Just like the old Hindu story of four blind men who had no experience or understanding of what an elephant looked like, so too was Moses Sekhobane’s reality before visiting the Kruger National Park’s Letaba Elephant Museum.
Sekhobane smiled for a second before describing what came to his mind after he used his touch to build a visualisation of a 15-year-old elephant.
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“Now I picture its structure, I know it’s gigantic because I could not reach the top and it has huge ears. “Another thing I can say is, the teeth are a little big, because I was able to touch a baby elephant’s teeth and tusk,” Sekhobane said.
“Although I could not fully make out the image because I did not touch the feet and trunk, I now have an idea what it could be.”
Sekhobane was one of a few students with disabilities from the University of Venda who came to experience the renovated elephant hall which is one of the new progressive ways for the SA National Parks (SANParks) and the Kruger to include the disabled.
Mpumalanga chair of Disabled People SA Patrick Mahlakwane said they were happy with the progress the Kruger made in accommodating and employing people with disabilities.
“What we’re seeing here today is a result of the awareness that we’ve been raising. This is the second camp with facilities for the visually impaired and other disabilities, the other one is Bergen-Dal,” he said.
“We started seeing some changes, such as the employment of disabled persons. I know there’s a deaf receptionist in one of the camps and that is a result of our relationship with them.”
Mahlakwane said they were pushing for universal access. “As you go out, you’ll see the toilet for disabled persons and the toilet for non-disabled persons, but even that toilet is used by both male and females.
“But we are saying you can have a user-friendly toilet in the male and in the female toilets, where you don’t have to put a stigma or think that ‘oh this is specifically for disabled people…’ one door, same services.”
Practitioner for transformation in the Kruger Solly Shakwane, with the help of organisations such as Disabled People SA, were aware they were not yet there and were working to improve.
“There are a lot of things that we have to correct, such as in terms of our accommodation, because largely we didn’t focus on persons with disability but was also informed about by the history of this park,” he said.
“We have noticed some of our accommodation persisted that are so very old, so we need to improve on those.”
He said their goal going into the future was to make sure that they have universally access in all facilities, and not have a specific units which say “these are for the person with disabilities”.
“Because it does not help us to do our way with the stigma that is still attached to person,” he said.
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