Milestone for Disability Services

10 January 2008

Disability Services at UCT crowned two decades of sterling service to disabled members of the UCT community when they celebrated their 20th anniversary on 8 October.

The unit was originally housed in the Office of the VC with a dual reporting line to the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The hopes of Kate Jagoe, who started the Disability Unit on a shoestring in 1988, that it would include a research and teaching component were dashed when responsibility for the unit was transferred to the employment equity manager in HR. It finally came to rest in what was then the Student Development and Services Department.

During Jagoe's tenure current head Reinette Popplestone started the Blind Students' Reading Programme, armed with two portable National cassette recorders and a box of blank cassettes. When space was finally found for the programme on campus they canvassed volunteers from the student community.

Mike Watermeyer, who replaced Jagoe in 1998, established a fully accessible computer lab for visually impaired and otherwise print-handicapped students, and he increased the staff complement.

Highlights since then include the extension of the bus service to students with visual impairment (it was originally only intended for wheelchair users), a major upgrade of both the space and the facilities of the computer lab and text conversion facility, the establishment of a dayhouse for students with disabilities, and the launch of a Disabled Students Movement.

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