UFH strives to promote inclusivity and accessibility on campus

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Mr Sam Masschenbroek and Aviwe Makinana from the Disabilty Unit

One of the core values of the University of Fort Hare (UFH) is to be an institution with integrity that promotes inclusivity and equity.

In a bid to ensure the University lives up to this value, the UFH Disability Unit (DU) has, since its inception seven years ago, been working around the clock to remove any barriers and create an enabling environment for differently-abled students.

This includes the procurement of top-of-the-range assistive devices for all three campuses (Alice, East London and Bisho).

On Monday, 15 August, the Unit launched its Disability Awareness Week where several activities have been lined-up. The objective of the week is to shine the spotlight on the strides made in pursuit of inclusivity and accessibility and what still needs to be done.

According to Mr Sam Musschenbroek DU Coordinator and executive committee member of the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) - an advocacy and rights-based non-profit organisation representing disability services in Higher and Further Education Institutions in South Africa - the University has made great strides.

“I have witnessed growth in many facets of the Unit. This includes the attainment of the assistive devices valued at R500 000 that were donated to us by BP South Africa through the assistance of the Fort Hare Foundation and Institutional Advancement.”

“Our biggest achievement is the unwavering support we offer to differently-abled students.  The support includes assisting with registration, funding applications and finding suitable accommodation. We also, through the Student Counselling Unit (SCU), ensure they get emotional support,” said Sam.

The devices installed and stored at the Libraries on all three campuses consist of the following:

  1. Computer labs with specialized software
  2. Large keyboards (Yellow and white)
  3. Large Screen Monitors
  4. Tabletop brail printer
  5. Duxbury Software for brail printer
  6. Perkins hand braille 
  7. Orbit Brail readers
  8. Hand recorder/readers
  9. Topaz readers
  10. Orbit magnifier/cameras
  11. Snow 7: magnifier/text to audio 
  12. Pearl for Open book and WYNN software

Software acquired includes zoom text fusion; zoom text magnifier/reader; talking typing teacher; jaw screen reading and Wynn Reader/ Wizard Literacy Software which transforms text into understandable information.

“These devices, both hard and software, have a significant impact on the success of students who are visually impaired, hard of hearing and also those who have learning disabilities. These devices have the capacity to read, record, write, enlarge and translate. Differently-abled students access the labs through the assistance and monitoring of staff from the Libraries, ICT and the DU who have been trained on the use of the devices,” said Sam.

The activities for the week include erecting information stations where vital information will be disseminated and daily radio interviews on Forte FM to raise awareness. The Unit has also posed a challenge to the University community to visit the stations and spend some time in the shoes of a differently-abled person by using a wheelchair to move around campus.

“We have made great strides, such as the finalization of the Disability Policy that will be submitted to the Management Executive Committee. There is also great effort, using the recent audit that was conducted on all buildings, to ensure all spaces are accessible to all,” said Sam.