Students with disabilities' experiences of support and barriers to their development at Stellenbosch University

Greyling, Elsabe C. P. (2008-03)

Thesis (MEdPsych (Educational Psychology)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


Since 1994 the South African government has been committed to the transformation of the education system, including higher education. Higher education institutions have been encouraged to include individuals representing groups that had been excluded on the grounds of age, race, gender and, more specifically, students with disabilities. Within this transformation process, some of the biggest challenges higher education institutions face are policy changes, flexible curriculum delivery, alternative assessment procedures, the physical accessibility of the campus and the provision of support services for students with disabilities or special needs. Although policy development is an important stepping-stone, the reality is that proper practice, adequate awareness, and positive attitudes are required to effectively support and accommodate the diverse needs of students with disabilities. The primary objective of this study was to obtain an in-depth understanding of how students with disabilities experience support and barriers to their development at Stellenbosch University. The study was also based upon the assumption that it is important to hear the voices of students with disabilities before any recommendations in terms of the existing strategy can be suggested. This study was conducted by means of qualitative research, and the methods of data collection consisted of individual and focus group interviews as well as a literature review. The research findings may be described as follows: · Students with disabilities experienced both internal and external support and barrier factors and processes that impacted on their development. · Internal support and barrier factors and processes include emotional, behavioural, beliefs, physical and cognitive aspects. · External support and barrier factors and processes include peers, the faculty and department, university accommodation, the classroom and the university. · Four overarching themes that emerged from the data of the participants, namely attitudes and awareness, communication, level of inclusion, and advocacy, were outlined. The findings of the study have important implications for the support practices and training of academic staff and all role players at Stellenbosch University. Recommendations are also made to improve support services and the campus climate at Stellenbosch University to ultimately embrace diversity in order to offer an inclusive environment where the principles of equal opportunities, full participation and non-discrimination are dear to the heart of all the relevant role players involved in teaching, learning, service provision and policy making at Stellenbosch University.

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