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In the Blink of an Eye

Bosma Enterprises - 9/25/2020 8:05:40 AM

In just days, Sipho Mafu lost his eyesight. He lost his career and couldn't imagine life with vision loss, until he found Bosma Enterprises. 

Sipho Mafu was born and raised in Zimbabwe and has always been fascinated with computers. Although Sipho made a career providing computer information assistance in Africa, he decided to move to the United States twenty-five years ago to advance his computer information knowledge. "I love computers. I am a geek," said Sipho.

Once in the U.S., Sipho found himself in Michigan, attending Siena Heights University, eventually graduating in 2006. Things began to take off for Sipho; he got married and started his career as a field service engineer for an Indianapolis-based company. However, in 2019, Sipho's life took a drastic turn.

When Sipho noticed his vision in his right eye was blurry, his doctor suggested he go to the emergency room. Once in the ER, doctors found an infection in his bloodstream. What seemed to be a typical infection turned into six weeks in the hospital, and left Sipho totally blind. 

Sipho and his wife both felt the loss together but found ways to support each other. "It was good to have someone by my side at that time because my life changed very quickly," said Sipho.

When he realized his eyesight was gone, he thought his life was over. However, he knew he still had a life to live and things to do, so on day two of being blind, Sipho tried to teach himself how to get dressed and take care of himself.

Sipho was in the hospital for six weeks recovering from the infection. 
While there, he did get some help from a physical therapist, but they were not equipped to teach people who are blind. It was more up to Sipho to find out ways to do day-to-day tasks without sight.

Fortunately, Sipho and his wife were familiar with Bosma Enterprises before he went blind. He had driven by Bosma's buildings on his way to work every day and remembered ads for Bosma's services on television. "As soon as I lost my sight, within the first week, my wife and I made a call to Bosma Enterprises," said Sipho. "I knew I had a lot to learn."

In 2019, Sipho attended the Vision Expo in Indianapolis. When he was there, he passed a booth where he heard someone typing and heard what he thought was his computer or keyboard speaking. He asked the guy behind the booth, who told him about the screen-reading software, called JAWS (Job Access with Speech). That was his first introduction to adaptive technology. For someone like Sipho, who lived and breathed computers, finding out about JAWS gave him hope that he would be able to use his computer again one day. He knew JAWS would be one of the first things he wanted to learn during his training at Bosma!

Sipho also wanted to learn Braille so he could physically write something and read it by himself. He is determined to learn a lot of Braille while in the program and is currently working on grade two Braille at our Center for Visionary Solutions for the blind.

Cooking was another thing he thought he would never do again. He did not know people who were blind could touch a stove without burning themselves or burning down the house. It was very nice for Sipho to come to Bosma and discover techniques that allow him to cook safely within his home. Although he did not cook much before losing his sight, it was something he wanted to learn.

He also thought he taught himself cane skills before coming to Bosma, but he realized he only began to scratch the surface. He could not teach himself how to cross the street safely, and that is one thing he needed to learn because if you are wrong, there is a chance you may be hit by a car. 

Over the last two months, Sipho has learned how to cook safely within his home, operate a computer using a screen-reader, use his cane correctly, cross the street and safely move around through his community. He used to love to take walks through his neighborhood, and now he is able and feels like he is back in control of his life. Sipho hopes to get back in the computer field but is open to new things in life.

If you are someone you know is experiencing vision loss and in need of our services. Please contact us on the web at www.bosma.org or give us a call at 888.567.3422. We can help put you back on a path of independence.