New Zealand Country Report to World Blind Union Asia Pacific, General Assembly, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

New Zealand’s Country Report covers the period of 2016 to 2018. This joint report is provided by the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (New Zealand’s primary provider of blindness services), and the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (oldest member-led consumer driven organisation referred to as a disabled people’s organisation). Our organizations are members of World Blind Union and respectively hold the service-provider and consumer representative positions.

Our report covers topics identified by the WBU Asia Pacific Region

Blind Community Population Profile Data

Eligibility for membership of the Blind Foundation to receive services and to participate in governance activities requires the person having best corrected visual acuity of 6/24 (20/80) in the better eye, or residual visual field of 20 degrees or worse in the better eye. The Blind Foundation has approximately 13,064 members registered. Membership comprises:

  • 8,429 who are 65 or older;
  • 3,788 who are of working age i.e. aged 18 to 64;
  • 847 who are aged between 0 and 17;
  • 8.01% of members identify as Maori i.e. indigenous people of New Zealand.
  • A recent research undertaken by the Blind Foundation, identified there are more people in the community who potentially meet its criteria for registration to receive services but who are not registered.

Improvement of Opportunities and Challenges

1. Employment:

The Blind Foundation provides an employment service that covers pre-employment skills, job seeking and post-placement support for clients who may need additional support while employed. It also provides support to tertiary students. In the past 12 months, the Blind Foundation has provided employment services to approximately 600 clients. Additionally, during the last two years, the Blind Foundation has provided training to its staff to keep them current with employment trends and practice. This includes holding workshops with Karen Wolffe who is recognised internationally, for employment initiatives that benefit blind people. She has also worked with WBU on Project Aspiro, a comprehensive career planning and employment resource. The Blind Foundation has:

  • run residential pre-employment programmes for up to about 10 clients at any one time;
  • introduced the Enabler Assessment Tool from RNIB and Karen Wolffe;
  • recently surveyed working age clients – of those who replied, approximately 55% were in employment;
  • established a team called Access Advisors – this team works across the disability community, providing advice to employers to make workplaces accessible for all.

Blind Citizens NZ is on the governing body of Workbridge, a disabled people’s employment support service. This in part involves raising awareness of the diverse needs of blind people in general as well as with potential employers, and advocating for a greater effort for employment opportunities.

2. Education:

blind, deafblind, vision-impaired and low vision students can attend schools wherever they choose in New Zealand.Where they need technology for their schoolwork and curriculum, the Ministry of Education (government department) funds this once an assessment that guides choice, has been carried out. Students will sometimes attend immersion courses at the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) such as for learning braille, or they may attend full-time. BLENNZ is a school made up of a national network of educational services for school-aged children who are blind, deafblind, vision impaired or have low vision in New Zealand, from birth to age 21. Blind Citizens NZ and the Blind Foundation each have someone representing our respective organisation on the BLENNZ Board of Trustees

Blind Citizens NZ, the Blind Foundation and BLENNZ together with three other blindness organisations form the Blindness Education Sector Forum. We meet two to three times a year to discuss education matters and ways we can work together to make a difference for children going to school.

There are opportunities available through Government’s review of various education services to have input that might influence change for future learners.

Blind Citizens NZ has developed a small publication that talks about the needs of blind learners and is an advocacy tool for Government, teachers and schools, etc.

3. Transport:

The Blind Foundation has been working with local government and some transport operators, providing advice and support around new technology such as iBeacons in transport hubs and stations. It championed the rollout of 200 iBeacons in Wellington (capital of New Zealand) to assist blind travellers, better understand the locations of shops, businesses, and the nearest bus stop.

Driver training for bus and taxi drivers for example, to raise awareness of the needs of blind people is carried out by both Blind Citizens NZ, and the Blind Foundation on a case-by-case basis.

Initiatives around public transport during the past two years have led to some improvements such as audible real-time, audio announcements on buses and trains and at stations and transport hubs. However progress is slow.

4. ICT

In July 2018, the Blind Foundation opened its first accessible room using the Amazon Echo, and Google Home. This accessible room demonstrates new technology such as how voice platforms can assist clients to access information, and control some home appliances.

The Blind Foundation is developing new ways for clients to access talking books from its Talking Book Library, using options such as an iOS app, on-line listening, downloading titles, Android access via a dedicated device, and developing the voice platform.

The Blind foundation provides assessments and training in the use of braille, electronic braille devices, smartphone and tablets, and Windows and Mac devices in conjunction with blindness specific software.

Blind Citizens NZ has led a campaign to develop a: Strategic Framework for the Delivery of Braille Services. Supported by stakeholders including the Blind Foundation, the strategy, which includes innovative and conventional options for delivering braille services, promoting braille etc., is finalised and ready for implementation.

New Zealand continue to support the ONKYO Braille Essay Contest – interest this year surpassed previous years. In 2018 we submitted the most entries (five) we ever been fortunate to make.

Any Other Areas

1. Changes in Government Policies:

A new Government came in to office In October 2017. Changes under this new government include steps being taken to further:

  • Adoption ofthe Optional Protocol on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.
  • Implementation of a new Disability Strategy 2016-2026
  • Implementinga System Transformation Disability Support Pilot in part of the North Island.

2. Collaborative Initiatives

  • Access Alliance – Campaign for accessibility legislation: initiated by the Blind Foundation in 2016, a campaign advocating to Government for accessibility legislation is underway. The Campaign has wide support across the disability community. Blind Citizens NZ supports this campaign, and is a member of the Access Alliance.
  • DPO Coalition: Blind Citizens NZ is one of six disabled people’s organisations comprising the DPO Coalition. We work collegially to influence Government’s approach towards making a difference for disabled people living in New Zealand. This involves the DPO Coalition co-governing with Government the Disability Action Plan, and the NZ Disability Strategy.
  • Access Charter: Blind Citizens NZ has been a leader in the development of Government’s Access Charter – this involved Government working progressively over the next five years towards ensuring that all information intended for the public is accessible to everyone, and that everyone can interact with services in a way that meets their individual needs and promotes their independence and dignity.
  • Disabled People Led Monitoring: Blind Citizens NZ is involved in work that monitors New Zealand Government’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We work with five other disabled people’s organisations, and receive funding from Government for our role.

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