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Land of the blind

08 July 2013, 12:35


2010:  Early one Saturday morning I decided to drive from Bloemfontein to Worcester. That Saturday the English team played Germany in Cape Town.  The idea was to visit my brother who resided in a blind institution in Worcester. I had last seen him in the early 1980’s , the year of the Laingsberg flood.  The trip was the usual boring drive:  Stop/start most of the way and the usual traffic coming from the North, apparently on their way to Cape Town to attend the game.

After arriving at the institute for the blind I was given a room to use and 3 meals a day for a total charge of about R35 per day. Most of the residents have been blind for most of their lives and even a stranger visiting the institute has a huge affect on their daily lives. My brother worked in the mattress factory and just introducing me to his co-workers was like a huge party for all.  One is really amazed at their hand-eye dexterity and could do tasks that a sighted person would battle to learn. Given a bunch of mattresses about 3 meters high any worker could approach it and claim the mattress he fabricated.  What I did find was rather remarkable that so many persons with hearing, sight and vocal disabilities could behave and act like normal persons. For the time I spent there,  there were no arguments or other altercations.  One was left with the impression that the entire institute for the blind was one great family which it is. When I was introduced to a blind person that person would use his hands to “Explore” my face and hands. I asked my brother what that was all about and he replied that the blind person was physically memorising my face and my voice.  Now and again I would visit the kitchen for a cuppa and there would be some of the blind and deaf persons cooking and doing their own thing. Some would offer to make my cuppa and proudly hand it to me on a tray.  While watching them at work one was rather apprehensive that an accident could occur due to the inability to see and/or stumble over a chair or other obstacle.  No sir, these guys know every inch of the kitchen and the cupboards. Everything had a place and nothing was displaced.  Even when it came to washing the dishes every person had a job and none idled around. In the mess-hall I saw blind persons eating with a knife and fork without any spillage onto the table or floor. They knew ,too, when the plate was empty and where the tea cup was.

We as hearing and sighted persons should take just a small period to stop and think about those that no longer have those abilities. Theirs is a world of darkness yet none are complaining. Their games and pastimes are often rowdy and boisterous. Yet they are always laughing at each other and no animosity is present. It is humbling to see them go about their day and compare it to our perception of each other.

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