Blind woman cre­ates own op­por­tu­nity

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE - TANYA PETERSEN

IF OP­POR­TU­NITY doesn’t knock, build a door, goes the old adage by Mil­ton Berle.

And that is what Kim Brand did af­ter she lost her sight in a car crash and strug­gled to find em­ploy­ment.

Brand has started a mo­bile business as an aro­mather­a­pist and re­flex­ol­o­gist. “I go to client’s homes, guest houses, pam­per par­ties.”

The 33-year-old Capeto­nian lost her sight about 11 years ago. “I grew up in Bothasig with my par­ents and my brother. I had a happy child­hood, loads of happy mem­o­ries. We are very fam­ily ori­en­tated – friends in and out all the time.”

Brand said she was 22 at the time of the crash and had been study­ing early child­hood de­vel­op­ment.

“We were go­ing to a party. We were not sup­posed to be driv­ing, we hit a pole and I had to be cut out of the car. I lost my whole face. My left eye burst on im­pact, my right eye came out of its socket and the op­tic nerve was sev­ered.”

She spent two-and-a-half weeks in Tyger­berg hos­pi­tal and un­der­went an 11-and-ahalf hour surgery to re­con­struct her face.

Brand said she could re­mem­ber what she looked like be­fore the ac­ci­dent. “I like that girl she was a cute girl.”

In spite of her chal­lenges, a few months af­ter her ac­ci­dent Brand was back in col­lege to com­plete her stud­ies. She knew she still needed some of the nor­mal­ity she had be­fore the crash.

So in­stead of al­low­ing the dark­ness to com­pletely take over her life, she de­cided to try to move for­ward. How­ever, the early days were dif­fi­cult for her.

“In your twen­ties... you are dis­cov­er­ing who you are, what you want and what you don’t want. The essence of you is sort of com­ing out then. So the essence of me was con­stantly fight­ing with this new per­son.

“I am ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the world dif­fer­ently. Life as a sighted per­son is easy and life as a blind per­son is dif­fi­cult. Blind­ness is the hard­est thing I have had to cope with. It doesn’t get eas­ier; the world is de­signed for sighted peo­ple.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing her stud­ies in early child­hood de­vel­op­ment, she went on to study aro­mather­apy and re­flex­ol­ogy and even­tu­ally hopes to work with dis­abled children.

“It’s hard for a blind woman to find em­ploy­ment.”

Af­ter she com­pleted the aro­mather­apy and re­flex­ol­ogy stud­ies she started call­ing up busi­nesses look­ing for em­ploy­ment. “I dis­closed my blind­ness. I tried telling peo­ple and tried not telling peo­ple.”

At one business, she was told they had stairs and tele­phones in the build­ing.

“So I said ‘wow’, I am not deaf nor am I in a wheelchair. But do I want to work for some­one like that?”

She said she didn’t know what peo­ple think blind­ness is.

“I don’t know if they are think­ing, if I am work­ing in mas­sage ther­apy area that I am go­ing to need them to set up the bed for me, take my tow­els to the laun­dry, feed me my lunch and maybe take me on a toi­let break. I don’t know what they they think. But once I have a lay­out of a room or an area, I am able to nav­i­gate – and this is true for many blind peo­ple.

“The sad thing is that no­body wants to give me a chance and say, ‘Yes, let’s go’.”

She said most beauty sa­lons ex­pect the ther­a­pists to be able to do all the treat­ments.

“I don’t think you would want me to come near your face with hot wax,” she joked.

So in­stead of try­ing to find em­ploy­ment, she started her own business which she hopes will get im­prove and grow once she starts find­ing clients.

“Peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of be­ing blind are lim­it­ing to blind peo­ple. There are a lot of amaz­ing things blind peo­ple can do.”

‘The sad thing is no­body wants to give me a chance’

Kim Brand built a business.

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