Hidden disabilities highlighted at Research Indaba
TO FOSTER constructive and research-based dialogue and discussion on challenges facing students with disabilities, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Disability Support Unit recently hosted its third Annual Disability Support Research Indaba.
The theme for the Indaba was titled “Considering New Pathways: An Analysis of Disability Intersecting with Diverse Factors as a Means of Addressing Barriers within the Higher Education Landscape and Society”.
The focus of the Indaba, also covered by the sub-themes, was to discuss the aspects of access to higher education, social justice and an insight into hidden disabilities.
A range of presentations were delivered by students, academics, representatives of NGOs, disability experts and activists.
In her opening address, the Executive Director of Student Services Division, Dr Rose Laka-Mathebula, said that the time had come for university campuses to cater fully for students with disabilities to ensure that they had a “full experience”.
Laka-Mathebula encouraged delegates to continue with their work in support of people with disabilities. “Continue to heighten your commitment and your efforts to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard.”
Keynote speaker and Assistant Director in Non-Communicable Diseases at the KwaZuluNatal Department of Health, Mr Mncedisi Mdunyelwa, said in predominantly Western-oriented academic circles and investigations, the voice of disabled people, especially African students, were either sidelined or suppressed because indigenous knowledge systems were not taken seriously.
“The critical action is how disability research in Africa maintains its own unique identity whilst embracing western methodologies.”
In a panel discussion examining the theme and the subthemes of the Indaba, the issues of hidden disabilities were tackled. Students with these types of disabilities often found it difficult to disclose them because of fear of being discriminated against. It emerged that 80% of disabilities are invisible to the naked eye.
Hidden disabilities include conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, depression, sleeping and emotional disorders, and chronic illnesses.
One of the key highlights of the Indaba was the inaugural Dinner in the Dark, the gala event on the first day. It was primarily to raise awareness on disabilities and give delegates the experience of what blind students go through every day. Delegates were ushered into a darkened venue by a blind student and they had the option to use a blindfold as the light increased during the course of the night. Each table was hosted by a blind student who engaged with the participants on disability issues.
Presenters came from both national and international locations. They delivered research presentations that were empowering, enlightening and challenged the paradigms of education in respect to students with disabilities.
THE University of KwaZuluNatal (UKZN) Friends of Medecins Sans Frontieres (FoMSf) recently hosted an annual Community Wellness Day in Cato Manor, Durban.
FoMSF is a student-run organisation affiliated to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors without Borders.
This year, the event was held at the Cato Crest Community Hall and Masibambisane Community Centre.
Students from UKZN Medical School, Physiotherapy and Dentistry volunteered to provide health screening and advice to participants.
The event saw about 200 patients being screened for TB, blood pressure, blood glucose and HIV/Aids. Of those who were tested, 3.48% had a blood glucose reading over 11mmol/l, 13.21% had systolic pressure greater than 130 bpm and 6.58% had signs indicative of tuberculosis.
Patients consulted with senior students and specific intervention plans were discussed. About 35 patients were referred to Cato Manor Clinic for further investigation and management. This upstream screening process identified problems that may otherwise have gone undetected.
Cheshni Jeena, the UKZN FoMSF Chairperson, said: “Each participant received advice from the Dentistry and Physiotherapy students. The latter was particularly helpful to the elderly cohort of the population, many of whom suffered from joint and/or muscle pain.
“Dental Therapy students educated children with demonstrations and oral hygiene advice. Not only did the children learn, but they also had fun”.
More than 350 children under 12 attended the Wellness Day. Physiotherapy was the favourite of children this year, with the students conducting interactive group exercise routines.
FoMSf also hosted Code Makers, which aims to expose children to computer programming at an early age to help expand their career options.
Participants were offered health packs containing a soap bar, a toothbrush and toothpaste, with adults receiving additional packs of vegetables.