Apart from the discrimination and stigmatisation visually impaired people often face, they also experience difficulties when it comes to the provision of disability equipment and infrastructure.
This has become a growing concern because the number of visually impaired people in Namibia have increased in recent years.
The population of the visually impaired was reported in a 2016 Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) Disability Report to have increased from 13 721 in 1994 to 16 189 in 2011.
This increase is said to have resulted in the Namibian Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI) not being able to offer assistance in the form of training programmes and accommodation facilities for those who live with the disability.
Executive Director of NFVI Moses Nghipandulwa said the lack of equipment and facilities for the visually impaired has caused a hindrance to the training programmes that are mostly aimed to equipped visually impaired people with skills to fend for themselves.
Perkins braille machines used by the impaired to help with reading, white canes that help with mobility and software to assist the visually impaired with navigation on computers are just some of the factors hampering visually impaired Namibians from leading a decent life. “The federation has to import all these items from different countries such as Finland and South Africa which at times is very costly and has caused a financial strain on them” he said.
He further explained that both the public and private sectors rarely come forth with suggestions to solve this issue.
This has also resulted in schools occasionally having to source for braille machines from the federation.
“Some government schools tend to borrow machinery because the government does not supply enough braille machines for the visually impaired in those schools” Nghipandulwa noted.
The lack of adequate accommodation has also become a concern as more people who are visually impaired flock from different regions to Windhoek and consequently the federation is able to be accommodate all at once.
“As much as we want to accommodate and help those who are impaired, it becomes very challenging to take in a large number of them because there is not enough space and in the end they end up suffering in silence,” noted Nghipandulwa.
Nghipandulwa noted that those who lose their sight in their mid-twenties and upwards also become a burden too.
“The ones that lose their eye sight at a later stage in life are usually those that are found as bread winners of their households. They are therefore forced to go back to continue working but this remains challenging unless they obtain the relevant training to enable them to adjust to their new life of challenge” he stressed.
Nghipandulwa further stressed that there is also a need to try and include braille writing for the for persons who are visually impaired in elevators and at ATM machines.
“It would make things easier for the blind without them feeling they are inconveniencing the next person,” he said.
Hileni Shiimi- Endjala who lives at NFVI shared that being visually impaired has been a challenge as people would usually mistreat her.
“I would normally go to a shop and because I’m not able to see prices on my own, most shop attendants think I am there to waste their time and end up being rude to me which makes me feel bad,” she said.
Susan Mundjebela, who is also visually impaired herself and is housed at NFVI, explained that she lost her eye sight at the age of seven.
“Growing up was not the same for me even though I went to a visually impaired school. What I can tell you is that mistreatment from family happens a lot,” she noted.
Mundjebela said at times disability grants for the visually impaired are misused by family members. She further explained that there is a need for equipment such as devices that could tell the visually impaired person how much money they have to prevent cases such as family stealing from them. Annually, the Federation has an intake of 15 people whom they train in two groups.
The first group usually arrives in March and will be housed at NVFI till June. The second group will then arrive in July and will leave in December once their training is completed.