Kaleidoscope asks South Africans to ‘be stronger together’ on World Sight Day
Cape Town, 13th October, 2016 – Kaleidoscope is calling for South Africans to be ‘stronger together’ on World Sight Day on 13th October, inclusive of a global initiative
to focus attention on blindness and vision impairment.
According to the Global Data on Visual Impairments, 80% of visual impairment is avoidable – i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable. Top causes of visual impairment include refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma and top causes of blindness are cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Prevention of Blindness and Deafness Programme states that about 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. Of these, 39 million people are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment.
Freddie Botha, Executive Head Kaleidoscope (previously known as The Institute for the Blind) which has been catering for the all-inclusive needs of visually impaired persons in South Africa since 1881, says that it is estimated that between R2,5 – R3,5 million people live with low vision and blindness in South Africa.
Employment is one of the biggest challenges the blind face in South Africa – this is evident in light of the fact that currently 97% of persons who are visually impaired are unemployed.
“It is up to everyone to help play a part in furthering the lives of the visually impaired both on a personal and professional level,” says Botha. “Blind people in the modern world are often unseen, invisible to a sighted society, and we want to change that because the blind have such unlimited potential and so much to offer to the world.”
Global adventurer and motivational speaker Hein Wagner, who is Kaleidoscope’s brand ambassador agrees, saying that visually impaired persons are capable of taking the lead in society.
He continues: “Being visually impaired is in itself a major change, however, with the appropriate training, support and guidance, quite possible to overcome. Equipped with modern information technology equipment and software, Kaleidoscope is the first organisation in Africa that is able to empower blind and partially sighted persons by training them in the most recent accessible Apple touch screen and touch type technologies which will result in more successful job placements of blind persons. Blind people will be able to operate like most sighted people in the workplace through this training.”
Kaleidoscope and its associated entities play an integral role for the blind in South Africa including the provision of employment opportunities in its production units; provision of accommodation, care and rehabilitation services on a 24-hour basis; training, skills and career development services; provision of literature in all mediums accessible to blind persons through the services of Pioneer Printers; promote the education of visually impaired learners through the services of the Pioneer School; and educating the public and creating an awareness of the unimaginable abilities of visually impaired persons.
He says that they are also busy transforming the production units to become more sustainable. Already innovative products have been launched including a new coffee brand and coffee shop, wine etiquettes and cane, weaving, wood, mattress, metal, arts, crafts production and sales.
We urge everyone to celebrate World Sight Day by having an eye exam and inform their friends of the importance of eye care on social media using the hashtag #WorldSightDay
“The key to good eye health is early detection and we urge South Africans to have their eyes tested on a regular basis,” says Wagner. “Generally, adults should have their eyes checked every 2 years unitl the age of 60 and yearly after that. Childen and adults at increased risk for eye problems should have exams more frequently.”
Those needing advice with vision problems can contact Kaleidoscope. “We advise people free of charge and they can visit our low vision department for support and guidance on low vision equipment,” he adds.
The Institute presently receives only 15% of government aid and is therefore solely responsible for the generation of 85% of the total operational expenses. “Although we strive to be more self- sustainable to ensure a future for our persons who are visually impaired support and donations are important,” Wagner explains.