Accessibility of tertiary education to students with learning disabilities in all the faculties of the University of Western Cape
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People with disabilities do not face the same circumstances, in their journey through tertiary education, as do people without disabilities. Studies have revealed that learning disabilities are often invisible and not identified at an early stage. Generally, the move to university could be challenging for students with disabilities, but very stressful to the students with learning disabilities, in particular. The principles of inclusive education, where people with disabilities and those without disabilities are educated in the same setting, have been the main focus for policy makers in this era. However, scant research has been conducted on the experiences of students with disabilities in accessing tertiary education, particularly, students with learning disabilities. The focus of this current research was to explore the accessibility of tertiary education to students with learning disabilities, in all the faculties at the University of the Western Cape. The researcher aimed to explore and describe the experiences of students with learning disabilities, to inform recommendations for policy and practice. The study was guided by the anti-discriminatory practice and social inclusion theory. The research methodology involved a qualitative approach, using an exploratory descriptive design, with nine students and three staff members, sampled purposively and through snowball sampling. The researcher employed in-depth interviews and email interviewing to gather data, which were transcribed and analyzed qualitatively. All research ethics were considered and adhered to. The students with learning disabilities disclosed how their disability was diagnosed and how they experienced schooling. These experiences influenced the way they coped with teaching and learning at university. Most of them acknowledged that the university was supportive, in various ways, such as, assistive technology, support staff, extra time, as well as a separate examinations and testing area. However, they had difficulty disclosing their disability to lecturers, which made learning more challenging. They were of the opinion that, in order for learning to be inclusive, the university needed to do more to make this a reality. For example, the training of lecturers and staff on the realities of learning disabilities, as well as employing holistic approaches to educate students with learning disabilities.