Collaboration to make disability more visible

30 December 2021 | Story Division of Disability Studies. Read time 4 min.

Collaborating with both internal and external partners is vital in making disability more visible and creating an environment that is inclusive and transformative. Members of the Division of Disability Studies in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences have been working with partners to  develop research capacity and academic leadership that will contribute to the understanding of disability in context, as an issue of social justice.

Professor Judith McKenzie through the Including Disability in Education in Africa (IDEA) research unit and Ikechukwu Nwanze (Programme Convener for the Postgraduate Diploma in Disability Studies) have been working with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) with their pilot of redesigning blended online courses using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. 

UDL promotes the accommodation of different learning styles so no student is left behind, especially students with disability. Nwanze also worked with Information & Communication Technology Services (ICTS) and CILT to give input to the upcoming learning management system at UCT, providing feedback that such a system is accessible to students with disabilities. Most importantly, a postgraduate student who is visually impaired is working with ICTS to test student systems such as PeopleSoft so that visually impaired students can navigate UCT systems independently.

Youth with disabilities

Professor Theresa Lorenzo (Head of the Division of Disability Studies) and Sumaya Gabriels (Course Convener for Higher Certificate in Disability Practice) are co-investigators in an international research project funded by the Mastercard Foundation exploring the educational journeys of youth with disabilities as they transition from high school to university. The partner researchers are Queens University (Canada), University of Gondar (Ethiopia), and the University of Asheshi (Ghana). Two black female students with disabilities, who both have a Masters in Philosophy, are also co-researchers on the project. 

Higher Certificate in Disability Practice

UCT and the College of Cape Town are also collaborating on the provision of the Higher Certificate in Disability Practice Level 5. This collaboration would enable the type of qualification to be delivered within the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector whilst being able to access clinical expertise from the university sector. The three-year roll out plan allows the College of Cape Town to be prepared to offer the course. In 2021, the College of Cape Town availed Dr Noreth Muller-Kluits to do in-house training within the course to be able to get a better understanding of the academic and operational requirements of the course. The collaboration is aimed at a mutual benefit arrangement that would also allow potential articulation for students in both sectors.

Curriculum Design

Professor Lorenzo and Emeritus Associate Professor Madie Duncan (from the Division of Occupational Therapy) were appointed consultants to the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS), funded by the Liliane Foundation in the Netherlands to co-design a Master of Science (MSc) curriculum to train the first cohort of students in Occupational Therapy (OT), who will be able to offer these services in the country. The curriculum builds on a well-established community-based rehabilitation service that CBCHS has developed over 30 years. 

Decolonising the curriculum

In 2021, the Division of Disability Studies initiated a project to interrogate their undergraduate and postgraduate curricula in an attempt to explore ways in which they could decolonise the curricula. This project consisted of a series of workshops with the undergraduate and postgraduate disability studies programmes, to understand the experiences of students and staff in relation to the concept of decoloniality and decolonising the curriculum. It also provided an opportunity for students and staff to contribute to discussions on strategies for decolonising their curricular and practices. 

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