] human beings, rather than simply sympathising with them for their disabilities”. Lumping people with disabilities into one category, reduces the disability to an unfortunate fact and condescending responses were some of the microaggressions highlighted to avoid when interacting with individuals facing disability.
Nontsikelelo Loteni, the Director of Transformation at UP, proposed that BOLD UP consolidate a report that will seek to find out the issues that specifically affect students with disabilities in an effort to make headway to address them in the course of the coming year.