According to an article on the conversation, it has been over a decade since the government “signed and ratified” the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities. However, most South African universities are presently faced with the challenge of ensuring the inclusivity of students living with disabilities in university teaching, learning and participation in various activities.

Lehlogonolo Senong of the Disability Awareness Movement told Wits News, “Most students are afraid to come forth (to Disability Units in universities) to talk about their struggles”. Statistics published in StatsSA show that of the 2.9 million disabled persons in South Africa, 1% are students. That brings the number of students living with disabilities to over 28 700 in 2017. The rapid increase of this figure calls for economic, legislative and social intervention from various Disability Units and Programmes. Part of the reason for the existence of Disability Units in universities is to ensure that students living with disabilities do not face challenges of exclusion and neglect in institutions of higher learning.

UP Head of Disability Unit Maria Ramaahlo said,“For us [the UP Disability Unit] awareness starts before you [the student with a disability] go to university. What we do [to raise awareness] is through a career expo for students with disabilities, we present at this expo where students with disabilities are brought in from Gauteng, a few from North West and Limpopo”. This expo involves presenting to Grade 9-12 learners living with disabilities a variety of information which ranges from application processes, study programs, NSFAS, residences and campus facilities.”

“Once students with disabilities get to university, we give them an expanded orientation, they go through a general orientation and then they also come to us for a disability-specific orientation,” Ramaahlo added.

The 2018 objective for DAM is fashioned towards shedding light on the nature of disabilities that students live with, both visible and invisible. The movement also aims to continue advocating for the rights of such students both in universities and in areas of employment.


Image: Michael Ridge