Wits DRU and PIMD working together to make the university safe for blind students.

Blind students at Wits University say they are concerned about their safety due to the ongoing construction on the east campus. This comes after a blind student says she almost fell into an open construction site.

Second-year Fine Arts master student, Alexandra Makhlouf, told Wits Vuvuzela that she recently nearly fell into a dug up construction site which was left open, unattended and not barricaded properly. “I don’t feel safe walking around the campus at the moment because I don’t know if there’s another dug up area around which I don’t know about,” Maklouf said.

Disability Rights Units (DRU) Academic and Facilities Access Coordinator Subhashini Ellan says that she has received several complaints about safety from students.

Ellan said the DRU has alerted Property and Infrastructure Management Division (PIMD) to these kinds of issues and they have since erected corrugated irons fences around the identified areas.

PIMD Acting Deputy Director, Themba Khumalo, said that after it came to their attention that a burst water pipe running along the Digital Arts building was compromising the  safety of students, his department acted swiftly.

“What happened to Makhlouf was unfortunate. Risk assessments are always identified before [the] beginning of any construction work and communicated with all the affected stakeholders, including students. In this case, the external contractor didn’t follow all the necessary procedure. We will make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Khumalo said.

“As a unit (DRU), we are working very hard to make sure that this university is accessible to every student with special needs. When we receive concerns, we address them as quickly as we can,” said Ellan. She added that, as a unit, DRU completes a campus walk at least once a month to assess buildings and areas in order to see if they are still conducive to students with special needs.

FEATURED PHOTO: A corrugated iron fence has been erected around a construction site on campus. Photo: Takalani Sioga