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Increase in crime against blind people: LOFOB

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An increase in attacks on blind people in Cape Town has hampered their feelings of independence and has restricted their ability to move around. So said League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) manager Heidi Volkwyn, whose organisation aims to help those on their path to adjust to blindness, gain independence and reintegrate into society.

Volkwyn also manages the Services to Youth and Adult Programme which teaches the blind various skills such as braille, home management and orientation, among others.

In the latest incident, a 20-year-old blind man was threatened with a knife, held at gunpoint and robbed in Grassy Park last week. Among the items that were stolen were his low-vision spectacles. A member of the community had helped lead the young man back to the centre after he had stepped into a busy road.

Volkwyn explained that the young man had dropped out of school due to his reduced vision but that LOFOB has been successful in teaching him enough independence to walk around in his community.

“Our goal is to help the person to the extent that it doesn’t hamper their ability to want to be an independent who practices their right to move around freely and (eventually) access education.”

Due to the area in which the centre is located, however, Volkwyn said that people often complain about being robbed. The blind are encouraged to take public transport but the attacks on their peers have altered their perceptions on public safety as they now question whether or not they will be targeted.

Volkwijn added that many of the organisations concerns about the Dial-A-Ride transport services. Were rejected due to the service mainly catering for persons with physical and multiple disabilities.

“We have had many people who have applied for Dial-A-Ride. Unfortunately, our applications are rejected on the notion that if a blind person gets mobility training, they can move about. But the point is, they can move around but their safety is constantly in jeopardy.”

She encouraged the public to be open to helping the blind if they need it as society should work to reintegrate them instead of isolating them.

“We really ask people to just extend a helping hand and offer help to the person. There’s nothing wrong with going up to a person and saying ‘I see you’re struggling, is there anything I can do, where do you need to be?’” suggested Volkvijn.

Although the manager encouraged the public to assist the blind where necessary, she advised that they may be hesitant because there have been cases where manipulation takes place.

“There are instances where blind people say yes to help but then fall prey to becoming a victim because people pretend to want to help.”


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