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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

SmartDrive devices give UFS wheelchair users more independence
2017-12-01

 Description: Cuads Tags: SmartDrive Power Assist, accessibility, Martie Miranda, CUADS, wheelchair users 

From the left, are: David Mashape; Martie Miranda, Head of the
Center for Universal Access and Disability Support at the UFS;
and Lawrence Qamba, celebrating the recent acquisition
of two SmartDrive Power Assist devices.
Photo: Johan Roux

Students who make use of wheelchairs at the University of the Free State (UFS) will now be able to move around campus more independently than before. This is thanks to two SmartDrive Power Assist devices acquired by the university.

Accessibility is very important to the institution and with these devices clipping onto a manual wheelchair to make it motorised, students will not have to ask for help that often. It will assist them in overcoming obstacles they face every day.

Different surfaces pose different challenges 
According to Martie Miranda, Head of the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), one of the most important advantages of the SmartDrive machines is that it enhances the independence of students. The devices were bought with funds received from the Department of Higher Education and Training specifically allocated for accessibility and infrastructure.
 
“While the UFS is addressing inaccessibility on its campuses, which will take time, this will help to motorise wheelchairs for wheelchair users to move around more easily. Students can now move around independently without necessarily asking for help, for example, to get up very steep ramps.” Miranda says some surfaces, such as grass and gravel, has its own unique challenges for wheelchair users.

A few years coming

The SmartDrive devices are operated by a Bluetooth watch. By tapping twice on the chair or clapping twice, the motor propels the wheelchair forward and stops when tapped twice, while also braking with one’s hands. The speed can also be controlled by the user. The machines use rechargeable batteries, with a fully charged battery lasting up to 15 hours.
 
Acquiring the devices was a process of a few years, and CUADS is happy to finally employ them to the benefit of their students. Miranda says the determination and support of Prof Nicky Morgan, Vice-Rector: Operations, and the assistance of Nico Janse van Rensburg, Senior Director: Top Management, were instrumental in buying the devices.

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