Opening our minds to the blind
THE CAPE Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) commemorated International White Cane Safety Day and celebrated this tool of independence for the blind or visually impaired with a walk in Main Road, Salt River, to help spread awareness.
Celebrated on October 15 of each year since 1964, white cane day was combined by the society with World Sight Day yesterday.
About 70 people, including staff, volunteers and members, joined the walk to busy populated settings like stores, pharmacies and banks.
Pensioner Moegamat Williams joined the walk after hearing about it on the radio. “I came to support the cause but also to experience what it feels like for our blind and visually impaired society members.
“The marshal guided me at first and that was scary but then I was given the cane and a short tutorial.
“He left me on my own for a few steps at a time. I have never felt so helpless or the ground so uneven and I even walked into a few poles,” said Williams.
He said while he had received only a brief insight into the everyday life of the visually impaired and blind, he believed society had a role to play in making these people feel more included and safe.
The members walked from the society’s centre in Salt River to Main Road through traffic and informed pedestrians, motorists and businesses of the challenges faced by the blind as they traversed the streets.
Lydia Baker from Ruyterwacht said she had started losing her eyesight in the early 1990s, being diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited, degenerative eye disease), and now has 2% eyesight.
“It took a while to adjust and then walking with the cane is a challenge and looking at me, people don’t always understand because I also don’t look blind,” said Baker.
CTSB orientation and mobility specialist Golden Dzapasi said society had to be more attentive and help the visually impaired and the blind.
He said something the sighted took for granted, simply walking down the street, could be scary and the cane as a tool did not help with sudden incidents.
CTSB awareness officer Sedik Jordan said the cane gave the blind independence and that’s what they wanted people to take away from the walk.
INDEPENDENCE: About 70 people from the Cape Society for the Blind celebrated the tool of independence for the blind or visually impaired yesterday, commemorating White Cane Safety Day with a walk in Main Road, Salt River. Taking the lead in the walk is Debrah Otto, with Mncedi Zwane on her right.