This month we look at higher education for students with physical disabilities.

There is a move to include students with disabilities into colleges and universities across South Africa. If you are thinking about studying it is important that you bear the following steps in mind:

Step 1

If you have access to the internet, have a look at the institution's website as it will have information about the different courses, the entrance requirements, as well as what support is available to students with disabilities.

If you don't have internet access, phone the institution and ask them to post you a prospectus which will give you information about the institution. At the same time ask them if they have a disability unit or support services for students with disabilities, and get their contact details.

Step 2

If the institution has a disability unit or support services for students with disabilities, phone, or e-mail them. Many units are able to assist you with application forms, tracking the progress of your application. They may also tell you if there are bursaries and scholarships for students with disabilities and how to access these if you are in financial need.

Step 3

If you are accepted into an institution, and if you require assistance, inform (and where necessary register with) the disability unit/service. Many institutions may help with the following, depending on the institution, support needed, finances and staff availability:

Information about getting to your lecture venues, routes across campus, and student residences.

Ensuring that your lecture venues are accessible.

Liaising with your lecturers.

Provide information on accommodation and assistive devices.

Providing accessible transport.

Note-takers, scribes, providing lecturer notes in advance, recording of lectures.

Accessible space to rest between lectures.

Examination accommodations: scribe, permission to have oral examinations, use of a computer, speech recognition software, extra time and separate venues.

Support and understanding.

Step 4:

Communication with lecturers, staff and students is very important and will help you integrate onto campus.

Register with the disability unit/service on campus and tell them what your needs are.

If you are confident enough, it is often best if you make contact with your department and lecturers before hand. Tell them about your disability and what accommodations you may need.

Make friends with students on campus. Students are often happily surprised at how helpful other students can be, and how much support they can offer if they communicate their needs.

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