Giving the gift of independence: The South African Mobility for the Blind Trust

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29 September 2022

Independence training imparts the skills and knowledge required by blind people to operate safely and independently. It comprises orientation and mobility (O&M) training (teaching blind people to use assistive devices such as canes to safely navigate their environments), and Skills of Daily Living (SDL) (teaching them to, for example, recognise coins and banknotes, use ATMs and cross streets).

Those whose freedom is limited by their disability, are empowered to reimagine their futures and bring their possibilities to life. South Africa has a desperate shortage of qualified O&M practitioners, who administer both O&M and SDL training. Only 42 of them work across the entire country, and together train about 2 000 people every year.

To address this huge unmet need, the South African Mobility for the Blind Trust (SAMBT) collaborated, among others, with the South African Guide-Dogs Association (SAGDA) to promote and expand the training and employment of O&M practitioners in South Africa. In addition to the direct benefits realised through the collaboration, it has also led to increased sharing of informed insight into the O&M landscape in South Africa, building a foundation for the further growth of the sector.

SAGDA’s O&M Department manages the College of O&M, a Seta-accredited O&M training facility offering a two-year NQF-level-5 diploma. Through Absa’s support, three recent graduates from the College of O&M are employed by the SAMBT and SAGDA as O&M practitioners, to provide independence training to blind people nationally. Independence training involves a three-month, one-on-one programme, conducted at schools for the blind, Adult Basic Education and Training Centres, and in rural and township communities. Absa's support will enable about 130 visually impaired beneficiaries to gain their rightful independence.

Other disability-inclusive programmes supported by Absa is through the Financial Services Consumer Education Foundation, empowering the blind and partially sighted with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances efficiently.

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