Against the odds

Posted on May 03, 2018

Zak Claasen studied in the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and has completed a BSc in Genetics with distinction. This is an extraordinary feat for any student, but even more so because Zak is blind. Unable to see all the visual material required for his degree, Zak had to rely on his screen reader software, descriptions from textbooks and digital scans and printouts in braille from UP’s Disability Unit. The library also played a role in Zak’s success by ensuring that his textbooks were ordered in electronic format to allow him to read it through his screen reader.

Zak is currently registered for an honours in bioinformatics and intends to complete a master’s as well.  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’s message to fellow students is: “Don't give up! If you don't succeed, keep trying, you will eventually.”  Zak makes special mention of the Disability Unit, the Department of Library Services and the departmental tutors who helped him on his way to success.

- Author Shakira Hoosain

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