Training a ‘life changer’

2018-09-18 06:00
Carol Arendse and her guide dog, Olga.PHOTO: Cape Town Society for the Blind

Carol Arendse and her guide dog, Olga.PHOTO: Cape Town Society for the Blind

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The Cape Town Society for the Blind’s (CTSB) new digital training is changing the life of a 49-year-old blind woman.

Carol Arendse from Atlantis, a student at CTSB for the past eight months, says being blind is not complicated anymore.

Since her first computer literacy course, Arendse has been able to do things she thought only sighted people could do.

She says she had not worked on a computer before joining CTSB, because of her impairment­.

She was diagnosed with glaucoma 12 years ago. However, since undertaking a computer literacy course at CTSB, Arendse is able to send emails and open documents, among other things. “And so there is no excuse to say, ‘but I can’t do this, I can’t do that’,” Arendse asserts.

Things got even more exciting for Arendse after she began digital training a couple of months ago.

She jokes about how she used to “throw” her two touch-screen cellphones into the drawer because she did not understand how to use them.

“But since I started this training I can now send a WhatsApp note, I can at least clean my inbox on my own and I can add my own contacts – stuff that other people normally used to do for me. It’s so good, I feel like someone that has got a brand new toy because I understand my cellphone now,” says Arendse with a smile.

According to CTSB’s website, Smart Digi Training, as the course is known, provides beneficiaries with an insight into the numerous assistive devices and technology that assist visually impaired people in their daily working and personal lives.

The assistive devices and technology covered range from text to speech programmes such as NVDA, to magnification devices such as the Prodigi and refreshable braille devices. Training also includes how to effectively use smart devices such as Apple and Android products.

“We believe that this training will expose our beneficiaries to the different smart devices and technology out in the open labour market and give them confidence to work with them,” reads a statement on the site.

CTSB is based in Salt River and uplifts blind and visually impaired people through education, access to assistive resources and career development programme­s. Apart from a training centre, the society also runs a coffee shop and a showroom offering a range of cane furniture and items, handcrafted by blind and visually impaired artisans.

Fundraising manager and public relations officer, Nicky Jacobs, says the programme was introduced in May this year.

The society also welcomed its former student, Benjamin Pedro, who went on to do further training on assistive smart devices and technology.

He now facilitates the Smart Digi Training.

Arendse adds that the course makes life easier for Pedro too.

“It means a lot for a blind person (to be able to use smartphones) because it’s only the R99 phones that you still get that cannot WhatsApp. But we also want to be part of society, we also want to chat,” she chuckles. V For more information on the programme and CTSB, email


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