University of Pretoria Department of Public Law and SA Guide-Dogs Walk for Disability Rights

University of Pretoria Department of Public Law and SA Guide-Dogs Walk for Disability Rights

The Hatfield campus of the University of Pretoria welcomed a very special group of guests on Wednesday the 18th of October. In fact, the campus was alive with excitement about certain furry and adorable beings that were making their way to campus. The seriousness of the subject matter and purpose of the day were however, not once overshadowed by the influx of Puppies-in-Training as well as Assistance Dogs-in-Training. Both undergraduate and post-graduate students from the Department of Public Law, under the leadership of Professor Ilze Grobbelaar-du Plessis, knew exactly how important their assignment was – ascertaining the various obstacles that are encountered on campus by the differently-abled. Students were divided into seven groups, with individuals in every group representing certain disabilities and each group had an experienced guide-dog instructor and guide dog-in-training escorting them through the predetermined routes. Some groups were even fortunate enough to have puppies-in-training with their puppy raisers by their side!

Students walking under blindfold with a guide dog

In both the undergraduate and postgraduate modules within Public Law, the students are introduced to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol and the fact that South Africa is currently in the process of domesticating the Convention into South African Law. This will inevitably change the landscape (and legislation) of persons with disabilities within the South African context. Core aspects of the CRPD which is highlighted during the lecturing of both the modules during the second semester, will be awareness-raising (including attitudinal and physical barriers), accessibility, living independently and being included in the community, personal mobility, work and employment, amongst other, which all have an interrelated nexus with persons with disabilities and Assistance Dogs.

Students navigating their campus whilst disabled

Allowing the students to experience first-hand what type of obstacles, whether physical or emotional, are experienced by the disabled, expanded their thinking processes and understanding, in turn allowing them to interpret disability rights in practice. Academia, students and GDA instructors and staff had a wonderful experience and we are so proud to announce that the Department of Public Law intends to make the Disability Rights Campus Walk, an annual event.

Walking for awareness

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