Hid­den dis­abil­i­ties high­lighted at Re­search Ind­aba

The Mercury - - TERTIARY TIMES -

Sithem­bile Sha­bangu

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.

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