Disability access project wins 2016 Impact Award

Congratulations to Louzanne Coetzee, whose ‘Equal Access Provides Equal Opportunities’ project was voted winner of the 2016 Scholar Impact Award, overcoming stiff competition from many other highly deserving scholar initiatives. The project, which aims to empower disabled learners in secondary schools to get a tertiary qualification, was selected and endorsed by Louzanne’s fellow Canon Collins scholars at the 2016 Scholars’ Conference in Cape Town.

In her winning pitch, Louzanne highlighted that progressing into higher education is extremely challenging for disabled high school students in South Africa. Little knowledge exists on available support mechanisms for disabled students at higher education institutions and parents and teachers often fail to encourage them to pursue higher education, leaving many without aspirations to achieve future qualifications. Often the application processes are inaccessible for these students and they are prevented from applying to university due to basic challenges, such as difficulties in accessing and completing the necessary application forms.

Louzanne’s project aims to empower disabled learners in secondary schools to get a tertiary qualification. She will visit schools in the Free State and surrounding areas, engaging specifically with learners who are deaf, visually impaired or wheelchair users. She will lead workshops with students explaining how university application processes work, what an AP score is, making learners comfortable with navigating the websites of the various universities and explaining and providing background on different courses.

Often learners with disabilities are made to feel like there is no future for them after school and they are not capable of getting a degree. Louzanne wishes to challenge these negative attitudes and make learners realize that they can, in fact, have a future and flourish in tertiary education.

To ensure the sustainability of the project, Louzanne will also host workshops with teachers in the targeted schools to teach them how best to help grade 12 students with disabilities to apply for university.

Louzanne says: “Too often, projects that deal with disability are merely providing ‘hand outs’, rather than teaching people to work for themselves and improve their own lives. For me the most important thing is that we teach disabled learners that they can really make something of themselves. We need to ensure that these students can become an active and thriving part of the South African economy.

Winning the Impact Award means a lot because it gives me the chance to encourage those without hope, to empower those who aren’t empowered and to give others the same opportunities that I have been lucky enough to have. With the Impact Award I hope to make a change in people’s lives for the better.

I want to thank my fellow scholars and the Canon Collins Trust for believing in me and my project. Thank you to everyone who voted and entrusted me with this special project that is so close to my heart.”