Superstitions Still Destroy Lives of Blind People
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 10, 2004
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA--While some of the world's estimated 180 million blind or partially-sighted individuals are pushing for accessible services, buildings and facilities, others are struggling just to stay alive.
That's what more than 600 delegates from 60 countries gathered for the sixth General Assembly of the World Blind Union heard this week in Cape Town. The theme for the event was "The World Blind Union in an Era of New Opportunities of Human Rights".
Kicki Nordstrom, president of the WBU opened the conference Monday telling delegates that millions of blind people are forced to beg in the streets for food and money. At the same time, international relief organizations often forget that many blind people simply cannot get to soup kitchens to eat, she explained.
"Blind people are among the poorest of the poor," she said. "People die of hunger due to their disability."
According to Reuters new service, Nordstrom also informed the delegates that superstitions still keep many blind people from being included in society. Parents in some countries continue to hide their blind children -- and those with other disabilities -- because they believe the disabilities are a form of punishment from God.
Jody Kollapen, Chairperson of South Africa's Human Rights Commission, told the attendees that it is much easier to remove physical barriers than those which are in our minds, particularly when it comes to employment issues.
"Generally people have an assumption that people who are blind can't do the job, something wrong with them all that's wrong they can't see," he explained. "They are capable of doing the job in many other respect. We need to break down those barriers which exists in people's minds to recognise that people with disabilities are more productive."
South African President Thabo Mbeki closed the conference, saying that war remains one of the primary causes of disabilities on the African continent.
Mbeki also agreed to be an "ambassador" for blind people, and to pass along to the 53 heads of state in the African Union the delegates' request for equal opportunities and more resources.
"The visually impaired people of Africa are blind . . . but they have a vision and a life to live," said Paul Tezanou, president of the African Union for the Blind.
World Blind Union
"The blind also want the Net" (IT Web)
"'Ambassador' Mbeki gives vision for the blind" (Independent Online)