The Disability Human Rights Unit has recently moved to the first floor of the East Wing at Senate House. It was previously located on the ground floor.
Dr. Anlia Prestorius, Head of the Disability Unit, said, “The fact that we have moved a floor higher is because we have outgrown the space.
This year we have +/- 600 students who are registered with the Disability Unit”.
Prestorius explained that on top of being crowded, the ground floor was very noisy for students and staff who worked in those offices and had an impact on their ability to write tests and examinations.
“We were very lucky in terms of moving because we had an Architect and Universal Design consultant who assisted in the infrastructure such as smooth flooring, lighting, access to doors which have sensors and door handles which are placed strategically especially for students who have specific disabilities,” Prestorius said.
“It’s all about understanding that the students are variously disabled and that the design can respond to very specific needs to make their learning environment as comfortable and supportive as possible,” a statement by the architects, Gunther Wagner Architects
The Disability Unit received all financial assistance from external sponsors, trust funds left by students, as well as Wits University who offered new office space. Some of the funds also came from the Department of Higher Education under the Disability Rights and Access Fund, said Dr. Prestorius.
Subhashini Ellan, Academic & Facilities Access Coordinator, said, that the design of the space was made accessible for all students, and the lifts have backup power in case of power outages. There are evacuation chairs that are strategically placed in all exit points, which indicates that various precautions were taken with regards to safety and security.
Brian Sibanda, 22, a student who uses these new facilities said, “I did not like the ground floor because it was always busy and very hard to move around; for instance there was one room used by no less than 15 students. However, these new offices are an advantage and are much bigger.”
Tish White, the assistant secretary of the Disability Unit, said “the new offices are designed as a welcoming space for all who wish to use it.” For instance there is a booking system for any department in the university who desire to use the tutorial, training or board rooms. The official launch of these offices will take place around April 5-7 2016.