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19 March 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Thokozile Thulo
Thokozile Thulo says the UFS has changed its focus in supporting students with disabilities.

The Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has recently opened a permanent office on the Qwaqwa Campus The centre aims to ensure that the University of the Free State increasingly becomes a universally accessible higher-education institution which embraces students with various disabilities.

Thokozile Thulo, CUADS Assistant Officer at Qwaqwa said: “Our focus has changed from ‘special’ accommodation 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 among lecturing staff. This incorporates universal design, faculty instruction and curricula.” 

The CUADS office assists students to gain access to study courses, learning materials, various buildings and residences, computer facilities and specialised exams and tests. For visually-impaired students, study material and textbooks in Braille, audio, e-text or enlarged format are provided. 

The office also supports students with various psychosocial and chronic conditions such as epilepsy and panic disorder, as well as learning difficulties such as dyslexia and hyperactivity. “In addition, we support students with special arrangements such as extra time for tests and exams,” said Thokozile.



News Archive

UFS implements paperless meeting system
2004-08-20

 

The Management Committee of the University of the Free State ’s (UFS) Executive Management recently entered the electronic environment of more effective and centralised meeting and decision-making administration by implementing ‘n computerised meeting system.

With this the UFS became the first higher education institution in the world to use the PARNASSUS-meeting management system. PARNASSUS , which refers to a mountain in the Greek mythology, is a licensed system from CIPAL in Belguim – a developer of software for a variety of applications.

“In stead of coming to a weekly management meeting with a file of documentation, each member now walks in with his/her laptop and the whole meeting procedure takes place electronically,” says Prof Sakkie Steyn, Registrar: General at the UFS.

At the same time the secretary registers the minutes point by point on the PARNASSUS programme. At the end of the meeting, after certain technical finishes are done, the minutes are distributed to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers. The draft minutes is also distributed to those who must implement decisions and prepare implementation steps. These staff members are given security clearance beforehand.

“The system is unique due to the fact that a translation engine has been built into the agenda and minute system. Agenda items can be submitted in Afrikaans and then automatically be translated in English by means of the interactive translation engine, or vice versa. The same principle applies to the minutes,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the translation engine was develop with the expert assistance of the UFS’s Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment (ULFE). Word strings from previous minutes are now being added to the corpus of the translation engine.

“The system enables the secretary to continuously monitor which points are submitted for the agenda and if these points comply with the set standards namely clear recommendations, background and proposed implementation steps. The agenda is closed at a certain moment and no new points can then be added. The secretary does certain technical finished by means of a final classification of point and annexures. The draft agenda is then sent to the chairperson for approval, after which the agenda is electronically sent to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers for preparation,” says Prof Steyn.

“After the minutes have been approved at the next meeting, it is saved on the PARNASSUS decisions data base. The tracing of decisions made during previous meetings can be done by any person with the necessary security clearance. This is different from the past where stacks of documents had to be searched to find a decision,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the secretariat and meeting administration services at the UFS has now entered a fully virtual and electronic environment. This will enhance effective decision making tremendously. “The PARNASSUS system saves us costs and time and the decentralisation of submissions to meetings lessens the work at centralised points,” says Prof Steyn.

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