17 June 2021 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Supplied
CUADS: Recognised for its efforts in human reconciliation within higher education spaces by creating and providing opportunities for students with disabilities to thrive academically.

In commemoration of Youth Month 2021, the South African government zooms in to uncover opportunities available to the South African youth, drawing more young people into the economy, and initiating various youth development and empowerment initiatives to support young people.

In line with this, the University of the Free State (UFS) Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has established and implemented a number of technological and academic support measures to humanise the experiences of students with disabilities at the UFS, encouraging universal access and academic success for all students.  The ultimate aim is to have young people with disabilities employed in order to participate in the economy of South Africa.

CUADS continues the mission established when the department first opened: to become a higher-education institution support service recognised for its efforts in human reconciliation by creating and providing opportunities for students with disabilities to ultimately achieve academically, and to have an institutional culture of embracing and welcoming persons with disabilities on all three campuses of the UFS.

According to Martie Miranda, Assistant Director of CUADS and chair of the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association, CUADS is monumental in its ability to accommodate the specific needs of students with sensory, physical, and learning disabilities, and has inspired other South African universities to enhance the qualities of their services by adapting their strategic visions to that of CUADS, which aims to operationalise and cater for the core needs of students through the UFS Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), founded on the Strategic Policy Framework on Disability for the post-education and training sector. 

The UFS ITP assists in addressing physical barriers (accessibility to and within buildings, e.g., ramps, doorways, services, and information), attitudinal barriers (communication access, awareness and advocacy, integrated programmes to mix and learn between peers), and structural barriers (policies, flexible service delivery, and employment practices).

CUADS, in line with the UFS Division of Student Affairs (DSA), prioritises student success and plans to maintain continuous engagement with students (on an individual basis, but also per disability category) to continue the support needed to ensure student success.

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