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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 lecturer overcomes barriers to become world-class researcher
2016-09-05

Description: Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness activist Tags: Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness activist

Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness
activist, from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology
at the UFS.
Photo: Nonsindiso Qwabe

Renowned author and disability activist Helen Keller once said the problems that come with being deaf are deeper and more far-reaching than any other physical disability, as it means the loss of the human body’s most vital organ, sound.

Dr Magteld Smith, researcher at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) at the University of the Free State, said hearing loss of any degree can have psychological and sociological implications which may impair the day-to-day functioning of an individual, as well as preventing the person from reaching full potential. That is why Smith is making it her mission to bring about change in the stigmatisation surrounding deafness.

Beating the odds
Smith was born with bilateral (both ears) severe hearing loss, which escalated to profound deafness. But she has never allowed it to hinder her quality of life. She matriculated from a school for the deaf in 1985. In 2008 she received a cochlear implant   a device that replaces the functioning of the damaged inner ear by providing a sense of sound to the deaf person   which she believes transformed her life. Today, she is the first deaf South African to possess two masters degrees and a PhD.

She is able to communicate using spoken language in combination with her cochlear implant, lip-reading and facial expressions. She is also the first and only deaf person in the world to have beaten the odds to become an expert researcher in various fields of deafness and hearing loss, working in an Otorhinolaryngology department.

Advocating for a greater quality of life
An advocate for persons with deafness, Smith conducted research together with other experts around the world which illustrated that cochlear implantation and deaf education were cost-effective in Sub-Saharan Africa. The cost-effectiveness of paediatric cochlear implantation has been well-established in developed countries; but is unknown in low resource settings.

However, with severe-to-profound hearing loss five times higher in low and middle-income countries, the research emphasises the need for the development of cost-effective management strategies in these settings.

This research is one of a kind in that it states the quality of life and academic achievements people born with deafness have when they use spoken language and sign language as a mode of communication is far greater than those who only use sign language without any lip-reading.

Deafness is not the end

What drives Smith is the knowledge that deaf culture is broad and wide. People with disabilities have their own talents and skills. All they need is the support to steer them in the right direction. She believes that with the technological advancements that have been made in the world, deaf people also have what it takes to be self-sufficient world-changers and make a lasting contribution to humanity.

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