The South African Council for the Blind has welcomed a court settlement reached with the Basic Education Department to ensure that all blind and partially sighted learners are provided with braille textbooks.

This follows a six-year-legal battle in which the council partnered with the National Braille Authority, School Governing Bodies and rights organisation Section 27.

The department is required to reproduce and deliver 2018 textbooks in braille by the end of October.

Textbooks for the 2019 academic year should be delivered by the 30 November.

Thomas Simelane from the Council says learners have been experiencing shortages for years.

“It’s a mistake that they did not produce books. They should be very guilty and very sorry about it and actually be faithful in actually delivering the books. The department has plans for books for sighted learners. Why didn’t they plan for blind learners? They are not committed to actually fulfilling their obligations. So, we will try by all our level best to work with the department. They have to feel guilty themselves that they have not lived up to the constitution of the country, up to the UN convention, their own guiding documents. Why now? They have to treat this issue of blind learners as an afterthought.”