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25 April 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya

Since 2016, the University of the Free State Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has received a grant from First National Bank worth R2 498 000, which supports tertiary bursaries for students with disabilities. Bursary holders are funded through CUADS, as the administrator of the bursaries.
  
These are students enrolled for various academic programmes who require academic assistance and/or assistive devices such as electronic handheld magnifiers, laptops, and hearing aids. The FNB grant also covers tuition, accommodation, study material and books, and meals.  The success of the grant is already evident, with one of the recipients having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2018. A second student was capped at the April 2019 graduations with a BSc Honours in Quantity Surveying.
 
Supporting the principles of the ITP

The UFS received the grant from FNB in instalments, starting in the 2016 academic year to date, supporting the needs of 40 disabled students. This grant and the work of CUADS speaks to and supports the principles of the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), namely inclusivity, transformation, and diversity. The vision of the Universal Access work stream is to enable the UFS to create an environment where students with disabilities can experience all aspects of student life equal to their non-disabled peers. The ITP provides for the recognition of the rights of people with disabilities as an important lesson in social justice and an opportunity to reinforce university values.

The successful administration of the grant to benefit past and present students is a ‘feather in the cap’ of CUADS, and is a shining example of the impact of public private investment and the endless possibilities that open up when there is a commitment to developing future leaders in academic spaces, allowing them to thrive by creating a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering. 



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"Studies indicate disability, poverty and inaccessibility to healthcare are intricately linked " - expert opinion by Dr Magteld Smith
2014-12-03

Dr Magteld Smith

Programmes worldwide attempt to improve the lives of people with disabilities, but recent studies indicated that disability and poverty, as well as disability and the inaccessibility of health care, continues to go hand in hand.

In South Africa, and even in developed countries, research shows that people with disabilities achieve lower levels of education with higher unemployment rates, live in extreme poverty and have low living standards.

“To have a disability can therefore become a huge financial burden on either the disabled person, the family or caregivers,” says Dr Magteld Smith from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology.

She devotes her research to the medical-social model of the global organisation, the International Classification of Functioning, Disabilities and Health, focusing on all areas of deafness.

Furthermore, Dr Smith says it is more difficult or more expensive for people with disabilities to obtain insurance, because of the risks associated with disability.

Dr Smith also emphasises the inaccessibility and even unavailability of medical services or health care for people with disabilities.

“Services such as psychiatry or social services are often not accessible. When such services are available, it is not affordable for most people with disabilities.”

Dr Smith uses the example of a person who was born deaf:

“Doctors have limited knowledge of the different types of hearing impairments or how to read and interpret an audiogram. Very little understanding also exists for the impact of deafness on the person’s daily life.”

Dr Smith, who is deaf herself, describes the emotional state of mind of people with disabilities as a daily process of adjustment and self-evaluation.

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