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UJ Transforming lives with technology for learners with disabilities

A regional centre to support students with disabilities such as blindness with their studies was launched at the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Monday 10 April.

The Fuchs Regional Disability Resource Centre (FRDRC) was established by UJ Disability Unit within the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD), with funding from the Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation.

“This is an exciting and significant community engagement project to support educators, lecturers and learners with disabilities. The FRDRC facilitates alternative access to study resources, for example assistive technologies such as JAWS Screen Reader for people living with blindness,” said Dr Del Naidoo, Disability Unit Team Lead.

The centre aims to work with the Gauteng Department of Education and local Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (TVET) colleges.

“The launch of the Fuchs Centre is a response to the call from government to merge and share educational resources to address disability issues. Students with disabilities need support while completing their education,” added Dr Naidoo, “for example to get improved access to resources such as assistive devices to help them access their course content and achieve.

“The FRDRC will promote complete disability support in schools and colleges. It also aims to address any barriers that may confront students with disabilities, so that their effective learning and development can be supported and sustained,” concluded Naidoo.

At the event, visitors saw demonstrations of revolutionary assistive technology such as JAWS, Read&Write Gold, ZoomText and Super Magnifier. These products help the accessibility of computer-based educational material through screen enlargening, converting text-to-speech for ease of navigation for students with a visual impairment or learning difficulties support. Additionally, hardware at the centre such as printed text readers and magnifiers were available for the attendees to try out.

Dr Hester Costa, Inclusion and Special Schools, Gauteng Department of Education Director, said: “Congratulations with a well-organized and received launch of your Resource Centre. Thank you for your willingness to reach out to communities and organizations in the area.”

The event gave delegates the opportunity to explore the evolving and futuristic innovative ways that assistive technology can enhance the independence of students with disabilities. It also gave attendees from non-governmental, academic, tertiary education and governmental sectors the opportunity to interact with each other and enhance the network of support offered to learners and students with disabilities in the south Gauteng region.

Dr Pule
FRDRC Student Support, Dr Pule Serero, demonstrating assistive technology that allows blind learners to access computers.
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