At a time of increased physical distancing and retreat, those at the League of Friends of the Blind (Lofob) say kindness and communication is what is needed when interacting with the blind during the pandemic.
The blind and those with visual impairments often rely on touch from the sighted.
“We have our training programmes that are geared to make sure that blind people are independent and that they are integrated, but there are some of our clients that will need assistance,” said Benita Pietersen, Lofob’s child services manager.
“People need to be kind and tolerant. Let down that coldness and if they are not sure, to ask the blind person and they’ll be able to tell you how they need to be helped.”
League of Friends of the Blind
The NGO was established in 1933 and offers services from early childhood development to assisting visually impaired children, school support and skilling of educators, night school and independent development skills and training programmes.
“If it is that a blind person goes into a space that they don’t know, they are going to need a sighted guide. When it comes to physical distancing, people who are blind and visually impaired, they need to be touching,” Pietersen said.
A difficult time
Tsheko Thlau, who stays at Lofob’s hostel, said: “I think this Covid-19 seems to divide us as humans… and hopefully some smart person out there manages to find the vaccine so that we can come back and be united.”
Thlau, who is from Soweto, lost his sight in 2014. There are as many as 40 people living at Lofob’s hostel with a support staff of four. Supervisor Martha Braaf has been working at Lofob for almost 33 years: “It’s difficult for them to just stay in the hostel… We want them to go out and do things for themselves but the virus is so dangerous.”
“The most significant loss for us has been that of our dear colleague and friend, Heidi Volkwijn. This is a loss far greater than the financial strain we are experiencing due to the lack of donations,” said executive director Armand Bam.
Volkwijn and her husband, Barry, died of Covid-19 on June 20.
Appeal for donations
Lofob has appealed for donations to help cover staff costs, food for residents, safety supplies and the technology to support online programmes.
For donations, banking details are: First National Bank; Branch: Plumstead (201-109); Current Account No: 50160010788; Acc Name: LOFOB General Account