Bridging Gaps for Blind Students in Remote Communities
I stay in touch with my brothers and sisters through WhatsApp, and we are all part of the NFB Blind Muslims group as well as the newly formed Global Advocacy of Blind and Low Vision Muslims group. Recently, a brother from our group needed specific items for a student, commonly referred to as guide canes. I believe this term hails from the old British terminology for canes designed for the blind. This brother is actively working to enhance accessibility in his community, and he has successfully brought together blind individuals to join our group—mashaAllah.
He expressed the need for guide canes for his student. These canes are essential tools for individuals with visual impairments. I was determined to assist him in obtaining the right equipment. While exploring options, I came across the Perkins Brailler, which is commonly used for teaching braille. However, it proved to be quite expensive. Instead, I remembered hearing about a slate and stylus that allows for regular writing, providing a more affordable alternative. After some research, I found it at a braille bookstore at the most reasonable price.
Unfortunately, the specialty stores that carried these canes and the slate and stylus did not ship to Africa. To overcome this obstacle, I asked the brother for his address so that I could send the items to him, inshaAllah. Originally, I had hoped to have this done by June or July, but the stores did not participate in the NFB convention in Houston this year. Consequently, I had to order the items online. Ensuring they were the correct ones became paramount; giving the right tools is crucial for individuals with visual impairments.
For instance, the straight canes provided by the NFB for free would not be suitable for his environment as they are prone to breaking easily. Unlike here, obtaining a new cane every six months is not as feasible in his region. Communication with the brother and his family was crucial to guaranteeing the right size of the cane. This is often not taught overseas, emphasizing the importance of the correct cane size.
I shared information about different types of cane tips, each offering unique feedback. Regular metal tips, like the ones I use, are not ideal for off-road areas without paved sidewalks. We found the right tips for his specific needs. Each cane is custom-made with the chosen tip securely attached, providing the flexibility to change tips if necessary. Graphite, a sturdy material, was preferred over carbon-fiber, fiberglass, or aluminum canes. Although the school may have a Perkins Brailler, the student resides in a village where such resources are not readily available. Unlike some states that provide Perkins Braillers to those in need, this assistance is not guaranteed in his region. Therefore, we hope that the slate will prove to be a valuable tool for the student.