In the welcoming address, UWC Human Resources Executive Director Meko Magida said everyone has a responsibility to change the paradigm of how people view those with disabilities and to promote diversity.
“We must have a fair representation of people with disabilities at UWC. When we recruit it must be a priority for us. One of the easiest things that we can do is to embrace diversity,” said Mr Magida.
Guest speaker, Jabaar Mohamed, was born deaf and is a UWC alumnus. He is currently the Provincial Director of DeafSA Western Cape and a media entrepreneur promoting deaf awareness.
Mohamed told the audience at the Disability Awareness Day event that he has 80 percent hearing loss in his right ear and is profoundly deaf in the left ear.
With a dose of humour, Mohamed explained what it is like to navigate a hearing world as a deaf person. He explained that he communicates with his dog via sign language: “It's a rottweiler and he is two years old and he understands seven signs.”
Mohamed said: “I don’t speak to him at all. So for example, I will tell him to sit (using sign language) and he will know he must sit. I will (use sign language to) tell him it's time to eat and I will call him and I will sign ‘ball’ and he knows he must fetch the ball.”
“He keeps eye contact with me, and when I call him he will come and tap me on my leg…obviously he can’t sign back but it’s just all about him understanding the actions,” said Mohamed.
He said that after studying at the College of Cape Town, he approached the Disability Unit at UWC to enquire whether he could submit his application: “I went to the Disability Unit and I asked, can I come and study here and I was told, yes why not, just apply.”
Mohamed added: “When I came to study here (at UWC), it was a big challenge for me but I built good relationships with my lecturers and I didn’t want them to have empathy or sympathy for me. It was the best time that I had at the university because I worked with the disability unit.”
“I worked with them, scanning the notes and then doing the editing and printing of the braille for the blind students, and then I was also teaching sign languagel. I had to develop my own material at that time. When I graduated, I was the first deaf person to graduate from UWC.”
Disability Day was a day to celebrate the gains made and to reflect on the goals that still need to be achieved for people with disabilities. Using the hashtag “#DisabilityisnotInability”, the event's main objective was to invite several companies to showcase their products to support people with disabilities in the workplace. Our thanks go out to Edit Micro, Ergonomics Direct and Sensory Solutions for demonstrating their amazing equipment at the event.
For more images, also all taken by Ruvan Boshoff (UWC Media), please see gallery below: