Letters

Vol 23 No 1

Category:

  1.  The Life Of A Young Man Who Is Losing His Eyesight

I am 39 years old this year. I am a visually impaired young man, a father of three boys and I have been living with this eye condition for 13 years since I was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2003.

I am living with my life partner and my sister in Kutlwanong Location in Kimberley. I went to school at St Peters primary, Molehabangwe and high school at Thulash and at Tetlano Secondary where I completed my Matric in 1996. I had a gap year because I had no money to pay for my studies and I started working as a taxi assistant.

I went to the University of the Free State in 1998 where I did my first year law and dropped out due to financial constraints. I started doing piece jobs in order to pay for my studies (e.g. driving taxis in Bloemfontein) while doing short courses. In 1999 I was involved in youth political organisations, while working for Diskom and in 2000 I worked for a bush clearing company under the Water Affairs department. In 2001 I worked for the Diamond Fields Advertiser, Community Skills Training College and then the Red Cross  from 2002 to 2007. I also studied child and youth care with the University of South Africa (UNISA) which was in line with the type of work I was doing with the Red Cross at the time.

In 2007 a great change took place in my life when I was granted my second chance to study law after 9 years of dropping out from university. When I first went to university in 1998 I had no disabilities but when I went back this time I had a sensory impairment, which was a serious change. I had to face a world which was prepared for the fully visioned where no enhancement tools were available for persons with sensory disabilities.

The education system of South Africa does not guarantee one a chance of being funded after Matric/Grade 12. Therefore it took me a number of years to source funding provincially and nationally. If it was difficult for me to source funding with good results when I was still fully visioned, one could imagine how tough it was after I became visually impaired 25 years of my life later.

With all the hardships I had to bear, I just persevered for success and gaining strength day by day. Someone would think I am exaggerating my situation but I tell the tale as it is.  I intentionally omitted the names of the persons I came across in the two phases of my life, especially those who gave me a tough time in making sure I struggled to get my success. I refer to persons in and outside the systems of government and family members.

Thank you to all my family, lovers, friends and people who adopted me to make sure I become an inspiration to some.

2.  The Minority Dropping Out Of The System

Day in, day out, the   country’s people  talk  about the missing middle, but I have noticed that this does not include the minority who suffer at the hand and mind set of the majority who are fully visioned.

Application forms do not cater for the minority I am referring to above, nor does the working environment reasonably accommodate this minority. All or most processes are meant for the visioned and not for the visually impaired. This minority is encouraged to apply but when it is realised that the person who is invited to an interview, does not have the type of disability which was expected (which is any disability but sensory disability) such a person is not accepted or catered for. The working environment is simply not made conducive for the employee with a sensory disability.

The government policy is that persons with disabilities should apply for positions and a two percent of this minority should be employed, but these processes still push away those with sensory disabilities. The real example is a situation where persons who were taken on  learnership programs were denied the right to learn practically in the offices of the Department of Labour in the North West Province. These learners were confined to a reception desk to operate a switch board, because it was said that they would not be able to perform the normal duties which they might be tasked with.

This group of learners left the program even when I tried to intervene in my capacity as the provincial deputy chair person. They fell through the cracks to such an extent that they were paid their stipend while they were sitting at home, for the duration of the program. What a sick society do we have which can’t embrace disability according to its distinctions.

How much education does this society need in order for people to understand that people with disabilities are not less people but they are also human and that they can do everything equally as anyone else?

Smooth Operator