by Kim Steenkamp

Universities lack disability

Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu's visit, an important eye-opener

Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu's visit, an important eye-opener
Universities lack disability

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, recently visited the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in the continuation of her nationwide road-show to South African universities.

Bogopane-Zulu is visiting universities to assess their accessibility, admission, and treatment of students with disabilities.

Most young people with disabilities in South Africa have been refused admission by universities based on their disabilities, a practice that is against the constitution of the country. This has led to many disabled students being unable to further their formal education after matric.

The Deputy Minister has criticised South African universities for being insensitive and inconsiderate to disabled students who have been unfairly denied access to higher education.

The VUT was the twentieth university to host Bogopane-Zulu since the beginning of her road-show in early 2012, and the Deputy Minister strongly criticised the university after discovering they have no disability policy in place for both students and employees with disabilities.

Part of the aim of the Deputy Minister's higher education road-show is to ensure that universities open disability rights offices to promote and protect the rights of students and employees with disabilities.

In addition, the road-show serves to ensure that universities comply with universal disability access principles – as most universities have buildings and premises that are not accessible by wheelchair – and to promote disability best practices in university management.

In addition to her criticism of the university for lack of a disability policy, the Deputy Minister also expressed her shock and disappointment that Vaal University of Technology does not have a single disabled employee, out of a total staff complement of almost two thousand people.

Government has requested that South African companies and employing organisations ensure that 2% of their employees are people with disabilities.

The deadline for this target has been postponed to March 2015.

"We have a two percent disability employment target that was set by government in 1996, with the initial deadline set for the year 2000, to allow companies and all organisations to reach the target, the deadline has been postponed four times to 2015, yet we still have an institution like the VUT with zero percent achievement of the target," Bogopane-Zulu lamented.

The university's acting vice chancellor, Prof Louw, said the Deputy Minister's visit was an important eye-opener, "We are grateful for the Deputy Minister's guidance because it has sensitised us in a lot of areas regarding disability, now we know the things that we must do as an institution," he said.

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