Pictorial Illustration Challenges in Texts Faced by Visually Impaired Students at the University of Limpopo: A Social Model of Disability Theory

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Ndivhuwo Matshanisi, Tebogo Johannes Kekana, MJ Mogoboya


Access to relevant information particularly to Visually Impaired (VI) students learning English language has long been fundamental issue underpinning effective English language learning in higher education. The need to provide effective and adequate assistance to this category of students cannot be over emphasised. However, support and provision of adequate and relevant technological resources is often overlooked when prioritising student success. This paper explains challenges associated with VI students learning English language through texts that contain pictorial illustrations in a South African (SA) university context. The study adopted a qualitative exploratory research design to find and identify challenges faced by VI students when dealing with pictorial illustrations in texts, teaching and learning materials in English courses. Data was gathered from ten VI students who were doing English language courses at the University of Limpopo in Limpopo province, South Africa and five English language lecturers who taught VI students English language courses in the Department of Languages at the University of Limpopo in South Africa. In addition, two BraiIlists responsible for compiling braille learning materials at the Reakgona Disability Centre (RDC) at the University Of Limpopo in South Africa also provided data. The study used telephone interviews with the participants and as well as focus group conversations and hanging out approaches to gather data. This study is grounded on the (Social Model of Disability Theory) SMDT by Oliver (2013).The findings highlight a number of challenges related to pictorial illustrations in texts that VI students. The study found that students who use JAWS and Braille find it difficult to access information contained in a pictorial illustration. The study also found that some lecturers are not trained to explain pictorial illustrations to VI students. A surprising results is that the university Teaching and Learning policy is silent on how abled lecturers should lecture to VI students. The paper contributes to understanding the challenges VI students face when they learn English language. Universities are encouraged to strengthen academic staff development through initiatives that support lecturers in how to deal with teaching materials that contain pictorial illustrations. Technological advanced equipment’s should also be made available to VI students.

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