Blind Association forum reveals challenges
More than thirty people in Samoa who live with visual impairments depend upon a distinctive white cane to navigate around their homes and public places.
On Thursday last week, 15 October, the Samoa Blind Persons Association (S.B.P.A.), marked international White Cane Day.
The Association held a three-day forum at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel to mark the global event dedicated to raising awareness about the achievements and the challenges of people living with blindness.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer at the conclusion of the forum Hillier Pouesi, the Association's Director, said that the event highlighted the challenges members of the blind community face. Many of them, she noted, stem from a lack of resources.
About 50 more people on Upolu and in Savai’i are currently on a waiting list to receive training in the use of the cane, a vital tool for blind people.
When seeing someone out and about walking with the aid of a white cane, the most helpful response is to clear the way:
“Just to be mindful of them when they are on the road or anywhere you see them and clear the way,” she said.
“They changed the colour of the cane to white so everyone can notice them and see there is a blind person coming.
“Those are the things we need to be aware of – clear the way or provide them with access and specific directions should be given to them as needed.”
This is the third year that the Association has been marking International White Cane Day in Samoa.
Similar events took place around the world on 15 October.
“It’s about raising awareness for people who are blind and visually impaired to use a white cane for navigating or for mobility,” said Ms. Pouesi.
“Around 30 people in Samoa are using white canes but in our database, there are a number of people who need orientation and training to use the white canes.
“There are about 50 of them so our staff is doing training for them in using the white canes.”
People with vision also needed training in assisting the blind.
“It’s not something where you can hold their hand and just say go,” Ms. Pouesi said.
“You have to be clear because they need specific directions so they can move around.”
The Blind Persons Association perform orientation and training sessions at the homes of white cane users. The canes themselves are provided by donors to the Association.
Ms. Pouesi said not everyone who is blind has the same learning ability; the length of training depends on the person’s learning abilities.
“This is for both Savai’i and Upolu. We will go to Savai’i for orientation and training go to their homes,” she said.
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, addressed the Blind Persons Association last week as they marked White Cane Day on Thursday last week.
Tuilaepa spoke of the importance of the white cane and said he had served as the Secretary for the nation’s first school for the blind called Alafamua.
The school was located in Vailele at the current location of Vailele Primary School.
There are close to 90 members in the Blind Persons Association.
The Association is currently preparing for National Disability Day, which is scheduled for early December.