Disability Research Indaba
The inaugural Disability Research Indaba held at the Westville Country Club was made possible through the efforts of UKZN’s Disability Support Unit (DSU), the Student Services Division, the Corporate Relations Division, the UKZN HIV/AIDS Programme and The Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation.
The aim of the Indaba was to introduce the phenomenon of ‘Research’ into the area of Disability Support in Higher Education because investigative work in the domain has had the effect of reinforcing the exclusion of persons with disabilities from enjoying equal opportunities.
Primary objectives of the Indaba were to:
· Create an awareness of research happening in the Disability Support arena in Higher Education
· Expedite development in Disability Support Services in Higher Education through research
· Introduce a Research culture within the Disability context in Higher Education
· Facilitate a strong platform for more research engagement.
The theme of the Indaba was: “Challenges, Opportunities, Observations and Transformation: Placing Disability on the Research and Innovation Agenda in Higher Education”.
About 115 people attended, including UKZN staff, stakeholders, students and other role-players.
The Indaba kicked off with an interactive mobility workshop hosted by the DSU’s Independence Trainer, Ms Moganambal (Margie) Naidoo, who enlightened everyone about the experience of everyday living with a disability. The workshop provided the audience with a glimpse into the world of the visually impaired through simulations of different eye conditions as well as total blindness. Demonstrations were done with ‘able-bodied people’ who were made to be temporarily ‘disabled’ through the use of blindfolds and other devices.
Dr Siva Moodley was the keynote speaker for the day and he inspired all in attendance with a riveting presentation which focused on equal access in Higher Education and the importance of placing Disability on the Research Agenda.
Presentations and events at the Indaba included:
· Ms Willene Holness on: Accessibility gains in the Equality Courts: Obligations of educational institutions.
· Mr Lungani Mthethwa (a UKZN Masters student with a disability) who presented his current ‘work in progress’ Masters study on the experiences and challenges of adapting to an inclusive education learning environment which centred around UKZN students living with disabilities. Despite the study still being underway, the current research standing of the study left audiences in awe.
· A poster presentation by Mr MG Tesfamichael detailing a comparative study of young adults through examining if having a disability contributed or limited a person’s understanding of HIV/AIDS.
· The DSU Co-ordinator: Edgewood campus, Ms Roshanthni Subrayen, on “What Next? What is to be Done?: Redesigning Tinto’s Learning Communities for Teaching Practice Placements for Bachelor of Education Students with Visual Impairments at UKZN”.
· Ms Yanga Khuboni, DSU Co-ordinator: Pietermaritzburg campus, on educational experiences of people with disabilities.
· Ms June McIntyre of College of Health Sciences on her study which explored the facilitating factors which contributed to a male wheelchair user’s participation within a tertiary institution
· Mr Velenkosini Zitha on: The compliance of UKZN with Article 9 (Accessibility) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A case study of Howard College
· Ms Olaoluwa Adewumi on factors that contributed to HIV counselling and testing uptake among students with disability on the Howard College campus.
· A wrap-up presentation by Information Officer: HIV/AIDS Programme, Mr Thembani Ntobeko Khumalo, who highlighted key aspects from each presentation that was delivered on the day.
Overall, the Disability Research Indaba was a resounding success. The feedback received from all delegates was extremely positive and inspiring. Apart from the stimulating presentations, the Indaba portrayed an eye-opening and empowering experience affirming that a ‘Research’ culture is alive and strong in the area of disability Support.
Organisers say they hoped this Indaba will hasten the research culture not just at UKZN but also across other institutions and organisations in the country as there is still a lot to be learned, explored and discovered in the area of Disability in Higher Education.
Amith Ramballie and Sachin Suknunan