Eye Health

12 April 2016

The future looks bright for the blind in South Africa

The Institute for the Blind (IFB) has changed its name to Kaleidoscope, marking the Institute’s 135-year history and its new focus as a commercially viable entity.

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It is the first time the Institute, which is the only organisation that has been catering for the all-inclusive needs of visually impaired persons in South Africa since 1881, has changed its name in its 135-year history.

Unity of purpose

“As Kaleidoscope SA’s pay off line ‘Let the blind lead’ emphasises, the new name change places the focus on visually impaired persons as complete citizens in the community, capable of taking the lead in society,” says global adventurer and motivational speaker Hein Wagner, who is Kaleidoscope’s brand ambassador. 
 
He continues: “We have chosen the brand name Kaleidoscope to symbolise the unity of purpose for people of varying needs and through the vibrancy of this brand we are united in a Kaleidoscope of colours to spread joy and happiness in Worcester, South Africa and internationally.” 

Read: Risk of glaucoma blindness drops by half

Freddie Botha, Kaleidoscope Executive Head comments: “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. Human awareness can be likened to a Kaleidoscope, and we know that with a simple twist of perception so much can be revealed.

"This is what has led us to the new name for the refreshed, revived Institute for the Blind.”

The Institute presently receives only 15% of its needs through government aid and is therefore solely responsible for the generation of 85% of the total operational expenses. “It is therefore important that we should strive to become more self-sustainable to ensure a future for our persons who are visually impaired,” Wagner explains.

Read: Fish oil cuts blindness risk

He says that the Institute is setting up sustainable partnerships with local and international business entities to strengthen the brand and grow its product offering as well as ensuring they offer world class services to the blind and the visually impaired. “By raising the bar in becoming a world leader in all things blind related, our aim is to inspire the blind and sighted alike to be successful, no matter the challenge.” 

More sustainable production units

Wagner says that the name change reflects an international character and open doors to new opportunities, projects and funding.  

“A few of our goals include the development of a one-stop resource centre for blind and deaf blind persons at our information centre; the establishment of a modern technology training centre at our adult career development department; the marketing of the institute as one of the best tourist attractions in South Africa; and to establish more viable partnerships with the corporate sector and businesses and to enhance existing partnerships.”

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, wine labels and cane, weaving, wood, mattress, metal, arts, crafts production and sales.

Read: Masturbation may not cause blindness

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 also our goal to create more opportunities for job placement of visually impaired persons in the open labour market,” he adds.

Kaleidoscope and its associated entities already 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 the 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 wonderful abilities of visually impaired persons.  

Read: Cataracts main cause of blindness in SA children

Public ignorance and societies general lack of knowledge of the blind, and expensive assistive devices and training, inaccessibility, school training and provision of Braille text books are other major challenges the institution faces.

Peadar Hegarty, who works with the team as a strategic advisor, says that the new positioning will help Kaleidoscope change how the world sees the blind.

“Kaleidoscope projects inspiration, emanating from this wonderful community of blind and deaf blind persons who, far from seeing themselves as disabled, actually live their lives as people of enormous ability. We must inspire all associated with us to approach our lives with gratitude, determined to perform our daily tasks to the utmost of our abilities,” Hegarty adds.

Read more: 

What is eye disease? 

Symptoms of eye disease 

Preventing eye disease

 

Ask the Expert

Optometrist

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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