New chapter awaits the League of Friends of the Blind

League of Friends of the Blind executive director, Dr Armand Bam, at the launch of the training academy.

The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) started a new chapter that will add to the independence development of blind and visually impaired people as well as those who are interested in advancing a profession in the blind sector.

The NGO has been instrumental in the rehabilitation and independence training of hundreds of blind and visually impaired people from all over Southern Africa for 85 years and last week they officially launched the Lofob Training Academy.

After two years of applications and hard work, the organisation is now registered with the ETDP SETA. They will offer a range of short courses and a national diploma in orientation and mobility practices (SAQA NQF Level 5).

The launch of the academy was held on Wednesday February 21 at the organisation’s premises in Grassy Park.

Heidi Volkwyn, manager of services for youth and adults, said the ongoing requests for services from organisations and individuals who are blind across South Africa highlighted the need to address the shortage of trained orientation and mobility practitioners and access to support and basic services for blind and visually impaired people.

“Through the accredited programmes on offer, LOFOB will be able to contribute to the training and development of orientation and mobility practitioners. These practitioners will be trained in skills of daily living, low vision and Braille to name a few which are critical components to a blind or visually impaired persons’ independence,” said Ms Volkwyn.

She said according to statistics released by WHO Global Data, there is an estimated 388 000 South Africans who are blind and over 1 000 000 individuals living with low vision.

“The prevalence of blindness and visual impairment in South Africa is the highest of all disabilities, ranking at 32%. Approximately 80% of the visually impaired population in South Africa live in rural areas where there is limited to no access to support and basic services. Lofob has noted a significant increase in the number of individuals blinded in their youth,” said Ms Volkwyn.

At the launch, Lofob executive director, Dr Armand Bam, said for decades the access to orientation and mobility training and services has been constricted and controlled.

“It was controlled by those who benefited from the unevenness of our country’s historical past. Today and to our understanding there are just over 50 qualified orientation and mobility instructors nationally. “There are approximately 1.4million blind and visually impaired people in South Africa. “We are proud to say that the time of restricted services has come to an end,” said Dr Bam.

He added that Lofob has throughout its existence sought to pioneer new avenues to ensure their clients are able to live improved lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

“We do not wait for things to change – we make the change. I am most proud of the fact that we are able to offer people an opportunity to gain a qualification within their disability,” said Dr Bam. Dr Bam thanked their sponsor JTI who ensured the vision became a reality.

Those interested in applying for the academy or want more information can contact the organisation on 021 705 3753 or email