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Blind residents receive Braille training

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Twenty-eight visually impaired and blind residents from various parts of the Northern Cape now have knowledge on how to use and read Braille.

Pictures: Facebook

TWENTY-eight visually impaired and blind residents from various parts of the Northern Cape now have knowledge on how to use and read Braille.

This follows the first Braille workshop that was presented recently by the National Library of the Blind in partnership with the provincial Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Department.

The training programme took place over five days and was the first ever to be presented in the country.

The trainees were selected from various districts in the Province and were taught entry-level braille.

One of the trainees from Kuruman, Bishop Ernest Hans, who is a church leader, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre owner and the owner of an International Information Centre, said the workshop has opened up more possibilities for him.

“I was not born blind, but I lost my eyesight in 2013 after someone threw me with a brick on my left eye. The incident happened when I was still staying in Soweto. That incident affected the vision in my left eye but the problem later affected my right eye as well. I later lost sight in both my eyes.

“As I am a church leader, I have been reliant on the help of family and people around me to conduct my duties as well as running my businesses. I have been blessed with trustworthy and honest people who have assisted me to run my business successfully.

“Being a business owner, there are several documents one has to submit and fill-in. This has always been a challenge and not being able to do such tasks can make one feel inferior. Sometimes people who are blind are made to feel like they are uneducated, whereas they have only lost their sight.

“This training has now given me the power to be able to read. I have always been reliant on audio books, and never made use of Braille books as I did not know how to read braille. I can now read braille confidently and can maybe one day even publish a book,” Hans said.

The facilitator of the programme, Doctor Siva Moodley, said the trainees were trained how to read the alphabet and uncontracted Braille.

“There is uncontracted and contracted Braille. Contracted braille is more advanced where trainees are taught how to write and read abbreviations. Uncontracted Braille is the entry-point of Braille. The trainees who took part in this training session will later get training in contracted Braille.

“We had to start with uncontracted Braille as the majority of the trainees have never been exposed to braille. They did not know how to read and it is the same process as exposing a child who starts school to the alphabet before teaching them how to string a sentence together,” Moodley said.

He added that the training had given the trainees confidence.

“When some of the trainees started the programme, they were shy and timid. However, after they realised how the programme can assist them, their confidence grew. Braille is relatively easy to read, but if one does not have an understanding or exposure to an unknown product, it can unravel fear inside one. This programme has equipped the trainees with the necessary skills to make their daily lives a little more easier,” he said.

Moodley said the lack of Braille material to blind people and those who are visually impaired might also be a reason some shy away from learning braille.

“Many blind people do not have access to reading material and thus are never exposed to Braille,” Moodley said.

The provincial co-ordinator for South African Library for the Blind, Mmabatho Nyamane, said they have selected people who were already members of mini-libraries in the Province which caters for blind readers.

“We found that members of the mini-libraries were not exposed to Braille and were mostly making use of audio-books. We also found that after some of the trainees lost their sight, they never continued with their schooling or studies. Knowing how to use braille they now know how to write and read Braille. Full Braille training is normally three months but we managed to give ground-level training to trainees in one week. We also have members at the mini-libraries who will continue to assist trainees with further training,” said Nyamane.

She said they planned to role out the programme to other provinces.

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