The Department of Student Support hosted a Disability Awareness Day last Thursday. The day was aimed at helping students gain knowledge and insight into what life is like for people living with disabilities and understanding that disabilities do not define them.
The day started off slowly, but organiser of the event, fourth-year social work student Fezile Bekwa, believes the day was a success and was happy with the turn out despite the poor weather. “Most able-bodied students expressed that they had not realised that people with disabilities have many capabilities and are no different to able-bodied individuals,” she said.
Four therapy dogs brought to the event by Paws for People attracted a lot of attention. Many students gathered to pet and take photos of the dogs as they showed off their training. Therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals and nursing homes and to people with learning difficulties.
Students had the opportunity to take part in wheelchair races, a disability game show,a dance-off, tactile chess, and snakes and ladders for the blind.
“How do people do this all day?” exclaimed first-year public management student Kabelo Nthlane upon finishing a wheelchair race. “It’s tiring. I feel like I’m unfit,” he told Perdeby, adding that if he had to be in a wheelchair, “I’d be the strongest person I know.”
Singing group Blind Ensemble, comprised of four blind students, received loud applause for their performance on the day. Member of the group Kenneth Mabale said, “I thought it was really cool to give people that experience [of being] in a wheelchair.” Mabale said that he doesn’t regard himself as disabled.
In an interview with Perdeby, Mabale and co-member Percy Makube said that they face challenges on campus such as construction, inaccessible facilities and people parking where they shouldn’t, especially on pavements. Makube said that students need to be aware of the fact that there are disabled students on campus. According to Mabale, “If they [UP] want to be a world class university then they definitely need to do a lot more than what they are doing now (to help disabled students).”
Visually impaired student, Bonolo Mfikwe, who is busy with her first year in social work, said she initially didn’t understand the need to expose disabled students by having an awareness day, but came to realise that people need to be aware that being disabled doesn’t mean you are limited. She hoped the day would help students to understand those with disabilities and see them as any other student. She thought it would be a good start to have a disabled student on the SRC.
Makube said students shouldn’t be afraid to approach and interact with disabled students.
View the videos of Perdeby‘s interviews with disabled students, as well as a video of the Blind Ensemble performance, below.
Photos: Eleanor Harding
Videos: Kabelo Mabokela