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 Disability Service Professionals Programme

2016-05-06 00:00
Gerhard Cloete - MediaVision on behalf of USB-ED

Diane Bell -web image.jpgAs a first for USB Executive Development (USB-ED), the private company of the University of Stellenbosch, a Disability Service Professionals Programme was recently launched in Gauteng.

With the financial support of The Fuchs Foundation​ who gave the funding to the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) for purposes of running this programme, the launch consisted of a first intake of 12 participants on a week-long course. 

Aimed at stakeholders in both the further and higher education sector, the focus is on addressing issues of diversity and inclusiveness in general, and disability in particular.

The modules covered key areas aimed to equip those working in the field, as well as aspirant employees in disability units in higher and further education with implementable skills.

The outcomes are essentially aimed at equipping participants with a working knowledge of strategy development, the challenging area of budgeting and fundraising, as well as critical understandings of reasonable accommodation and universal design. This was done through the lens of viewing disability as being part of diversity; as well as from a human rights perspective.

“Our aim was to learn from the participants, as much as we wanted to impart knowledge. And learn we did. We ‘got it’ when faculty, who themselves are people with disabilities spoke about us living in a world design for able-bodied people.

“We learnt that we are all complicit in exclusionary practices, albeit unintentionally. As faculty we were challenged by our facilitation skills that are unquestioningly aimed at the sighted and/or able-bodied. When arranging breakaway sessions and tours, we were forced to think about access in ways that we didn’t consider in the past. 

“These challenges forced us to employ our creativity and innovation, teaching us in the process a great deal about the dire need for practical skills, required to establish and integrate disability into mainstream university and TVET structures.

“Furthermore, we gleaned knowledge about the many challenges those working in the field experience, who describe the work as a calling, advocating on behalf of people with disabilities. These lessons will most certainly be invested into the redesign of the programme to ensure accessibility and equity for all,” Dr Diane Bell, Director of Academic Affairs at USB-ED said.

The participants described parts of the course as “intense”, although really informative. They appreciated that faculty, who are highly accomplished individuals in the field of disability, facilitated on the programme. They confirmed that they would highly recommend the programme to others.

We wish to thank the following faculty wholeheartedly for taking up the challenge to participate in the programme and for giving up so much of their time:

​Anne-marie le Roux: Strategic management and leadership
Independent consultant and lecturer

Dr Anlia Pretorius (PhD): Disability as diversity
University of Witwatersrand: Head of Disability

Sulet van Niekerk: Sustainable financial practice
Business coach and independent consultant

Reinette Popplestone (MA): Reasonable accommodation
University of Cape Town: Head of Disability
HEDSA: Chairperson

Amor Malan: Universal access and design.
Co-Owner / Manager African Centre for Universal Access 
Non-Executive Board Member South African Tourism 
Non-Executive Board Member Tourism Grading Council of South Africa 
Non-Executive Board Member Health Professional Council South Africa 

Dr Sorayah Nair: Learning Process Facilitator
Independent practitioner – Clinical psychologist

Dr Bell also serves as the treasurer of HEDSA and is a member of the Presidential Working Group on Disability. In conclusion she shared that this initiative is of critical importance to further meeting the reasonable accommodation needs of students and staff with disabilities in Higher and Further Education.  The skills acquired are meant to lead to not only the successful functioning of the disability unit but also its sustainability to more fully service the needs of the marginalised student population.  University and College cultures of South African institutions need to become fully inclusive through embracing diversity which would lead to equitable education opportunities for ALL and potential successful academic outcomes.
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