Terminologies & Apologies

* Disclaimer: These are my personal views on the topic and they cannot and should not be taken as being universal to everyone in the Disabled Community. * 

Given that I was born with a disability, I’ve never known life any differently. It’s happening a lot less frequently now but I used to get asked by people something a long the lines of “Isn’t there a cure for it?” or “If you could, would you get rid of the disability?”. The answer to the first question is a flat out “no” given current medical science. The answer to the second, however, is a little less clear-cut. Yes, disability comes with its own challenges but, then again, it’s all I’ve known. To change that, then, would be to change everything I know about myself and the world around me and, challenges aside, I’m quite happy with my life.

This same conundrum is brought up when someone hears I’m in a wheelchair and almost reflexively jumps to “I’m sorry” type responses. Yes, I understand why you’d say this in terms of the challenges that I face on a daily basis but, at the same time, those challenges have always been a part of me, it’s all I’ve known. While it would be nice to make some things easier, they’re no harder than they’ve always been, no harder than I’ve expected them to be. Since I’ve grown up with my disability guiding the way I do things in life, my disability is not so much a hindrance that affects me as it is a defining part of my identity as a person.

‘Disabled’ v. ‘Differently-Abled’

While I’m on the topic of Disability and Identity I think it’s time for me to shed some light on the terminology and how I see/use them in case some people may take offense to the way I use certain words or phrases. Given that this is an account of my personal experiences I think it’s only fair that I use terminology, both here and throughout the blog, that reflects my personal views towards terminology etc. in the Disability World. That said, some people disagree with me on some/all of these points (and that’s fine) so please be wary of which terms you use around people. There are only three terms I want to draw your attention to (this far): ‘disabled’, ‘handicapped’, and ‘people with disabilities’.

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High School to University: My Experience

downloadSo, as you’d know if you read the About Page, I was born with a disability and have been in a wheelchair for several years now. There’s no escaping it, Disability is a part of my life. Hell, it’s part of my identity as a person. As you’d expect it brings its own set of challenges. As real as these challenges are I am largely unaware of them on a day-to-day basis. That’s due in part to the exact nature of how my disability affects me, the people I surround myself with, and the way that I manage my life. Some environments though, help to exacerbate the harder-to-avoid challenges. University, as fun and exciting as it is, can often become an environment where ‘the differences’ become a little clearer.

High school, for me, was an environment where disability played a part, yes, but was largely unaffected by it since I went to the school where my father was teaching for several decades and the school themselves were willing to be highly adaptable to the various needs required as I got older. University, however, was a different monster for me altogether. At the University of Cape Town, by contrast, I was an unknown in a way that, for the first 18 years of my life I was wholly unaware of.

        If, for some or other reason, I encountered a problem at High School all I had to do was pick up the phone and get ahold of my father who would help to fix the problem that same day or, alternatively, approach any of the academic and/or support staff (a majority of which I had known for most of my life) and they too would help. That in-depth, personal support structure I had grown up with faded away when I moved to UCT. Sure, there were support structures in place but not the same as what I had become accustomed to.

 As daunting as you’d expect this pivotal transition in my life to be, without all the added problems that disability would automatically bring to the party, I’m beyond glad that this happened. Why? It taught me to become that more self-sufficient and to further realise that I am capable of handling my own problems – even in an environment where I am a stranger. That freedom that University grants a person, that undeniable sense of a new beginning, the opportunity to prove that you are becoming more and more the person you want to be is the basis of this entire blog.

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University of Cape Town Upper Campus Largely Inaccessible for Disabled Students

I posted this rant on my Facebook Page but think it should also go here.
What’s up University of Cape TownUCT Upper Campus? I’m a Second Year Humanities Student. I happen to also be in a wheelchair. While the University of Cape Town Disability Service is fantastic – truly, I cannot fault them – I’m getting increasingly irritated that my personal access to venues etc., as well as the access of my disabled friends is being impeded.
Yes, I understand that certain changes may take time to effect and that I cannot expect ‘all my problems to be solved with the snap of my fingers’ but I feel distressed that, because of no fault of my own, access to key buildings in my university career may well be denied to me for the remainder of my Degree.
The Beattie Lift, the only lift in the building in which the Humanities Faculty is housed, is constantly breaking down. More recently, the lift even broke down with me in it. I heard from the Disability Service a couple of days ago that the Beattie Lift is due for replacement but, due to circumstances out of their control, it will take 12-18 MONTHS FOR THE LIFT TO BE REPLACED.

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The Altitude Group – Check Them Out

Hey Guys… Me again…

In November last year, when UCT was closed due to tensions between the Fees Must Fall Protesters and the University Administration, I started working with a Disability Employment Agency in Wynberg as a Researcher. Since then, I’ve been involved in several projects with them.

Once varsity re-started a couple of weeks ago I’ve continued working for Altitude in my free time – something that, thanks to my combined academic and Altitude work coupled with my various extra-mural activities, I seem to have very little of at the moment. Mais c’est la vie je pense so, I’ll keep on keeping on.

Recently I helped them complete a recruitment drive for over 100 learners for a Services SETA Learnership starting last month. It’s been several months since I started with them and I am still amazed by the various ways in which they try and assist the Cape Town Disabled Community.

My belief in their project is, quite frankly, the primary reason that I decided to continue my work with them. Then again, the fact that a protracted time with them looks really good on my CV this early in my career sounds awesome too but that’s just a bonus.

As part of the various tasks I’ve been doing for them, I’ve written a few articles on who they are, what they do as well as what they’re cooking up in their collective heads for further community development. In between my article-writing gig with them I’ve also been managing their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Despite my best efforts, sadly, I cannot seem to get the readership on the Facebook group to remain as high as I’d like it. Perhaps that is something to do with the fact that (a) Altitude isn’t a particularly well known agency outside of its industry and (b) their social media accounts have only been active in any real sense since the start of my time with them. I’m probably being a little impatient – a typical Aidan-type thing to do, so that’s just me I guess.

If you’re interested in having a look at what The Altitude Group gets up to check out the website here or looks them/us on Facebook and Twitter.

Bye, bye for now

– A

Sorry for the Radio Silence, I’m Back.

Sorry for the long radio silence but it has been hectic for me for the last while. Also, the fact that I don’t see much traffic coming by this place, it does make me feel as though I’m talking to myself sometimes.

That aside, I’m planning on taking a much more active role with this blog than I have been. I know I’ve promised this before but I’m hoping that attempt A6163-B will finally yield an addiction to blogging such that you will be begging me to get a life and stay off this thing. One can only hope 🙂

During my time ‘away’ I have been continuing with my studies at UCT and have moved into my Second Year with majors in English, History and Psychology. I can’t exactly tell you how they are going at the moment as the third week has only just drawn to a close and it is still too early in the year. From what I have seen, though, they’re going well. There have been the odd bump or two but no more than you would expect from the beginning of a new academic year.

Part of the reason for the radio silence recently, though, is that I have gone through a bit of personal writer’s block. I’ve been able to write articles for work and the odd assignment but for the last little while, when it comes to anything non-work/academically related I’ve been stumped. In truth, it wasn’t until I came across a friend today near the local on-campus coffee shop while she was writing a blog post for a blog that she runs, that Disability Diaries resurfaced to the forefront of my mind.

I guess, then, I owe this latest post to her.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of her blog right now so I promise to link it in a future post once I have had a chance to do some good old-fashioned internet stalking.

-A

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Disability Discrimination at UCT

So… Let’s hope I can make this a little less ranty than I have with my last few posts.

I’m not entirely too sure what it was exactly that pushed UCT’s Disability Service to publish this but I’m glad they did all the same. I’d like to think that it had something to do with my most recent FaceBook rant regarding the unreliable lifts but I’m not going to be cocky and think that I was the one to push them into making their post public.

The post was a stark awakening to the discrimination and other injustices UCT’s Disabled Community faces. Even as a member of the aforementioned population group, I was unaware of this. I knew there was discrimination to the disabled community, just not at this extent.

I hope that their post, coupled with the protestations of the Disabled Community, both in and outside of the university, raise the necessary awareness for something to be done about these despicable acts

-A.

Accessibility Alert: UCT Lifts

How can we learn if we can’t get to class

It’s been an astronomically short period of time since my last post but I think this needs some discussion, particularly given what has just happened.

No sooner had I finished writing the last blog post, The Weaponised Pooch and tried to make headway in getting to my 10AM lecture did the Steve Biko lift breakdown leaving me stranded on the 4th floor – this is after it had repairs done due to a breakdown just last week. It was only by pure luck that I was able to get off that level as the Disability Service know of a route that I was unaware of. That aside, the most recent breakdown of the Steve Biko lift makes yet another installment on the list of broken lifts. With the exception of one very tempramental lift in Leslie Social, all the lifts which grant access to a majority of Upper Campus for physically disabled students are broken down and unusable. Please take note at the number of breakdowns that took place in order to make this statement possible:
1. MOLLY BLACKBURN (L50):This lift, although small, provides crucial access to and from University Avenue (off which most of the teaching venues are located) to the Steve Biko Building, the Cafeteria and some other teaching venues. Been out of commission for the entire semester, save 2 hours on the second day.

2. STEVE BIKO: Grants access from the Cafeteria to the offices of the Student Representative Council and Varsity Newspaper, the Disability Service, the Steve Biko Computer Lab just to name a few. Out of commission on and off for the last 2 weeks or so

3. Both PD Hahn Lifts: Although further away, these would be able to substitute the Steve Biko Lift for access to teaching venues. These have been down since the beginning of the semester and are being replaced – meaning they will only come on line in 3-4 months, essentially the rest of the year.

Although the Leslie Lifts should be able to get me to my classes if I go via an exceptionally long and convoluted route, I have found that the Leslie Lifts also breakdown far more than they should and so I’m inclined to avoid them as much as possible. Share the companion FaceBook post if you think this is wrong here
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Many thanks,

Aidan

P.S. I’m hoping to have a less ranty post soon. 🙂