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Ms Jayshree Viranna.

‘I worked hard to get my degrees because I want to be known for something more than a person with a disability,’ said Ms Jayshree Viranna who received a BA honours degree from UKZN.

Viranna, who has cerebral palsy – a condition that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills leading to a physical disability,  hopes her achievement will be an inspiration to other disabled people to achieve their goals.

‘They should never let their disability discourage them. Although things might be difficult at times there is always a way forward. Never be afraid to ask for help. And believe in yourself, we all can make a difference,’ she said.

Viranna, who uses a scooter to get around campus, says more venues at UKZN should be disability friendly.

She chose to investigate the impact pop superstar Rihanna has had on the entertainment industry and how her influence has affected pop culture in the past decade.

‘My research focused on Rihanna’s impact on music and fashion. How she used social media to form a relationship with her fans and how they use social media as a tool for communication. My project shows how she has turned herself into a worldwide brand,’ said Viranna.

She believes her research is beneficial for the entertainment industry to show the importance a woman can have. ‘This can also encourage young girls to follow their own passion despite what society might think.’

Viranna received a disability bursary which covered her residence and study fees as well as providing a monthly allowance. ‘Living at the residence wasn’t always easy but I had a great support system of friends that made my UKZN experience amazing. I would like to thank my family for all their support and the Howard college disability unit and my lecturers.’

Viranna is currently completing her master’s degree in media and cultural studies.

Seven disabled students also graduated from the College of Humanities. They were Priscilla Khuzwayo, Siboniso Mabuza, Mondli Mchunu, Mfundo Ngobese, Phoswa and Lance Ross.