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A Child's Human Right ...

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... to Education

South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day on 21 March 2017. Although we have come a long way as a country, some fundamental rights as stipulated in our constitution have not yet been fulfilled.

Of an estimated 18 750 000 children in South Africa, it is estimated that around 11.2% have some form of a disability. Only around 2 out of 10 visually impaired children are reported to currently be admitted to school, compared to the ratio of children without disabilities which stands at 8:10. Many of those who are attending school, do not receive the support and reasonable accommodation which would allow for them to gain a quality education.

This short animated video illustrates the backlog in the education of visually impaired children's education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without a proper education, these children cannot gain knowledge and skills to prepare them for employment. If this backlog is not addressed now, in a few years we may potentially have more than 1 million persons of school leaving age who have been denied the opportunity to reach their potential, to live independent lives and to maintain a sustainable livelihood.

As part of our mandate, the SANCB has created the Leave No Child Behind campaign, of which the objective is to ensure that all blind and partially sighted children are identified and admitted to school at an early age. We aim to do this through advocacy and monitoring of compulsory registration of visually impaired children in accessible learning centers across South Africa. The campaign will also ensure that there are adequate learning materials and assistive devices such as Braille textbooks and Perkins Braillers in these centers.

If you would like to support this campaign, please contact our Fund Development Officer on 012 452 3811 or send an e-mail to fdo1@sancb.org.za.

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World Glaucoma Week

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A doctor screening a patient's eyes for Glaucoma
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March 12 – 18, 2017 marks World Glaucoma Week; a collaboration between the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association. The project is aimed at encouraging people to have their eyes (including their optic nerves) examined regularly, in order to combat visual impairment caused by glaucoma.

What is Glaucoma?

A treatable group of diseases that arises from increased pressure in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve, cause vision loss and eventually, blindness.

Statistics

According to the World Health Organisation, glaucoma accounts for 8% of global blindness, making it the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, after cataracts.


The number of people (aged 40-80 years) with glaucoma worldwide was estimated at just over 64 million in 2013, and is expected to increase to 76 million in 2020.

Risk Factors

People who are at greater risk of developing glaucoma include:

  • Those with high blood pressure;
  • Those with high eye pressure;
  • Those who suffered an eye injury;
  • Steroid users;
  • Those who have a family history of glaucoma;
  • African and Asian people, who are said to have a greater chance of developing glaucoma; and
  • Those who are over the age of 60 - chances of developing glaucoma increase as we age.

Prevention and treatment

  • Prevention is always better than the cure - a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years is strongly advised.
  • Treatment of glaucoma involves a lowering of intraocular pressure (IOP) through the use of medicines (eye drops or pills), laser or incisional surgery (laser or conventional), or a combination of both medicine and surgery. Eye drops are the most common treatment option.

Click here to watch a short video (courtesy of CEU College of Optometry) about the causes and symptoms of Glaucoma.

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International Women's Day

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Left to right, top to bottom: Helen Keller, Diane Schuur, Trischa Zorn Hudson an
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8 March 2017 marks International Women’s Day and the theme for this year’s campaign is "Be Bold For Change".


On this day we are reminded of the many determined women who, despite visual impairment, were bold enough to lead the way in bringing about inspiration and hope for others by challenging biases and stereotypes. A few of the many examples include the following:

 

  • The well-known author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller, the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as being a champion for the rights of women and workers.
  • Swimmer, educator and lawyer Trischa Zorn Hudson, who is understood to be the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic Games, where she won numerous medals for swimming. Formerly a teacher to learners with disabilities, she developed an inclusionary teaching model which encourages greater integration with fellow learners in the classroom, allowing for richer learning opportunities and experiences. She became an attorney and is currently working with war veterans as Legal Instrument Examiner at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, where she helps people in need of legal assistance.
  • Jazz musician Diane Schuur, who won a number of Grammy nominations and awards; worked with musicians such as Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonders; and performed at many prominent music venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the White House. Click here to visit her website, where the music is playing in the background.
  • Abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman (1822-1930) escaped from slavery and proceeded to save approximately seventy enslaved families and friends. During the American Civil war she was a scout and spy for the United States, and later became an active participant in the struggle for women’s suffrage. Later in life she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, to care for elderly people in need.

These are just a few examples of women with visual impairments who had the courage to not only rise above their own situations, but to also make a difference in the lives of others. Their successes serve as inspiration and beacons of hope to others.


Although great strides have been made to advance the status of women in the world, this progress does not always extend to women with disabilities, those who are visually impaired. Globally, visually impaired women still face a mountain of social, economic and political challenges. In South Africa they often face a double dose of discrimination – gender- and disability based. As a result, they are often denied access to education, and consequently employment. For instance, the global literacy rate for women with disabilities is estimated to be as low as 1% (only between 5 – 10% of the total blind population is braille literate), and women with disabilities were found to be only half as likely to be employed compared to their male counterparts.


Therefore, on International Women’s Day, the SANCB would not only like to celebrate the many successful women who have already made a difference in the lives of others, but also want to urge our members and supporters to follow in their footsteps, and to #BeBoldForChange. Let us actively work towards bettering the plight of the many blind and partially sighted girls and women who are denied the opportunity to take up their rightful place in society.
We invite all government departments, the private sector, and individuals to join us in the undertaking to ensure the educational and economic inclusion of visually impaired girls and women. If you would like to contribute by offering support with regards to education, employment opportunities or our community based self-help groups, please contact us.
 

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Response to the 2018 Budget Speech

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Pravin Gordhan's 2018 Budget Speech (photo credit: www.gosouth.co.za)
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Photo caption: Pravin Gordhan's 2018 Budget Speech (photo credit: www.gosouth.co.za)

Government's shifting and restated emphasis, as listed below, MUST include Persons with Disability (PWD):

1. Dignity and equality.
2. Analogue to digital TV.
3. Economic growth in the following areas:

a. R3.9Bn for SMME’s and co-operatives.

b. R1.9Bn for Broadband implementation in public buildings and schools in eight NHI pilot districts.

c. R3.9Bn for CSIR.

d. R0.5Bn for tourism promotion.

e. R300Bn by 2020 for agriculture development and land reform.

f. R37Bn for Higher Education.

g. R240Bn on Basic Education.


4. Reform of TVET colleges to meet market needs.
5. Private and Public investment in new technologies that help build a modern and diversified portfolio.
6. Increased opportunities to build livelihoods.
7. Fastest growing spending categories are health, social and community development.
8. Three new conditional grants will take effect to expand access to:
9. Early Childhood Development.
10. Increased employment of social workers.
11. Improved opportunities for learners with profound disabilities.
12. Improved asset management, including adherence to spending 8% of the value of assets on their maintenance.
13. Improved education is a CENTRAL priority.
14. IDC, Land Bank and Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) are steadily expanding their financing of agricultural and municipal infrastructure.
15. Further consultations are currently taking place on the tax on sugary beverages. Arising from these discussions, and working closely with the Department of Health, the proposed design has been revised to include both intrinsic and added sugars. The tax will be implemented later this year once details are finalised and the legislation is passed.
16. To expand the integrated school health programmes, including provision of spectacles and hearing aids.
17. To improve services for people with disabilities including provision of assistive devices.
18. Limpopo Central Hospital and the new medical school of the University of Limpopo.
19. Procurement authorities are now empowered to set clear targets to promote black-owned and women-owned businesses, participation of youth and disabled persons.


How does our sector respond to and potentially benefit from the shifting and restated government emphases listed above? Some thoughts below:


1. Pursue initiatives that assure degrees of self-reliance and independence, for example, physiotherapy.
2. We have already seen how consistently from year to year our sector outperforms the general populace on this front and we must continue to grow on these achievements and progress. The blindness sector’s youth should become a growing academic elite both at a secondary and tertiary level.
3. We must continue to pursue with the Department of Labour (DOL), Workshops for the Blind in rural areas.
4. We MUST have clear motivated programmes that can take advantage of the listed expenditure and development programmes, especially co-operatives, including the provision of boreholes to sustain agricultural projects.
5. We must continue to pursue initiatives with the CSIR to benefit our sector, like the recent launch of the SAnote.
6. We must also pursue initiatives that expose our member organisations to benefit from tourism, especially through arts and crafts. We are already actively engaged with various departments including the Department of Arts and Culture.
7. We sincerely hope that an urgent allocation out of the extra R5 billion or out of the total of R37 billion for Higher Education is allocated to Optima College.
8. We don’t see the spending growth in social development directly in either the increase in social grants from R1510 to R1600 (an increase of only 5.96%) or in improved service delivery.
9. Bearing in mind that certain forms of sugar may cause or aggravate the onset of certain types of diabetes which may cause or aggravate certain types of blindness, the question remains as to where the revenues from this tax will be spent.
10. Council too must strive to achieve improved asset management. At very least we must try to spend 8% of the value of assets on their maintenance. In the private sector they work on 12% typically, depending on the nature of the asset.
11. Optima College must strengthen its offering or if it is not able to do so affordably, then it must re-examine its evolving role in our sector and the South African economy as a whole.
12. Our efforts to secure funding from IDC, Land Bank and DBSA at a Council level have proven difficult to date.
13. In respect of school health programmes; Council through the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness has already positioned itself well with many programmes already delivered in association with private corporate funders. Bureau’s future in this service category will be determined by the State’s willingness to work with independent agencies, like the Bureau, with a proven track record versus trying to duplicate these services on its own.
14. We hope that the medical infrastructure developments in Limpopo will specifically allow for the training of visually impaired physiotherapists.
15. We hope the expenditure on Basic Education includes the much needed and promised development at our SEN schools, and most specifically at Rivoni School for the Blind. We further hope this provides for the delivery of text books to all our learners.
16. It is important that all targets are enforced, not merely set, but achieved!

In closing. Multinational corporations continue to use inconsistencies in global tax rules to their advantage and to avoid tax liabilities. South Africa intends to sign a multilateral instrument this year which will assist in the updating of treaties and will reduce the scope for aggressive tax avoidance activities. This continues to be the biggest ill in our society today, where those that have, refuse to pay their fair share of tax. Seeing their exploitation of the consumer and/or the poor as their entitlement and then not even willing to pay their fair share of tax on it.

This is the time for activists, workers, businesspersons, the clergy, professionals and citizens at large to actively engage in shaping the transformation agenda and ensuring that we do have a just and equitable society. And we as the blindness sector have our own advocacy role to play.

We also need to consider, in the face of such intractable economic hardships and disparities, whether we should supplement our Constitutional Bill of Rights with a “Charter of Economic Rights” – a charter that would bind all of us to an economy which:

  • Provides access to decent and well remunerated jobs,
  • Facilitates training and retraining of citizens in the face of technological change, and
  • Creates a supportive environment for micro, small and medium businesses and co-operatives.
  • Supports equitable education that empowers us all to do what we dare to dream.
  • Has a strong justice system with effective and sustainable punitive measures against those that would subvert:
    • First the equitable expenditure within the economy (through the elimination of price and tender fixing).
    • Second the equitable redistribution (through taxes) of wealth.

We can draw inspiration from Inkosi Albert Luthuli, when he says:

“I believe that here in South Africa with all our diversities of colour and race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy. There is a challenge for us to set a new example for all. Let us not side-step this task.” We cannot achieve this without the immediate comments above being achieved.

For a more detailed report with comments on the Budget, click on the link.

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High hopes for Marrakesh

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In case you haven’t heard, the Marrakesh Treaty came into force on 30 September 2016. It seeks to boost the volume of texts for blind and print disabled people around the world. This is vital, because currently only about 10% of published materials are available in accessible formats, such as Braille, large print and audio.


Hanif Kruger, SANCB’s Resource Centre Manager, is excited about this. “There is a worldwide book famine for blind or print disabled people. The Marrakesh Treaty aims to alleviate this shortage of material. I’m also looking at our government to clean up the Copyright Act so that we can provide education and opportunities to all people who are deserving of it.”
 

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Celebrating Eye Care Awareness Month

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October 2016 was Eye Care Awareness Month (ECAM) and the SANCB had a busy and productive month.


Our Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness conducted cataract blitzes in the Free State and North West provinces.


To mark World Sight Day (WSD), our Mpumalanga office held an eye screening event, screening more than 500 people and dispensing 429 free pairs of spectacles. We thank our partners: Nelspruit’s Lions Club, the City of Mbombela and Laduma.


We also joined the National Department of Health in Gauteng on 18 October for free eye screening services.


At the end of October, the SANCB representatives attended an International Eye Health Conference: the 10th General Assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness at Durban’s ICC.


Over three days, more than 200 renowned speakers covered every aspect of eye care and public policy. We hope that the event gives rise to renewed unity and vigour in the sector!
 

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Powering up the blind community

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Knowing what price tag to put on your product is a tricky business – and unfortunately, incorrect pricing can sink the best efforts of our visually impaired entrepreneurs.


But thanks to ABSA, 17 enterprises run by visually impaired entrepreneurs now have a clear understanding of how it’s done.


Over the course of the past year, ABSA has provided these enterprises with business training that covers pricing, record keeping, book keeping and business promotion.


We’ve been delighted by the results. In July, 12 visually impaired voluntary workers from Masibambane in Tjakastad, Mpumalanga, received training. This enterprise manufactures wood products and says the training has empowered them to make many changes for the better. “We have improved our record keeping and promote our products more effectively. We no longer keep money on our premises. Our staff are also much more customer focussed,” Masibambane chairlady, Thuli Mkhatshwa, said proudly.


Thank you, ABSA, for empowering visually impaired entrepreneurs – and bolstering employment among people with disabilities.
 

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Making 67 minutes count

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We’re grateful to each and every person who supported visually impaired South Africans as part of their 67 Minutes for Madiba on 18 July last year.


SANCB staff and a team of volunteers from Exxaro performed their community service at Ikemiseng Association for the Blind in Ga-Rankuwa, Pretoria. The group cleared an overgrown piece of land for cultivation and helped water their vegetable garden. Thanks to Exxaro and Tshwane Municipality for sponsoring and supporting us in this worthwhile endeavour.


In another initiative, the AECI group and its subsidiary Acacia Real Estate mobilised staff nationwide to support our Rand-a-Day campaign.
The Star newspaper donated over 100 reading glasses, with 20 people from Mamelodi, Pretoria benefiting from this kind gesture following free eye screening by the SANCB’s Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness.


Thank you for thinking of us and keeping Madiba’s legacy alive.
 

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A sneak peek at future education

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Assistive technologies are developing rapidly and as they filter into classrooms, visually impaired students can look forward to a much more engaging time at school.


SANCB’s former Resource Centre Manager, Adam Ely says “the classroom of the future is an interactive, multi-sensory learning experience catering to individual needs”.


Addressing delegates at SABC Eduweek Conference in Midrand on 29 June 2016, Adam explained that classrooms would include cutting edge assistive technology and interactive teaching tools such as digital textbooks, white boards, innovative teaching software, internet connectivity, screen reading and magnification software.


Edit Micro, SANCB’s partner in the project, said classrooms such as these help motivate and inspire learners to achieve their full potential.
 

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The sky’s the limit for Colette

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15-year-old Colette Roos has got gumption! When her parents couldn’t afford to send her to a Space Camp in the USA, this plucky teenager took it upon herself to obtain a scholarship to cover the cost. Then she made the long trip to Huntsville, Alabama – on her own!


Held at NASA in September last year, the Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students is a week-long event for blind and partially sighted students with an interest in maths and science.


Colette joined 14 other students in an exciting yet challenging activity, which included building rockets and experiencing simulated space.


“This is a week I will always remember. It was an opportunity to gain independence and meet new friends,” said the Grade 10 pupil. Colette has uploaded two Q&A videos about her trip on YouTube – where you can also view her music videos.


It’s compassionate acts like these that help blind learners believe that they can go anywhere their dreams take them. Thank you!
 

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