Experiences of Students with Visual Impairments at an Open Distance and e-Learning University in South Africa: Counselling Perspective

  • Enid Manyaku Pitsoane
  • Tonny Nelson Matjila
Keywords: Counselling, access, Open Distance and e-Learning, visual impairment


The purpose of the qualitative study on which this article is based was to explore the experiences of students with visual impairments, registered at an Open Distance and e-Learning University in South Africa, through a phenomenological research design. Literature was reviewed on student support in distance education and concepts from the critical disability theory, biopsychosocial model of disability, connectivism, and affect theories formed the conceptual framework for the study. Telephonic semi-structured interviews were used as a technique to collect data from seven participants. Data were transcribed and then coded employing ATLAS.ti. The emerged themes centred on students’ counselling experiences, the synergy between the departments, and accessibility of services. It was also determined that students lose academic time due to the lack of resources and study materials in alternative and accessible formats. While policies and implementation plans were claimed to be in place, they do not address the reality on the ground, due to a lack of coordination of disability issues, and late referral of students to counselling services. The study recommends the prioritisation of disability issues, and it needs to be incorporated in the wider university strategic plan to accelerate its implementation. This will translate in (i) training ICT staff on various computer software programs needed to support students with visual impairments, (ii) developing alternative, formative, and summative assessments, (iii) developing a job readiness intervention programme for graduates to empower the students financially and to add value to the university’s employment equity agenda, and lastly (iv) putting the disability unit at the centre of all disability matters for coordinating purposes.

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eISSN: 2307-6267