City Call Centre staff help a blind colleague integrate in the workplace

Mbulelo Lalendle, 39, was born with cataracts in both eyes. He attended in Port Elizabeth as he was categorised as short sighted. Mbulelo now lives in Silversands in Blue Downs.

Mbulelo had retina detachments in both eyes in 2015. During this time his eyesight deteriorated and in 2018 he was diagnosed with Glaucoma after experiencing constant headaches. The procedure he had undergone was to place oil in the one eye to see if that would assist. Mbulelo started working for the City in February 2018. In March 2020, his eyesight deteriorated to such a degree that he had to have two laser operations and another operation for the removal of the oil in the right eye. He had no eyesight in his left eye at this stage.

Mbulelo was off work from March and returned on 2 December 2020 to undergo surgical procedures in an attempt to save what little eyesight he had at that stage. Unfortunately, these operations were not successful and he is now completely blind. On his return to work, the City’s Call Centre team ensured that Mbulelo was comfortable in his workspace. A mobility specialist from the Cape Society of the Blind was requested to explain the process Mbulelo would be going through to familiarise himself and adapt to his surroundings.

The specialist also indicated that he will provide mobility training to orientate Mbulelo until he is fully confident and competent to help himself. The team raised some funds to purchase a cane for him as he needed a walking aid. Mbulelo now uses his newly acquired cane to navigate his way around the workplace including to the lifts.

According to the mobility expert, Mbulelo is adapting quickly and is eager to learn and be independent once again. The City also employed an Expanded Public Works Programme worker to be his ‘buddy’ during this interim period. The worker sits with Mbulelo daily and guides and assists him. Mbulelo is currently working at the switchboard and is answering calls. “We are in the process of procuring a ‘JAWS’ application for him. ‘JAWS’ allows users to ‘read’ the screen with a text-to-speech output or through a refreshable braille display. This will enable him to move throughout a page using keyboard commands.”

Mbulelo said: “I am excited to embark on this new journey and looking forward to see how it will unfold. In my mind there are a lot of good things ahead of me. I know there will be trials and challenges, but I believe they will be there to mould my character. In terms of my work environment, I appreciate the support from management, security and my colleagues. I don’t want to be seen as someone taking advantage of the assistance I receive daily; hence I want to gain my independence as soon as possible.”