The South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) is a registered non-profit organisation, striving to meet the needs of all blind and partially sighted people in South Africa. Founded in 1929, the SANCB’s provision of support includes: community based rehabilitation, social and economic development support for blind persons through groups at community level, education and training, the provision of assistive devices, prevention of blindness and the restoration of sight through cataract operations. The organisation consists of highly specialised departments, whose work are run as long-term projects, since they address real needs that have been identified. The organisation works throughout South Africa with its membership of over 100 organisations.
The South African National Council for the Blind’s vision is to facilitate a network of organisations who collaborate towards the prevention of blindness and securing the full participation and inclusion of blind and partially sighted people in all aspects of a diverse South African society.
The South African National Council for the Blind, through a network of over 100 member organisations, serves, supports and facilitates the prevention of blindness, rehabilitation, community development, training and education of South Africans with visual impairments.
When the SANCB was established, there was also emphasis laid on the prevention of blindness, which led to the establishment of the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness in 1944. Since then the SANCB has grown exponentially – adding education and rehabilitation (1985), a centre making assistive devices available in 1986 as well as entrepreneurial development and support (1991) to its list of services.
The SANCB is a national organisation and comprises nine provincial structures and some 100 member organisations. It is also affiliated to international organisations including the Africa Union of the Blind (AFUB) and the World Blind Union (WBU).
The SANCB has five core business divisions namely:
• Education, Social Inclusion and Development
• Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness
• Optima College
• Resource Centre
• Fundraising & Public Relations.
These divisions run efficiently with the help of our Strategic Management, Enabling and Support Division which includes the functions of Human Resources, Finance, Administration and Logistics and Governance and Project Services.
Services & Focus Areas
Education, Social Inclusion & Development (ESID)
This Division lobbies and facilitates for the inclusion of visually impaired persons into all mainstream activities.
We also strive to restore the human dignity of visually impaired people by giving them the tools that will allow them to become self-sufficient, to increase their sense of self-worth and to ultimately become contributors to society.
Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) is proving to be a life-changing outreach initiative. This sees our Social Inclusion Officers engaging with persons with visual impairment in their own homes and communities.
SANCB employs Social Inclusion Officers (SIOs), as well as Co-ordinators for the youth project SABYO (South African Blind Youth Organisation) and SABWIA (South African Blind Women in Action).
The SIOs identify visually impaired people in indigent areas, and then strive to equip them with the essential skills they need to become more employable. These skills are imparted via orientation and mobility training and training in activities of daily living as well as through information about group formation, self-empowerment and advocacy. This model also provides entrepreneurial training, which is based on international formats and standards.
Centralised vocational training is provided through Optima College, which offers training courses in Introduction to Computers, Contact Centre and Support, Business Administration and Braille Literacy.
The college has hostel facilities that can accommodate up to 40 students at any given time.
Through the Education component, this Division currently supports 22 special schools. This is done by conducting workshops for educators and lobbying with government on the challenges which face these schools in relation to their ability to meet the special needs of visually impaired children from the early stages of development within the duration of their schooling career and in preparation for further education and the workplace.
The Education and Training team provides consulting services on issues which relate to curriculum adaptation, assistive devices and technology, accessible learning support materials, bursaries and many other areas of interest to the educators, learners and their families.
This team has also been actively engaged with the Department of Education in addressing the current literacy crisis in relation to the special needs of the disabled adult, with a particular interest in the provision of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET).
Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness
Our highly successful Eye-Care Programme is facilitated through our Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness, established in 1944. The programme operates two mobile eye care units that provide essential eye care services to people living in remote rural areas of the country and townships where there are limited or no services available. These services include eye screening and examination, refraction, medical and surgical intervention.
On average the Bureau facilitates 3000 cataract procedures, screens 8000 patients and dispenses 2500 spectacles.
In 2016 we launched a School Screening Programme to correct visual challenges among learners.
Since 2006, focus on the provision of Low Vision Services has increased. This service provides people with diminished eyesight the opportunity to access specialist services and assistive devices such as magnifying aids, special protective sun glasses, as well as tips on how to deal with living with low vision.
The Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness also facilitates awareness and education programmes especially during Eye Care Awareness Month held in October every year.
Optima College has become nationally recognised as a college of excellence in providing individuals with visual impairments training in:
• Introduction to Computers L2 – 3months
• Contact Centre and Support L2– 6 months
• Business Administration Services L2 – 6 months
• Braille Literacy – 3months
These skills, while helping to address the disability-poverty cycle, are also imperative in helping the visually impaired gain independence and enhance their employability.
Optima College provides vocational and life skills training for visually impaired students. The students that attend our courses are generally newly blinded adults from all walks of life.
Optima trains 110 students annually. The courses vary in NQF levels and length.
Braille together with Orientation and Mobility (O&M) are offered as part of an independence and enrichment programme.
The college has a hostel facility which provides accommodation for almost 40 students from all over South Africa.
The cause of visual impairment amongst the students’ ranges from degenerative eye conditions to trauma induced visual impairment or blindness.
For these students, Optima College provides more than just skills development and training. The college facilitates a sense of camaraderie between students, who more often than not, had never met other people in the same position as they are in, before attending Optima. The camaraderie forms part of their healing process. Most of our students at the college are reliant on disability grants which is never sufficient to cover all their basic needs. It is difficult for these students to pay for their tuition, accommodation and assistive devices.
With our registration as an FET College, efficiency and effectiveness of our facilities is paramount in achieving preferred national educational requirements desired for learning facilities.
Our Resource Centre strives to be a ‘one stop’ shop for all persons with visual impairments and we pride ourselves in providing suitable solutions for every customer in a professional and timely manner. We know that the correct assistive device can make a huge difference and thus, we continuously research, test and evaluate suitable devices in order to stay up to date and to provide appropriate information.
We stock a wide variety of assistive devices which aide blind and partially sighted persons in many aspects of daily life. A range of items are available, from white canes, money templates, and talking watches to high-end assistive technology such as Braille Notetakers.
We also sell and repair Perkins Brailler machines and through our Braille Production Unit, make documents accessible to persons with visual impairment.
Fundraising and Public Relations
The purpose of this Division is to ensure that the organisation has sufficient financial resources to fulfil its mission.
In addition to raising funds the division also provides and Public Relations and Communications role.