Imagine losing your sight and never being able to see again. This is the reality for many South Africans – in fact, over 4.8 million people in our country are blind, and 116.6 million have a visual impairment of some sort.
On the 4th of January we will celebrate World Braille Day, showing our support for colleagues, friends and loved ones living with blindness and visual impairment. This day was first established in 2019 to raise awareness of the importance of braille and how it improves the lives of blind and partially sighted people.
What is Braille?
Braille is a form of written language designed specifically for blind and partially sighted people, using patterns of raised dots that you can feel with your fingertips. Because a blind person can’t see, they have to rely on touch to accomplish most tasks. This is why braille is so incredible, as it allows blind people to read with their fingers.
This is an example of a braille alphabet chart.
Now, imagine each of the black dots as little raised dots that you can “read” with your fingers
What causes visual impairment?
The most common cause of blindness in the world is cataracts. This is a condition where the lens in your eye becomes cloudy due to old age or injury. Even though many people suffer from cataracts, it can be treated by replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial one. The second most common cause of blindness is glaucoma – a condition that puts pressure on the eye and causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve. Glaucoma usually runs in the family and can get worse over time. While it can be treated with medication, it can’t be cured for good.
How can i help the blind?
If you know someone who is blind or battles with poor vision, here are a few ways in which you can help them navigate daily life:
Find out exactly what their visual limitations are.
There are various stages to blindness, and your friend or family member might still have partial vision. For instance, find out if they can still recognise shapes and light changes – this will help you determine in which areas of life they might need support.
Help them research visual aids.
Over and above braille, there are many amazing tools out there that can help someone with poor vision navigate the world and make their life easier. If they haven’t been properly diagnosed or tested yet, offer to take them to the optometrist so that they can potentially be fitted with the appropriate eye gear.more in control.
Remove any unnecessary clutter.
If you’re living with a blind or visually impaired person, make life easier for them by getting rid of things that can stand in the way of their daily activities.
But don’t move things around.
Blind people rely heavily on memory to locate things they might need. So, if you were to move things around in their living or working space, it will make it harder for them to find what they are looking for.
Offer to shop for or with them.
Navigating the shops is hard enough as it is – so imagine having to do it without being able to see. Offer to take your friend shopping, and to label the items they buy with a braille label maker.
Walk ahead of the person.
If you’re walking with a blind person, try to stay a step or two ahead of them, and walk a little slower than you normally. This way they can listen to your footsteps and follow you. You can also bring obstacles like curbs and street poles to their attention.
We are here to support you and provide you with information on braille and visual impairment.
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