On Tuesday, 22 October 2019, the University of Venda (UNIVEN) held Disability Awareness Day to create awareness about the challenges faced by people living with disabilities on and off campus. This event started with a disability tour around campus where after the official programme was held at Student Centre Chamber.
UNIVEN continues to receive the support from the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology through Historical Disadvantaged Institutions grant (HDI). Disability Unit received grant for ‘Mainstreaming student with Disabilities’ across the departments and schools within the University. The following mobility devices were purchased to support students and staff with disabilities:
– 8 Scooters
– 4 Manual wheelchairs
– 1 Electric wheelchair
Other assistive devices include Braille sense Polaris, Smart reader HD, Laptops, Transformer HD, Softwares and other devices to support teaching and learning for students with disabilities.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni said according to Statistics South Africa, about 5 million people in South Africa are living with disabilities. “We cannot shy away from these statistics. We need to start acting and cater the needs of those living with disabilities. By doing that, we are not doing them a favor but cater their basic needs to be equal to those of ours.” Dr Nthambeleni highlighted that this is because the law of this country says it must be done. He expressed that even our public transport system is not user friendly for people living with disabilities and something need to be done. He said our public transport system need to be improved to cater for those living with disabilities.
He said the SRC should also strive to do something for people living with disabilities on and off campus in order to make the lives of students living with disabilities better. “Most buildings on campus were not designed for people with disabilities in mind. Most buildings on campus don’t even have emergency exits. We will have to demolish some of the walls to make sure that we create emergency exits because it is not safe to work in this kind of environment.”
Dr Nthambeleni further highlighted that some of the buildings don’t even have elevators, and this means people who are on wheelchairs will not be able to access other floors. He said sometimes we need to put ourselves in someone’s shoes. “We need to think about the challenges that other people are going through daily. We need to address the challenges that we have inherited from our past.” He mentioned that there are some good elements of success at the University. He mentioned equipment such as the adapted bus for students with disabilities, funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training, through HDI grant. “The SRC need to come with a plan and submit so that we can start seeking for funding for those plans. This should be a plan that addresses the challenges faced by people with disabilities.”
Students with disabilities were also given a chance to talk about the challenges that they come across on campus and Dr Nthambeleni assured them that some of those challenges will be addressed in the year 2020. “We are in fact busy with the Department of Higher Education and Training regarding the improvements of our infrastructure to also accommodate people living with disabilities.”
Head of Disability Unit, Dr Tshifhiwa Mbuvha said this is the day we want to sensitize ourselves about our teaching and learning environment. This is not only about teaching and learning but accessibility for all students. “We understand that we are coming from an era where some of our buildings were not accommodative to and not accessible for people living with disabilities. We need to start encouraging the culture of adopting the style of accessibility in all buildings as an institution of higher learning.” Dr Mbuvha said all buildings should be easily accessible and be user friendly to all students. She said most buildings including some of the lecture halls and residences are not accessible especially for students who are on wheelchairs. “All facilities should always be accessible.”
DSC Chairperson, Mr Arnold Mathebula expressed that political student structures don’t cater their needs, but instead they use people with disabilities during election campaigns and after winning elections, they forget about them. “We are tired of relying on political student structures to address our issues. We are not fighting with anyone but fighting the system that has forgotten about us. We need to work together in championing these challenges.”
He said everyone should start taking people living with disabilities serious. “Those who are not living with disabilities should learn to respect people living with disabilities because most people forgot that there are people living with disabilities.”
Director: Center for Higher Learning Teaching and Learning (CHETL), Prof Nancy Mutshaeni gave a vote of thanks. She thanked the Vice-Chancellor for honoring the invitation and promising to address the challenges faced by students living with disabilities. Prof Mutshaeni concluded her talk by mentioning that disability is not inability.
Dr Bernard Nthambeleni on an electronic wheelchair with other UNIVEN students who are living with disabilities and other staff members
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 25 October 2018