Specialised Education Accessibility Project
23 November 2021
South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December. In the run-up to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is also celebrated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day, on 3 December, WCED News will feature initiatives to make our schools more accessible and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.
Over the past three years, the Directorate: Inclusive and Specialised Education Support (DISES) has been hard at work to make schools accessible for learners in wheelchairs and to do this in an organised manner. Therapy services, a sub-component of Specialised Support Services in DISES, was tasked with this project. The provincial manager for therapy services and the eight senior therapists at the education districts in the province coordinate the process.
Schools are chosen primarily because of learners at the school who are in wheelchairs or have physical barriers. Others are chosen because they are Full-Service Schools (FSS). The FSS are ‘model’ schools and strive towards an ethos of inclusion. FSS aim to provide support to all learners to develop their full potential irrespective of their background, culture, abilities, or disabilities.
DISES has made provision for each district to identify one school per year, preferably a FSS, that needs to be made accessible. Initially 25 schools were identified, of which 12 are in the Eden and Central Karoo District (ECKED).
Communities in Eden and Central Karoo that have benefited from this project include Leeu Gamka, Laingsburg, Murraysburg, Beaufort West, Oudtshoorn, Kwanokuthula and Prince Albert.
The Directorate’s approach is needs driven in identifying schools and providing immediate access for the learner in terms of installing ramps or making the bathrooms, play areas, school hall and classrooms accessible. This ensures that learners can remain in public ordinary schools longer without the need for placement in specials schools.
Debbie Badenhorst, district therapist in Eden and Central Karoo, is totally committed to this project and trusts it will continue to change the lives of our learners, parents, and communities and that many more schools will be made accessible in the future.
Costing for these projects vary, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.
This project has had a positive impact in many schools and benefit the surrounding communities. Parents and other stakeholders who are physically disabled can now access the school grounds, including the school halls, for functions and events.
Lizl Davis, district therapist at Metro East Education District, said the accessibility project makes it possible for learners with physical disabilities to access the curriculum within mainstream schools. We have also seen parents and community members with disabilities use the new adapted school facilities with ease. The accessibility project is showcasing the scope of Inclusive Education within mainstream schools.