Promoting the interests of the visually impaired in South Africa
Led by Jace Nair, Blind SA exists to do whatever is necessary or conducive to empower visually impaired people to become economically self-supporting and to live a full and meaningful life as citizens of South Africa. They promote the interests of all visually impaired people through the provision of appropriate services. Their mission is to create an informed blind society; enable the blind to gain meaningful employment; enhance their quality of life, and incorporate them into everyday life. Approximately 2.1 million people are blind and partially sighted in South Africa.
There are 23 Special Schools for the Blind in the country and about 12,000 children with visual impairments are at mainstream schools. The majority of the learners at mainstream schools, however, do not receive assistance to cope with their disability. They do not have learner teacher support materials, assistive devices such as braille writing machines or low vision aids. Blind SA works assiduously to raise awareness and provide assistance for learners in special and mainstream schools. They also assist with students’ registrations for tertiary institutions.
Cultural, religious and community stereotyping and beliefs provide a platform for discrimination and negative perspectives of the blind in South Africa. There is progressive legislation but implementation is slow.
Although an inclusive approach to disability is usually taken, a specific Disability Act is not yet in place but a White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disability was approved by Government in 2015. The country is in the early stages of developing a Disability Act and Disability Development Agency.
Some of the main challenges facing the visually-impaired in South Africa are accessing employment, accessible learning and teaching materials in braille, large print, audio and daisy, access to assistive devices and adapted technologies.
Although about 3% of blind and visually impaired persons are employed in the open labour market, public sector, private sector or in sheltered/protective workshops, unemployment remains one of the more pressing concerns. From the Gauteng Province only, the smallest in South Africa, Blind SA has a database of over 500 blind and visually impaired graduates both skilled and unskilled seeking employment. To assist with the unemployment situation, the organization initiated Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) which is accredited by the International Labour Organisation. They trained 14 trainers using the Training of Trainers concept, four of them to be accredited as Master Trainers. The SIYB has the following components: Generate Your Business Ideas; Start Your Business; Improve Your Business. These have been adapted for online e-Training with accessible formatted training materials.
As a result of Covid-19, some of the main services were halted temporarily but other awareness raising, poverty relief and counselling services were introduced. Covid literature was printed in braille and circulated electronically.
Blind SA encourages advocacy and self-representation. They lobby for the rights of the blind in South Africa while providing meaningful services to empower, build self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Among other things they facilitate daisy, audio and Braille production of literature in UBC (unified braille code) in all 11 official languages. Also:
>> Provide study bursaries and loan facilities for the purchase of work and study related items.
>> Train in accredited braille and orientation and mobility services and placement in skills training, entrepreneurial training and placement in employment.
>> Awareness raising, information dissemination and distribution of information through various publications: Blind SA News, Braillorama, Braillorette, Braille Trumpet, Young Stoners and Parents Network.
>> Assistive devices: white canes, liquid level indicators, Mali-Bhala, braille paper, Tatrapoint brailler and the Braille Me.
This organization was established in 1946 as the South African Blind Workers Organisation (SABWO) and became Blind SA in 2004.
Blind SA 000-606NPO