Eye Health

Updated 11 June 2015

Blind Capetonians get smartphone savvy

Visually impaired and blind people now have a dedicated kiosk at the office of the Cape Town Society for the Blind to assist them with smartphone features.


A whole world of communication and access to information is at the fingertips of visually impaired and blind people, CEO of the Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) Lizelle van Wyk told Health24.

Mobile independence

On Monday Vodacom launched the opening of a smartphone kiosk at the office of the CTSB, which was founded in 1929 and is situated in Salt River in Cape Town.

The initiative is aimed at empowering disabled people to gain mobile independence and the seed of the idea was first planted years ago, said Van Wyk.

"We hope it means greater support and encouragement for those making the change to smartphones," she said.

At the kiosk, visually impaired people will be helped with switching on the accessibility settings in their phones and activating talk-back features such as Google Voice.

Read: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays

"Many times training on how to use touch screens is not available and we hope with this project to be able to offer advice and a space where blind and visually impaired people can share knowledge and encourage each other," van Wyk said.

She added that she was hopeful that this initiative will spark similar partnerships in order to promote the concept of universal accessibility for all people with disabilities.

Van Wyk said one of those things that sighted people have a hard time to understand is how blind and visually impaired people actually use a flat screen smartphone.

"A device with just a flat screen and one to mayby four physical buttons was the bane of many blind users, but know we will have the opportunity to teach them how things have changed," she told News24Live.

Watch the full interview: How SA's blind and visually impaired communities can use their smartphones

“Accessible inclusive design smartphones have opened up a different world," said Karen Smit, Product Manager of Specific Needs at Vodacom.

"With these devices, visually impaired persons are able to access the internet, use Twitter and Facebook, set up an email account, download apps and lots more."

The kiosk is operated by CTSB staff and the not-for-profit, community based service organisation will also be benefit financially from it through the sale of starter packs, m-pesa and airtime.

Also read:

How smartphones are revolutionising eye care in Africa

Glaucoma: a silent but devastating eye condition

New treatment could cure blindness in some

How smoking can cause blindness

Image: Hand holding smartphone and symbols concept from Shutterstock.


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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