Increasing Access and Participation for Persons with Disabilities General

At the Research Indaba were (from left): Mr Amith Ramballie and panelists Mr Mthobeli Cutana, Dr Brian Watermeyer, Ms Odette Swift, Mr Tito Nkonyane, Ms Moganambal Naidoo, and Mr Nevil Balakrishna.At the Research Indaba were (from left): Mr Amith Ramballie and panelists Mr Mthobeli Cutana, Dr Brian Watermeyer, Ms Odette Swift, Mr Tito Nkonyane, Ms Moganambal Naidoo, and Mr Nevil Balakrishna.

The second annual Disability Support Research Indaba was held at the Westville Country Club.

Hosted by the Student Services Division, the conference theme was “Inclusivity in Higher Education: Increasing Access and Participation for Persons with Disabilities”.

Executive Director: Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, highlighted the importance of inclusivity and the ‘voices of all’, particularly around issues of disability support at Higher Education Institutions.

‘Last year, the inaugural Research Indaba focused on challenges in areas of opportunities, observations and on transformation with a view to placing issues around disability on the research agenda in Higher Education,’ said Chalufu.

He emphasised the importance of facilitating a ‘strong platform for more research and engagement on issues of disability support in universities’.

Chalufu said that this year, the organisers had ‘upped the ante’ by focusing on critical issues of inclusivity in Higher Education.’

The keynote address was delivered by a disabled (partially sighted) Clinical Psychologist and disability studies researcher at the University of Cape Town, Dr Brian Watermeyer.

Watermeyer spoke on: “Disability Standpoint in Tumultuous Times – South African Higher Education in 2016”, in which he examined the current transformation agenda and political climate.

Watermeyer explored race trauma, identity politics and populist positions. He said: ‘We are more comfortable thinking about race than we are thinking about disability. We feel at home talking about race as South Africans.’

He cautioned that disability was always in ‘danger of being relegated to an-add-on’ and emphasised that disability should be at the centre of the diversity debate. ‘A caring society must be built on an inclusive politics,’ he said.

Senior Student Development Specialist in the Student Services Division, Mr Amith Ramballie, quoted the South African Constitution saying: ‘Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit from the law.’ 

Ramballie said the mission of the DSU was to make UKZN ‘barrier free by enhancing equal education opportunities and providing quality services and support to students with disabilities, academic staff and support staff’.

The Indaba included a panel discussion and presentations on a wide variety of topics ranging from “Not Being Heard – Barriers Experienced by Deaf School Leavers” by Ms Odette Swift, to: “The Role of Higher Education Institutions in the Inclusion and Accommodation of Persons Post Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI) in the South African Workplace” by Dr Khalida Akbar and Mr Henry Wissink.

Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer