Frustrations for the blind in a small town

Life changed for ever for Sheila May one morning in 2007, when she was shot in the face at work in Cape Town.

Sheila, from Aberdeen, was 24 at the time, with a young child. She was left totally blind after the accident.

Once discharged from hospital, she was referred to a rehabilitation centre where she was taught various coping skills to live relatively independently. Her mother in Aberdeen looked after her child.

She studied courses including public speaking, office administration, and computer literacy, and was able to travel around on her own in Cape Town with her cane.

In 2010, her mother’s health deteriorated and Sheila returned home to look after her son. She has found the lack of both facilities and stimulation incredibly frustrating.

“I am not looking for pity, but would love some practical support to be able to be more independent,” explained Sheila.

She has computer skills and a laptop, but the special adaptations to her machine to allow her to give verbal commands only accepts a male voice. Perhaps there is a computer expert who can help adjust the settings? Another item on her wish-list is a Perkins braille typewriter. With the correct equipment, Sheila feels she could become a productive member of the community again. She keeps busy with church work, but is frustrated that there are no projects in the municipality for the blind.

The poor state of the roads in Aberdeen means that Sheila cannot walk in the streets on her own. Another frustration is that the ATMs do not have braille dots on the keys, so she is unable to do her own banking.

In familiar surroundings, Sheila copes very well, and is able to clean her modest home, do the laundry, and cook. “Everyone is very surprised when they see me hanging out my washing,” she said with a smile. She also demonstrated that she can peel a potato, and how she uses her hand and the sound to check when pouring water.

There is some help available. The Graaff-Reinet library receives copies of DSRAC’s Vuk’uzenzele braille newspaper, and as a result of enquiries made by the Advertiser, a copy will be sent to the Aberdeen library for Sheila. Plans are also in progress to arrange for her to receive a specially adapted CD player for audio books, which can be borrowed from the library.

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