What is Orientation and Mobility Training?
Orientation and Mobility (O&M) teaches white cane techniques and orientation skills. This makes it possible for blind people to get about freely and independently without the assistance of sighted people. O&M training is the key for day-to-day well being of blind people; and promotes social and economic integration. The benefits are not only practical but also emotional and psychological.
Activities of Daily Living (ADL) is part of orientation and mobility training. It teaches ways to carry out common daily tasks including cooking, using a telephone, using an auto bank, recognising coins and banknotes, etc.
What is the Situation in South Africa?
The majority of blind people in the country do not have access to any orientation and mobility training. The main reason for this is the serious shortage of qualified O&M trainers.
In addition to this most of the 22 schools for the blind in the country do not have Orientation and Mobility trainers.
What is the South African Mobility for the Blind Trust (SAMBT)?
SAMBT has trained close to 4,000 blind and partially sighted people.
SAMBT was formed in 1998 and is a registered Trust. It is also registered as a Non-profit Organisation (NPO) with the Department of Social Development. SAMBT also has Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) status.
SAMBT has an outreach approach, running programmes in areas that are under-served or not served at all. Most training programmes are implemented in rural areas and townships. The training is focused on where the individual lives in the community, but SAMBT also trains at schools.
SAMBT runs 16 – 20 training courses a year, training about 12 blind people per programme. O&M trainers are deployed at local level for a period of three months to work intensively on a one on one basis with trainees. Trainers live in the communities where they are conducting training.
SAMBT includes families and caregivers of blind trainees in its programmes and they are encouraged to support the blind person in the learning and continued use of their independence skills. The benefit for the family is that they are freed from having to provide the extra care for their blind family member.
SAMBT finds that its community based model stimulates interest and raises awareness around abilities and potential of blind people.
SAMBT provides everyone that has been trained on its O&M course with white canes, and other devices for the blind. As SAMBT works in under-privileged areas it does not charge the individual for training or assistive devices.
SAMBT practitioners are able to provide an Early Childhood Intervention service. This includes training and guiding parents and caregivers on how to stimulate the normal development of their blind child; ensuring that other professionals such as social workers and occupational therapists are involved; advising and assisting with schooling issues; etc. Parents of blind pre-school children are helped with and given new hope for their child’s future.
SAMBT also provides clients with basic counselling and referrals to other professionals, institutions or services.
SAMBT has sponsored the training of O&M practitioners at the College of Orientation and Mobility and employed them on qualifying.
SAMBT initiated a forum made up of prominent people and organisations in the field, which aims to get government to address the lack of O&M practitioners at schools for the blind.
How is SAMBT Governed and Managed?
SAMBT has seven trustees with skills relevant to the running of the organisation. The trustees are representative in terms of race, gender and visual impairment. The Managing Trustee (himself a blind person) is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the organisation, advocacy and fundraising. The trust employs a Programme Co-ordinator, who is a qualified O&M practitioner. She manages the training schedule, and supervises the O&M trainers in the field. SAMBT’s General Manager runs the day to day finances and logistics of the organisation.
SAMBT has several long term partnerships, mainly with the Gauteng Department of Health and a number of small trusts. These partners assist the organisation to deliver its critically needed services across all nine provinces of the country.
SAMBT is always looking for new partners. Partners can support a single training programme, several training programmes, or give support to the advocacy work that the organisation has embarked on.