Disregard for the disabled

PARKED IN: Students in wheelchairs would not be able to access this ramp outside the School of the Arts as a driver decided to turn into a parking bay. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
PARKED IN: Students in wheelchairs would not be able to access this ramp outside the School of the Arts as a driver decided to turn into a parking bay. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Liesl Frankson and Pheladi Sethusa

It’s easy for able-bodied students to forget that navigating the world without sight or the ability to walk can be very tough.

Students in wheelchairs and students who cannot see have to carefully map out their routes to classes, residences and the like.

If they are met by even one obstacle on that route on a certain day, they have to think on their feet.

Cuthbert Ramatlo of the Disability Unit on campus said blind students with guide dogs would be stranded in such an instance, as their dogs only know one specific route.

The Disability Interest Group meets two to three times a year to discuss issues which constantly comes up is  access to campus for disabled students.

One of the major issues around this is often a lack of clear signage indicating suitable entrances, parking areas and toilets.

Vandalism

Wits Vuvuzela walked around to investigate access and wheelchair friendly routes on campus.

Some signs were vandalised while others were not clearly marked or visible.

One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Along with this a wheelchair lift at the School of Arts had been vandalised,  forcing students who use this entrance to go through the after hour’s back door.

“Often we think of back door access for people with disabilities and that’s really wrong because it’s basically going back to discrimination when there were different doors for different races,” said Duncan Yates secretary of the Disability Interest Group.

Yusuf Talia, BSc final year, a student who uses a wheelchair said: “There are some limitations at older buildings, like elevators that make certain places inaccessible”.

Along with this he said weathered paving made for tricky navigation and this problem was intensified when going uphill.

Easy access

To tackle access issues the unit has started developing interactive maps which will show easy access areas around campus for disabled students.

Yates said the map would be a living map that grows as the university changes.

The access map system aims to make online and printed maps available for disabled students, staff and visitors to make their experience at Wits more pleasant.

Students and staff will be able to flag areas on the maps online that are not easily accessible or where they may be experiencing problems.

In addition to the new mapping system the disability unit also provides training for staff and bus drivers. One of the achievements they are proud of is the dedicated Wits bus with access for disabled students.

The unit aims to respond to all student suggestions and complaints.

Talia confirmed this and said most buildings and areas are accommodating, if one lives at res the disability unit generally makes a plan for students to be comfortable.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s