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It is estimated that 10% of the global population live with disabilities. While their able-bodied peers enjoy access to quality education and employment opportunities, people with disabilities receive less support and are often excluded from schooling, employment and broader society.

Accommodating students with disabilities

A student with a learning disability such as ADHD will likely face challenges in many aspects of the tertiary academic experience. Since learning in this environment requires lengthy periods of concentration, time management and organisation – both in the lecture room and beyond – it can pose significant challenges for them.

However, students with ADHD and other learning disabilities can be successful in tertiary education environments when supported by lecturers and programmes that accommodate these learners.

Education institutions need to position learners with disabilities at the centre and create conducive learning environments. Nosiphiwo Delubom, Deputy Director & Head of Universal Accessibility & Disability Services at Nelson Mandela University offers these three recommendations for a more inclusive education environment:

  • Students with disabilities must be prepared before the commencement of programmes and classes, so that they can be orientated on how to use technological devices to avoid increased anxiety
  • Infrastructure should be more accessible, and institutions should make use of adaptive technology that is user-friendly to all students
  • Teachers and lecturers must be trained to identify learners with learning disabilities and be ready to accommodate all students

How to support students with disabilities

Many students who enrol at tertiary institutions may not be aware that they have a learning disability. Those who are aware of their disability, don’t necessarily like to talk about it.

Awareness is key and learners must be encouraged to communicate with teachers, student advisors and lecturers. It is critical that the collective voice of students with disabilities is heard. When students speak up, suitable support can be provided to empower them to help them succeed. This also confirms the need to strengthen coaching and mentoring programmes, not only to nudge students to speak up, but to also assist them on their path to success.

Nelson Mandela University’s Universal Accessibility and Disability Services (UADS) aims to provide appropriate support services to empower students with disabilities on campus through assistive technology, training, and development. This encourages independence and active participation in academic and co-curricular activities. 

UADS aims to assist students and staff with disabilities by:

  • Establishing reasonable accommodations and support systems
  • Increasing awareness about and advocating for persons with disabilities
  • Increasing awareness of the abilities of persons with disabilities amongst staff and students, thus providing persons with disability with an equal opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of student/staff life at Mandela Uni

The goals of the Universal Accessibility & Disability Services unit at Nelson Mandela University are to not only support students who have a learning or physical disability to thrive at tertiary level, but also to produce students who can stand on their own in the workplace and eliminate the perception that students with disabilities have limited capacity.

*Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder found in both children and adults. Although there is no consensus amongst available research literature as to the underlying cause of the disorder, one of the most predominant perspectives suggests that ADHD is a disorder of the executive functions of the brain, which regulate intentional, goal-directed, problem-solving action.

Posted on 09 December 2021 11:05:23

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