The newly formed RU Disability Committee is chaired by Ms Noluxolo Nhlapo, Director of Equity and Institutional Culture. Their first meeting took place on 26 September.
Why was the Disability Committee formed?
The Disability Committee was formed when the Disability task team acquired the status of a Senate Committee. Its objectives are summarised in its Terms of Reference. The committee consists of representatives of divisions that have to play a part in creating a culture and environment that promotes the successful participation of people living with disability in the institution. It also consists of people living with disability who have to play a role in determining how the institution proactively responds to the needs of people living with disability.
The Disability Committee is based on the foundation that Rhodes University strives to create and foster an academic and working environment that is accessible and which respects the rights and dignity of its students and staff. All members of the University community are expected to interact on the basis of mutual respect, and to promote an environment which supports and advances our commitment to undertake reasonable efforts in providing equity in opportunity for staff and students.
What are some of the committee’s objectives?
The objectives of the committee are to elevate the importance of disability issues at Rhodes by identifying barriers that impact the lives of people with disabilities at Rhodes and the opportunities available to improve accessibility for them. The committee is also responsible for monitoring progress by the University with regards to realising its equity targets as they relate to people with disabilities.
What was on the agenda for the first meeting?
At its first meeting a history of the Disability Task Team was given, the Terms of Reference were agreed on, the staff, student and concessions policy review process was discussed and it was recommended that all three policies be merged into one policy so that the policies have one language and communicate the same vision and principles. The SRC gave a report on its “Walk in my shoes” day. The student activism councillor was commended for the success of the day and for the insights such as student and staff responses to disability that the day yielded.
What is the role of committee members?
Each division represented in the committee will be informed by the learning thrown up by this work. For example the report reinforced the realisation that there is need for a concerted awareness raising programme to be implemented. The E&IC unit is one of those units that is tasked with awareness raising amongst staff and students. And it also reinforced the realisation that there needs to be work done to make the physical environment more disability friendly. An audit of the institution’s buildings has already been undertaken and a report on the findings will on the agenda for the next meeting.
Where to next?
An audit of the institution’s buildings has already been undertaken and a report on the findings will be on the agenda for the next meeting.