New School plans programme in disability studies

07 October 2002
THE newly launched School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has submitted a proposal to start a multi-disciplinary postgraduate programme in disability studies in 2003. The School plans to run the course in collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities at UCT, the South African Federal Council on Disability (SAFCD) and Leeds University in the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the launch on September 9, the School's Director, Professor Dele Amosun, said the initiative had grown from a concern that disability was increasing in Africa. “But people with disabilities are still relegated to the margins of society as countries grapple with economic woes and civil strife,” he added. “The former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) declared the years 2000 to 2009 the African Decade of Disabled People to address the issues relating to disability in Africa.”

Amosun said that the course would allow people with disabilities to develop a range of critical skills through research and development.

The only integrated school of its kind in Africa, the new unit brings together the divisions of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Nursing and Midwifery, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, promoting efficiency and offering more opportunities for multi-disciplinary learning. The focus is firmly on primary health care. “We needed to identify and eliminate overlap in functions and to use our academic and administrative resources more efficiently,” Amosun said.

The new School, which hopes to operate under one roof in the future, will benefit the community in many ways. “Clinical education is part of our students' training and we send multi-disciplinary teams of students, under supervision, to various institutions such as schools, hospitals and old age homes where they provide curative, preventative, educative and rehabilitative services,” Amosun continued. “The Province does not directly cater to a significant portion of these settings.”

Research output is also of prime importance in the School, which has already planned two additional major research programmes. The first involves collaboration with the Children's Institute. A tender has been submitted to the national Department of Social Development for the design and tests of assessment tools for determining the eligibility for social assistance of children and adults with chronically disabling conditions.

Secondly, the School is in discussions with the regional office of the World Health Organisation with regard to training African health professionals to use the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).”

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