The construction of ability, disability and rights : the case study of the University of KwaZulu-Natal students, Pietermaritzburg Campus.
Mjilo, Gugu Precious.
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With the advent of democracy in 1994, the post-1994 South Africa set itself the task of correcting past injustices, including discriminations against people with disabilities. The 1996 constitution and various legislations were introduced as tools to achieve this goal. Institutions of higher education followed suit with their own policies. In 2004, the University of KwaZulu-Natal introduced its own policy on disability, namely, Policy on Students and Staff with Disabilities. This research argues that even though the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) does have the policy on disability, the University has not been able to fully address some of the issues that are affecting students with disabilities. The study interrogates the intersection of the ascribed identity of people with disability with accessibility and human rights. This is a qualitative research study that uses social constructivism theory, accessibility model and human rights theory. The study utilizes both primary and secondary data sources. In addition to the South African Constitution, various legislations and UKZN policy as its primary data sources, the research also relied on interviews with twenty purposefully selected student participants from UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus. Collected data was thematically analyzed. With regard to the construction of disabilities, the study found that there were contested construction of disabilities varying from the medical model to the social model. While participants noted UKZN’s achievements in effecting the rights of students with disabilities, some participants also noted that the gaps between the policy and its implementation. In some instances, the study thus found a gap between formal, negative rights and positive rights. Among the recommendation of the study are awareness campaigns and infrastructural changes.