Blind woman creates own opportunity
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.