Earlier this month Wits University was found to be non-compliant with its own disability policy with regard to accessibility.
Luthando Kekana, a postgraduate student who is wheelchair-bound, could not attend her classes at University Corner building because it had no ramp and no toilets that she could use.
Her lecturer, Felicity Levine, had to move the class to another venue because of this.
“I moved the class to another venue when I realised there are no special facilities for people using wheel chairs. The toilets are too small to fit a wheel chair and can only be accessed by using stairs,” Levine said.
Kekana said she was irritated when the course venue was changed because of her and felt people with disabilities are marginalised with regard to easy access to buildings.
“Why do we still have to fight for freedom of access, freedom of space and just the freedom to be in all buildings on campus when we pay fees like all other students? It is humiliating when things have to be moved around because one has a disability,” she said.
“I believe the problem should be addressed because it is unconstitutional and I would expect more from facilities in an institution as highly regarded as Wits,” said Kekana.
Professor Anton Harber, head of the journalism department, said, “When the matter was brought to my attention, we immediately raised the matter with the building maintenance people and Wits Disability Unit. We also investigated options for alternative venues. It is not acceptable to us that a disabled student should be disadvantaged by access difficulties”.
Dr Anlia Pretorius, head of the Wits Disability Unit, attended the disability interest meeting earlier this month where access and ablution facilities were discussed.
“Wits management is working to improve accessibility problems for students and staff with disabilities,” she said. “University Corner is an old building and poses challenges but will be accessible with ablution facilities available upon completion of the construction of the Wits Arts Museum scheduled for the latter part of this year.”