“Traveling independently places a heavy physical and mental toll on the visually impaired individual. It’s not really the distance that’s a problem; it’s the environment that makes it difficult,” shared Jeanne-Chayil Arendse, a grade 10 learner at the Pioneer School for the Visually Impaired in Worcester.
Western Cape MEC for Mobility, Mr., handed over a ceremonial cheque of R3.5 million to the Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Technical Services department. The funding is a result of an initiative initiated by the department in 2018 to address road safety challenges in the province and was termed the Participatory Educational Techniques (PET) project.
Manager for the Orientation and Mobility Department at the school, Melanie Smith, explained that the idea of creating a safe route for the visually impaired started in 2007. They entered the National PET competition in September 2019. “Pioneer School was the overall winner of this PET project on national level and was given the task of identifying routes in the CBD where safety for visually impaired pedestrians is compromised. We also had to provide the solution!”
Following intensive research and a school competition, the identified route, referred to as the Ukukhanya route, which means the ‘route of light,’ was established. The route, which is centered mostly around the school and shops within easy walking distance, will allow for a much safer route for users.
The design of the ‘green’ route was a complicated process, as it not only had to incorporate the needs of the visually impaired but needs to adhere to the universal design of crossings and other road safety regulations too.
Worcester, and specifically the area around the Pioneer School and the Institute for the Blind, is home to over 350 visually impaired residents. However, the route will benefit all physically impaired and/or elderly people making use of devices such as wheelchairs, walking sticks, or other mobility aids.
The Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Executive Director of Technical Services, Mr. Francois van Eck, stated that the tender for the construction of the route would be awarded by the end of the year, and work would begin early in the new year.
“The Cape Winelands is very happy to be part of a project that will enable many visually or otherwise physically impaired citizens to have a greater chance of independence and dignity.” Mr van Eck stated.
Minister Mackenzie closed the ceremony saying, “this is an extremely personal project, by providing access to safe routes we not only create a higher level of independent functioning, but in turn we give dignity and open new possibilities for the users.
- Melanie Smith, Manager for the Orientation and Mobility Department at the Pioneer School explains the route to Minister Mackenzie and Member of Parliament Kobus Marais.
- From left: Member of Parliament Kobus Marais; Jeannie Harker, Acting HOD CWDM Education; Fezile Mbambo, HOD: Western Cape Mobility; Mr Francois van Eck, ED: Technical Services; Ricardo Mackenzie, WC MEC for Mobility; Jeanne-Chayil Arendse, Learner: Pioneer School; Melanie Smith, Manager: Orientation and Mobility, Pioneer School; Michael Bredenkamp, Principal: Pioneer School.
- A photo of the model built by learners to exhibit the improved route.
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