Exploring experiences of visually impaired people in accessing rehabilitation services in the uMkhanyakude District, province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mdunyelwa, Bawinile Albertina.
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The collapse of apartheid in South Africa called for the eradication of power imbalances and discrimination against all marginalised and vulnerable groups including visually impaired people. However, despite the initiatives to eradicate power imbalances, disabled people seem to be excluded from this process as they still do not enjoy the same opportunities as nondisabled people. Services for people with disabilities have been initiated including rehabilitation and mental health services. However, spinal cord injuries and assessment centres for people who are disabled are either subsidised or directly managed by the Department of Health. Regrettably though, these rehabilitation units, centres and institutions exclude rehabilitation services for people with visual impairment. This study therefore attempts to explore visually impaired people’s experiences in accessing rehabilitation services in uMkhanyakude District. Furthermore, it seeks to examine visually impaired people’s involvement in decision-making by the government and non-mental organisations on issues pertaining to them. Using Anti-oppressive practice theory as the theoretical lens, issues of power, empowerment, resistance, and oppression are explored. A qualitative research design was adopted to gather data by interviewing and facilitating a focus group with visually impaired people in the study area. Purposive sampling techniques were used and a sampled population of 15 participants was reached. The population of the study involved totally blind and partially sighted people. The data gathered was analysed using thematic analysis. Access to health, education, employment, and rehabilitation services is the fundamental right of every human being including visually impaired people. The study discovered that visually impaired people experienced challenges in accessing educational, vocational, training and psycho-social rehabilitation services. Access to information and services appeared to be difficult for the participants, for example, the publicly available information is unavailable in braille and access to services which could improve their independence is unavailable or inaccessible. The findings further reflect that visually impaired participants’ voices are silenced on issues pertaining to their rights in family or public spaces, and this contributes to their social isolation.