UKZN Academic Speaks at Symposium on Wheelchair Use
UKZN Occupational Therapy Lecturer, Mrs June McIntyre, was a speaker at a Wheelchair Services Roundtable Conference in Cape Town.
The event, the first of its kind in South Africa, was hosted by the Uhambo Foundation. It provided a unique platform for wheelchair users, carers and suppliers to network with state, private and non-governmental organisations providing services for people with disabilities.
McIntyre, whose husband uses a wheelchair, raised human rights and ethics as underlying issues which guided services, reminding her audience of the importance of upholding these, yet at the same time acknowledging the difficulty in enforcing them.
Discussing barriers to access for wheelchair users, she emphasised that there were many factors impacting users and that ‘bestowing rights’ was not enough. She reminded participants of the variety of role players involved including taxi operators, social workers, police, medical aid societies, wheelchair users and teachers.
McIntyre highlighted some of the difficult situations faced by wheelchair users including pathways which don’t accommodate wide wheelchairs, being carried up and down a hill from a home to where a chair is kept, a child being taken out of her wheelchair by a grandmother who is afraid the child will fall, and the experiences of patients who had to travel more than four hours to get to hospital and sleep in outpatients in order to get service.
McIntyre questioned whether education was going to sort out challenges in service provision and examined who in reality were society’s wheelchair users today.
McIntyre urged all service providers to continue to develop ethical competence in practice and service provision including sensitivity, judgement, motivation and action.
During discussions, McIntyre spoke about difficulties incorporating training into already over-stretched undergraduate academic programmes for therapists. She said teaching at UKZN had already been adapted in line with current training.
The findings of the roundtable meeting were presented at the African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability Symposium in Malawi earlier this month
Participants suggested the meeting should be an annual event held in various parts of the country and incorporating suggestions put forward at the inaugural roundtable
McIntyre was a volunteer in the Red Cross Flying Medical Outreach Programme for many years, running clinics in underserved areas of KwaZulu-Natal and mentoring young Occupational Therapists.
She has developed a special interest in the wheelchair seating of people with mobility impairments, and has published and presented papers on human rights issues associated with the provision of wheelchairs. She is currently involved in undergraduate teaching as well as the training of professional and lay people. She believes in empowering professional and lay people to appropriately select wheelchairs and seat clients with disabilities correctly.