Cel­e­brat­ing the in­de­pen­dence that the white cane brings to the vis­ually im­paired

Cape Times - - METRO - STAFF WRITER

THE League of Friends of the Blind (Lo­fob) will use the In­ter­na­tional White Cane Safety Day on Oc­to­ber 15 to cel­e­brate the power of free­dom and in­de­pen­dence it brings to the lives of mil­lions of blind and vis­ually im­paired per­sons across the world.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion said the white cane is recog­nised as the in­ter­na­tional sym­bol of in­de­pen­dence, a sign of au­ton­omy and re­spect for the in­her­ent dig­nity for the blind and vis­ually im­paired, which was in line with Ar­ti­cle 3 of the prin­ci­ples en­shrined in the UN Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (CRPD).

Lo­fob ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Dr Ar­mand Bam said: “For decades the ac­cess to ori­en­ta­tion and mo­bil­ity train­ing and ser­vices has been con­stricted and con­trolled. It was con­trolled by those who ben­e­fited from the un­even­ness of our coun­try’s his­tor­i­cal past. To­day and to our un­der­stand­ing, there are just over 50 qual­i­fied ori­en­ta­tion and mo­bil­ity in­struc­tors na­tion­ally. We are proud to say that the time of re­stricted ser­vices has come to an end.”

Lo­fob Ori­en­ta­tion and Mo­bil­ity train­ing academy pro­gramme man­ager Heidi Volk­wijn said: “We are call­ing on the South African gov­ern­ment, cor­po­rates and com­mu­nity mem­bers to make fund­ing avail­able for in­di­gent blind per­sons to have ac­cess to white canes, and for the much-needed ori­en­ta­tion and mo­bil­ity train­ing that is cou­pled with it.”

About 388 000 South Africans are blind and over 1 000 000 in­di­vid­u­als have se­verely low vi­sion, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Lo­fob said that in South Africa the preva­lence of blind­ness and vis­ual im­pair­ment is the high­est of all dis­abil­i­ties, rank­ing at 32%.

“This dire statis­tic and fact prompted Lo­fob to launch its Ori­en­ta­tion and Mo­bil­ity academy to ad­dress the short­age of trained prac­ti­tion­ers in the field. Trainees in our pro­gramme are trained to teach ori­en­ta­tion and mo­bil­ity, Braille, skills of daily liv­ing, cop­ing with low vi­sion etc, which are es­sen­tial skills re­quired for in­de­pen­dent liv­ing,” said Lo­fob.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to spon­sor a blind per­son with a white cane and train­ing, or to fund a Ori­en­ta­tion and Mo­bil­ity stu­dent through the Lo­fob Train­ing Academy, con­tact Lo­fob on 021 705 3753 or visit web­site: http://lo­fob.org.za/news/academy

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