Angela Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
PEOPLE with blindness have been encouraged to approach Government offices for financial assistance to fund their small-scale business.
This was said by Mrs Dominica Muringi, who represented the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises, during belated commemorations of the World Braille Day which were held at the Bulawayo Public Library yesterday.
World Braille Day is commemorated on January 4 annually, the birthday of Louis Braille, a French educator who invented the Braille System after being blinded at a very young age.
Braille is a form of written language for blind people, in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips.
Mrs Muringi encouraged those who are visually impaired and those with partial impairment to work together with able-bodied individuals to form groups and seek financial help.
“We now live in a world of entrepreneurship and I would like to encourage you to come through to our offices and apply for financial assistance.
We always say this but only a few people come through; most of the people who come are able-bodied individuals.
We want to see more of you because we give first preference to people with disability,” she said.
“Visually impaired people are among the affected people as far as abuse is concerned.
People target them because they think they need financial help, hence they are just vulnerable and easy targets, so by having one’s own source of income, no one can fool them into situations where they become helpless.”
Bulawayo provincial celebrations were organised by Bulawayo Braille Library with the help of Gateway Elatio and other partners.
Mrs Ruth Mhlanga, a former specialist teacher, urged specialist facilitators to treat visually impaired learners in schools equally with able bodied ones.
“One mistake we make as specialist facilitators is to give special treatment to students just because they have a disability.
This act at the end spoils the child’s character and affects their attitude towards life’s situations.
We should train them the same way we do with the able-bodied learners so that they can be able to survive different situations,” she said.
She also emphasised that both facilitators and parents need to be strict when it comes to hygiene issues.
“Let us teach our children to bath and stay clean all the time.
This will help them to interact with other people and because Braille is learnt using fingers, cleanliness is key,” she said.
Another speaker during the occasion, Mr Nqobani Dube, an activist, said there is still need to consider the visually impaired’s access to information.
“There are still a lot of things that stop us from accessing information and we have to constantly have someone who can see to help us.
Take for instance the issue of expiry dates, I need to ask someone to verify the dates for me even with confidential items such as condoms, and its very uncomfortable,” he said.
Mr Dube also encouraged parents to take their visually impaired children to special schools so that they don’t feel helpless when they grow older.
“We all need to start somewhere in life and education is the starting point for everyone.
Visually impaired children need to be taught too and these days we are living in a technology-led world and literacy is the first step to using computers,” he said.
He also challenged authorities to consider setting up special secondary schools locally to curb financial challenges that come with sending children to schools that are outside Bulawayo.