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Description: Student Affairs Keywords: USD, Staff, photo

(Left to Right) Florina Motsamai, Hetsie Veitch, David Nkwenkwezi, Lize Botha, Tigo Vorster, Elisa Sising, Martie Miranda

The Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) plays an emerging institutional role in valiant activism for and sustained effort to champion the cause of persons with Disabilities (PwD) and the values of universal access at the University of the Free State (UFS). CUADS symbolises the process of change and institutional aspiration of a university community as a whole.

CUADS, together with the UFS pursues this vision through its mission:

  • Demonstrating in everyday practice the value of human togetherness and solidarity across social and historical divides.
  • Advancing social justice by creating multiple opportunities for disadvantaged students to access the university.
  • Establishing transparent opportunities for lifelong learning for academic and support staff.

The Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) of the UFS supports the university community to establish and sustain learning environments that are accessible to all students, with a specialist focus on SwD (Students with Disabilities).

CUADS is responsible for three main areas of work:

  • Coordination and facilitation of specialist support to SwD in cooperation with other role players on campus to ensure full access to all student academic and other services.
  • Student development for student participation in cooperation with Student Affairs, Departments and Faculties to ensure SwD have a voice and fully participate in student life and governance; an
    Institutional advising and monitoring for policy and implementation of universal access.

CUADS is an active member of forums to design student pathways for success in academic and student life. CUADS has aided in the establishment of representative forums for SwD in student governance, its university-wide awareness campaigns for values of inclusivity and the needs for SwD and its active placement of SwD in flagship-programmes of student development and support. For example:

  • Membership of the Electoral Oversight Committees of student governance
  • Selection committee membership for Global Student Leadership Programmes
  • Institutional membership of committees such as for student orientation and Intervarsity, and
  • Support for campus student forums of SwD to participate in and run for seats in student governance structures on all levels, including the SRC.

CUADS’s sustained growth as champion for universal access at the UFS is proven in its sustained professionalising of its specialist support services to students, that tailors service to each individual student with a disability, its institutional partnerships in Teaching and Learning, research and Student Affairs to construct universal access as an institutional priority and its credentials as critical institutional voice within only three years as independent department since 2010.

The institutional focus of support to SwD at the UFS is now changing from “special” accommodations for individuals, to the creation of a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering to all students. Integrated learning and education methodologies and processes are being researched and developed to create more awareness amongst lecturing staff and incorporating universal design into faculty instruction and curricula, collaborating with the Centre for Teaching and Learning and the Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning.

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