The main aim of the research was to determine whether visually and mobility disabled students experience access constraints at a particular tertiary education institution. Certain categories of difficulty, levels of accessibility and support provided to disabled students were identified. On the basis of the results of the study, guidelines were provided to increase the accessibility of the tertiary institution.
In the last two decades there has been increasing awareness of the need to take active steps against the discrimination of people with disabilities. It is therefore critical that institutions of higher education lead the way to show society how to overcome accessibility constraints that have always prevented people with disabilities from enjoying the same rights and privileges as nondisabled people.
The literature study covered themes relating to the number and classification of people with disabilities, as well as the schooling of people with disabilities in South Africa. Conceptual models of understanding disability were examined. The access constraints experienced by visually and mobility disabled students, as well as how to apply student-centred planning to increase accessibility, were explored. The literature review revealed why students drop out and the underlying motives that encourage disabled students to attend university.
The study followed a mixed method explanatory approach and consisted of a questionnaire survey, a focus group discussion and individual interviews. The purpose of this design was to use the qualitative findings to clarify the quantitative results, and the data were therefore collected in two separate phases. A purposive convenience sampling method was applied. Twenty-three students participated in the quantitative research, which involved completing the questionnaire, seven students were included in the focus group discussion and eight individual interviews were conducted. Owing to the limited number of participants, the study was more qualitative.
The main findings of this study were that students living with a visual or mobility disability experienced constraints relating to the accessibility of the tertiary education institution. Most constraints were experienced in the architectural environment and related to the lack of parking and access to the library. Additional constraints included the lack of visible
information, challenges with the study material and the University‘s requirement that disabled students have to submit a medical certificate annually.
The results show that the tertiary institution can be classified as accessible with minor assistance, because most students can help themselves, but still require the assistance of others. There was also a close link between students who see themselves as independent and their motivation to complete their studies. Disabled students were generally motivated by themselves and their family, friends and other disabled persons.
Although access constraints influence students living with a disability, the support structure of the University and the social support structures of these students play a crucial role in their lives. It was therefore also necessary to provide guidelines to the tertiary education institution on how to address the access constraints identified in the study.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2012.