Otting Chair in Special Education
Professor Erna Alant received her bachelors, masters and PhD in the field of Speech- Language Pathology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She joined the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1978 from where she moved to Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal to work in the school context. In 1984 she was appointed at the University of Pretoria as a clinical tutor, lecturer and later as professor in Communication Pathology.
In 1990 she founded the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) which is a unique graduate training and research facility in Africa. In 1995 the CAAC received the Education Africa Presidential Award from Nelson Mandela for its work in South Africa. Professor Alant also received the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1998 for the project “Communication for life”. Since then, the CAAC has received numerous national and international awards in recognition of its impact within the African continent and beyond.
Professor Alant’s research endeavours over the past 18 years have focused largely on the development of relevant communication systems for people who have no or little speech within poverty contexts. One of the outcomes of this research was a book on “AAC and Severe Disability: Beyond Poverty” published by Whurr Publishers in 2005. This book, which was co-edited by Dr Lyle L Lloyd from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana was the first book which focused on poverty and AAC intervention internationally.
In 2008 she received an award from the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in recognition of her international contribution in the field. She is presently, President-elect of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (2009-2010) and an associate editor for the journal of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).