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 Universal Access Design and Disability

2015-09-04 00:00

In this photo (from left to right): Ms Marcia Lyners-Cleophas, Dr Nina du Toit, Ms Colette Fransolet and Dr Diane Bell. 

In anticipation of Casual Day (for persons with disabilities) SU Disability Unit has hosted 3 sessions at SU Main Campus, Tygerberg campus, and finally also at Belpark Campus. The panel discussion at USB was chaired by Marcia Lyner-Cleophas (Head: OSSLN – office for students with special learning needs (disabilities)) and covered "Universal Access Design and Disability". This session included comments from Dr Diane Bell (USB-ED), Dr Nina du Toit (CPUT: Head of Disability Unit) and Colette Fransolet (Universal Design Consultant) regarding universal access, innovation and being future-focussed.

Colette Fransolet said students studying Architecture, particularly, need to be made more aware regarding building regulations, such as access for people with disabilities. She referred to Part S of the SANS 10400 which was last revised in 2011, and reiterated that by “planning better they can design better”.

The Durban International Convention Centre, for example, demonstrates the efficiency and effectivity of incorporating Universal Design from the beginning of the design phases of a project. Employing Universal Design before building construction starts, saves costs in comparison with applying the principles of universal design retrospectively, in particular features such as lifts.

Concerning access to courses, workshops and training in the field of Universal Design, Fransolet mentioned that limited resources are currently available and suggested that more be done to upskill many more people to be able to employ Universal Design in aspects of design. Proper education in Universal Design is becoming more and more essential. 

Dr Nina du Toit mentioned that one of the courses at CPUT includes a module regarding Universal Design.  They are trying to mainstream Universal Design into various curricula.

Dr Diane Bell, who has a daughter who has a functional hearing limitation, shared some examples of progress at main campus and at USB to accommodate people with hearing limitations such as the induction loop systems that were installed in two of the lecture venues.. and the use of real-time captioning (speech to text).
Questions from the audience included asking how companies can sensitize their employees and also customers. Specifically in a department store where it is not always easy to be aware that the person serving you is Deaf and therefore needs to have face to face communication in order to lipread. 

Colette Fransolet shared the following - Newlands Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Newlands and the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) have formed a quite unique partnership in South Africa with the opening of the hotel at the end of 2014. Currently the Park Inn by Radisson Newlands Hotel has 30 employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Based on the partnership with DeafSA the employment of deaf and hard of hearing people was an aim from the beginning of this newly opened hotel and with a representation of close to 30% of employees with disabilities the hotel is well above the government’s target of 2% as well as the 2% to obtain points for the B-BBEE scorecard. 

The hotel management also explains that the legislation on employment of people with disability does not have a large influence on their employment policy.

Students from Stellenbosch University main campus said that other students often ignore the sign for areas that are dedicated to students who use wheelchairs, and in general students are simply not aware that the space is dedicated and the only accessible area in the lecture hall.

On campus Facilities Management also changed the water features to accommodate blind service (seeing-eye) dogs, so it now has a basin at the bottom for water for the dog too.

Lifts are being added to some building on campus with the one at JS Marais costing approximately R3 million.

A paradigm shift is needed, facilities should be designed for all users and people need to be educated about diverse human needs.

Dr Du Toit then proceeded to provide an overview on the Principles of Universal Design, for which the descriptions could be found in the link below:

For more information contact Dr Diane Bell at or Marcia Lyner-Cleophas at​ 

Please click here​ for PowerPoint presentation put together by Dr Bell for the session. 

1 Comment
I am a City Councillor in the City of Johannesburg and Chairperson of the City's Section 79 Development Planning Committee. I am looking to consciously get the City to be aware of Universal Design in all of its facilities, especially Old age homes, customer service centers, etc.
Posted by Graham de Kock on 15-05-2017 11:18 AM


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