Braille resources for the blind and sight-impaired youth of South Africa

blind man and his love for his assistance dog in south africaInternational Assistance Dog Week highlight’s the crucial role of man’s best friend in helping people with disabilities.

Recently, blind DJ Calvin Botha – aka DJ Darkn3ess – teamed up with our IFAW Southern Africa team to help promote our initiative to bring animal welfare to blind and sight-impaired youngsters by producing and distributing animal education material in Braille.

IFAW’s curriculum of Braille materials, covering issues of animal welfare and conservation, has been distributed to all of South Africa’s badly under-resourced schools for the blind for many years now – with enormously positive feedback.

•	Learners from Cape Town’s Athlone School for the Blind meet a giant bullfrog“These days I am a passionate animal lover,” Calvin told us when we first introduced him to the Braille materials. “But in my experience, many blind people grow up not liking animals simply because they don’t understand them. They make a noise, they get in the way, they smell and if you’re really unlucky, you step in their mess simply because you can’t see it.

“I wish I had Braille resources like these when I was growing up, they would have made such a difference in the way I thought about animals.”

IFAW worked with the advocacy group Blind SA in developing the materials.

Calvin is a radio producer by day and DJ Dark3ness once the party gets started. He quite simply couldn’t manage without his gorgeous guide dog, Dolché, the golden retriever who is his constant shadow and companion. Dolché’s off-duty persona as a goofy, tummy-rub-loving fluffball vanishes the moment her harness is pulled on and she goes to work to keep her owner safe.

In the weeks leading up to International Assistance Dog Week, Calvin recorded an interview for IFAW in which he spoke candidly about what it is like being a blind person (he has been blind since birth) and the importance of his dog Dolché.

The interview served as support material for an assignment for our Animal Ambassadors programme. This programme targets youngsters aged 12 and 14 who have a passion for animal welfare, and it provides them with assignments and activities they can do on their own or with teachers in the classroom.

This assignment asked the Animal Ambassadors to listen to Calvin’s interview and share what they had learned about life with a service dog – including the challenges Calvin and Dolché face as a team – in a discussion with their classmates.

Calvin is now a proud ambassador for IFAW, and we are honored for his participation as we prepare to distribute our next batch of Braille materials to schools for the blind once again this year. We salute the role of assistance dogs and will continue to empower the youth through our Animal Ambassador programme – reminding young people that they too can make a difference.



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