- Zak completed his studies with distinctions even though he had no vision
- He did not let his disability limit him and he defied all odds
- Zak is grateful for all who assisted him in reaching his dreams, especially the Disability Unit, the Department of Library Services and the departmental tutors
Studying at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Natureal and Agricultural Sciences, Zak Claasen has completed a BSc in Genetics with distinction.
This is an extraordinary achievement for any student, but making it even more special is the fact that Zak is blind.
Been unable to see visual material required for his degree, Zak relied on his screen reader software. Descriptions from textbooks and digital scans and printouts in braille from UP’s Disability Unit. With thanks to the library that played a role in Zak’s success by ordering his textbooks in electronic format. This allowed Zak to read the material through his screen reader.
Having an institutional commitment, the University of Pretoria ensures an integrated and inclusive learning experience for students with disabilities. Accordingly, the Disability Unit aims to create an enabling environment by providing support to students with disabilities.
“Each human being is uniquely talented. Part of the dignity of every human being is the fact and awareness of this uniqueness. An individual’s human dignity cannot be fully respected or valued unless the individual is permitted to develop his or her talents optimally.” ~ Constitutional Court 1996.
The students with disabilities are supported through the Disability Unit, which operates within the Department of Student Affairs in partnership with department and faculties. The Disability Unit endeavours to establish a human rights culture at the University of Pretoria. This will allow for equal access and participation of students with disabilities within the University of Pretoria’s learning environment.
Pursuing his career, Zak is currently registered for an honours in bioinformatics. His intention is to complete his master’s in the near future.
Zak chose to study genetics because “the genetic code underlies the functioning of every living thing on the planet. I chose to study it because it seemed very interesting when I was doing it in Life Science at school, and because it’s a relatively new field that’s still growing as new discoveries are being made.
And I think it has the potential to become more important in future.”
Zak is grateful to all those who helped him on his way to success and makes special mention of the Disability Unit, the Department of Library Services and the departmental tutors.
Zak’s message to fellow students is: “Don’t give up! If you don’t succeed, keep trying, you will eventually.”
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