Smart ID card braille features commended

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cape Town – Representatives from the visually impaired community praised the Department of Home Affairs for having the foresight in adding a braille feature to the new smart ID cards, during a handover of the new ID card to several visually impaired South Africans today.

The department handed new smart ID cards to eight visually impaired South Africans in a ceremony held in Pretoria, with an audio link-up to Cape Town, where Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan addressed the media.

The new smart ID card has braille features, where the braille is punched out on the plastic, and helps those that are visually impaired to correctly identify their ID card and hand this over to anyone requesting the card.

Accepting his new smart ID card, Advocate Bokankatla Malatji, a commissioner at the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said he felt privileged to be one of the few chosen to receive the new ID card.

“We are happy that government has felt it wise to make the new smart ID (card) identifiable to us, the  blind,” he said, adding that it would enable visually impaired people to find the card easier among other cards, without having to ask others for assistance, therefore mitigating any possible security risks.

Jace Nair, national executive director of the SA National Council of the Blind, also congratulated the government for the addition of the braille features on the new ID card.

He said the council had held several sessions with the department to finalise the braille carried on the smart ID card, before coming up with the desired design.

Pastor Siva Moodley called the handover a historic moment, adding that he hadn’t heard of any other developed country including braille on an ID card.

Speaking during the handover, Chohan said the event coincided with declaration of December 3 as the national day for persons with disabilities.

She said updates at home affairs centres were completed on Monday enabling five further centres to offer smart ID cards.

The centres are those in Umtata, King William’s Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and the Wynberg office in Cape Town.
These offices join those in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria that were launched in October.

Chohan said the department aimed to have a total of 26 offices equipped with systems to process smart ID cards by the end of December and a total of 200 by the end of next year.

She said the department had targeted to hand out an initial 100 000 cards in the current phase of testing, adding that a number of challenged had been picked up.

These include desks being too high for some people and the absence of a voice prompt for the queue system to alert those that are visually impaired.

“So far it is a very, very exciting time for us because we’ve been able to pick up a whole range of such things that we need to adapt to,” said Cohan, adding that these challenges and others were being attended to.

Smart ID cards have already been handed over to a number of citizens, including cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, members of the home affairs portfolio committee, leading South Africans such as former president Nelson Mandela and several senior citizens. –