A walkabout by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' Transformation Committee is just one way that this committee plans to foster transformation in their environment by understanding how others experience the world.
According to the Chair of the committee, Dr Ubanesia Adams-Jack, the idea of a walkabout was raised by a colleague with a disability who wanted to illustrate how hard it still was to access various spaces on campus.
Following the suggestion, Adams-Jack approached Facilities Management, who sent a number of key staff members to accompany the committee members, including the Dean of the faculty, Prof Anthony Leysens, and the Chair of the Ancient Studies Department, Prof AnnemaréKotze.
“I was actually shocked to discover that most of our disabled students and colleagues are not able to access the bathroom on the ground floor of the BA building due to the way the card access and the entrance to the bathroom itself was set up. It actually hinders the easy movement of persons in a wheelchair for example," said Adams-Jack.
The committee also learnt that many of the safety doors in the faculty did not open properly to allow easy access for those in wheelchairs and that shallow gutters that facilitated the flow of rainwater to prevent it from accumulating in one space, were also a challenge to cross for those who are wheelchair bound.
“Transformation is about people, places and spaces and looking at the accessibility of spaces, in particular for those with disabilities, is part of transforming our university space."
The group also discovered that the tiled surfaces on the second floor of the faculty building was quite slippery and made it hard to move for those with physical disabilities. Thanks to Facilities Management, the surface was sprayed with an adhesive that prevents slippage making it more user friendly for those in wheelchairs too.
“It was also obvious that many physically disabled individuals have to cover longer distances to get to the same places that able bodied persons needed to get to," she added.
This is because many shortcuts on campus were not accessible to the physically disabled.
“It was important for us to participate in this walkabout because it made us more aware of how other people experience the world and transformation is after all about understanding how others experience the world. My vision for the transformation committee is to build amicable relationships between students, staff and their students, and between different staff. At the end of the day, when are at peace with each other, it changes how we interact and treat each other too. I think the most powerful thing about transformation, is the ability to truly see each other."
Photo: The following persons participated in the walkabout of the Transformation Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' recently. In the front from the left are Mr Dan Prata, Mr Malan Oosthuizen and Mr Trevor Hoeben, all from Facilities Management; and Mr Bongani Mapumulo (in the wheelchair), a Stellenbosch University student and Chair of Dis-Maties. At the back from the left are Mr Phumlani Mathebula and Mr Louis Fincham, both from Facilities Management; Prof Annemaré Kotze, Chair of the Ancient Studies Department; Ms Lizelle Ferus of the Office for Students with Disabilities, Dr Ubanesia Adams-Jack, the Chair of the faculty's Transformation Committee, and the Dean of the faculty, Prof Anthony Leysens.