The Disability Service Computer Lab is a multipurpose space intended to assist students with disabilities. Students with a variety of disabilities use this space to access computers which have assistive technology, to use the assistive furniture, to study and also to write tests and exams. Volunteers also assist with the scanning and editing of academic material.
Launch of the Computer Lab, with Deputy Vice-Chancellor Thandabantu Nhlapu and Disability Service manager Reinette Popplestone in the centre
In July 2007 the University of Cape Town Disability Service began major renovations to its text conversion and assistive technology facility (TCATS).
The old TCATS section had long outgrown its modest, cramped and often airless office space. For eight years this suite of very small offices had been a working home for UCT's blind and partially sighted students, their support staff and the team of volunteers assisting with the reading and text conversion work.
Much scanning, typing, brailling, tape recording, debating, laughing, crying and hard work had taken place here, resulting in successful blind students graduating from UCT in the last few years. Best possible use had been made of what was available, but it was time for the facility to be upgraded in order to provide the best possible service to all our students.
Under the watchful eye and guidance of one of UCT's professional in-house architects dry walls were knocked down, walls repainted and the space reconfigured in record time. The six very small offices have now been transformed into a new, modern open plan computer laboratory and administration office with plenty of access to natural light and fresh air.
The daily lives of staff and students using the facility have been revitalised. Students using the facility are delighted with the space and 'flow' of the new Lab, and now it is possible for volunteers and students with disabilities to interact effortlessly on a daily basis.
Part of the new lab houses the computer equipment for scanning, typing, brailling, photocopying and text enlarging, while the other section houses the large screen computers loaded with the JAWS and Zoomtext software used by the blind and partially sighted students. Students using wheelchairs now have uninterrupted access into the space - which was not possible before.
The change in name from TCATS (Text Conversion and Assistive Technology services) to The Disability Service Computer Lab underlines both the expansion of physical space and the expansion of the range of services now offered to all our students with Disabilities.