Background: This study focuses on the positioning of gender, sexual orientation and people with disabilities in the linguistic landscapes of two selected South African universities, which are located in the Western Cape province.
Objectives: This study aims to answer the question: How are power relations depicted through linguistic landscaping in the universities?
Methods: Given that there is minimal empirical data in this field, the researcher approached this question by exploring the way in which sexual orientation and people with disabilities are perceived, via the modal resources used in the categorisation of toilet users at the institutions. Specifically, toilet signage was observed as there were only a few other signage or forms of support (such as ramps and lifts – some of which may seem disability-unfriendly in terms of space) and acknowledgement in other places at the institutions for people with disabilities. Data (signs, images, texts, billboards and posters) were collected by means of photography. The interpretive paradigm was used to determine the choice of methodology: critical discourse analysis and multimodality. These were also used to thematically analyse the collected data.
Results: Findings revealed that sexuality, as well as subtle inequality, unfortunately remain unravelled areas in South Africa’s higher institutions of learning. In addition, the degenderisation of people with disabilities appears to be prevalent at the institutions, although this may not necessarily be reflective of practices at all higher education institutions in South Africa.
Conclusion: Nonetheless, the examined results are stimulating indicators of hegemonic and preferred practices in public places. They also depict the obtainable dissimilar scales and imbalances in society, which are not addressed may impede other authentic and ongoing measures of social integration and advancement.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019