Photo of students doing a vision check.

The University of Auckland School of Optometry and Vision Science held a low vision day for their fifth year students last month.

The day was all about increasing knowledge and awareness on the challenges that people with low vision have to overcome. Blind Foundation client, Michael Lloyd captivated the students by sharing his experiences with vision loss as he was growing up.

Speakers from various fields also came along to share their knowledge on low vision. They taught the students ways to improve their communication when interacting with people who have low vision, and the range of services available.

Getting hands-on experience was another part of the day. The group joined an adaptive technology workshop where they learnt how devices are made accessible for people with low vision. They were also put to the test when they had a go at sighted guiding. In pairs, they guided each other up and down the stairs to sit in a chair.

Rounding off the day, a group of volunteers with low vision kindly gave up their time to participate in vision checks run by the students themselves.

The School of Optometry and Vision Science would like to thank all the wonderful people that were involved in the low vision day.

Many thanks to the Blind Foundation staff who worked hard to ensure the day was a success, including CFSW /Counsellor, Katy Webber, and the Adaptive Communications and Adaptive Technology Service (ACATS) and Orientation and Mobility teams.

Another low vision day at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Grafton Campus is being held in March 2017. The university will be seeking volunteers with low vision to participate for two hours with breaks and afternoon tea included.

If you are interested in volunteering please email Michelle O’Hanlon or phone Michelle on 09 923 6592.

Good in the Hood logo

Good in the Hood is back and this year we have been selected by 21 individual Z service stations (listed at the end of this article) as one of the recipient charities.

This May, when you fill up or make a purchase at any of the Z stations listed below, you will be given an orange token. You can use this token to vote for the group you want Z energy to donate money to – the charity with the largest number of tokens wins.

So keep a look out for the Blind Foundation “Good in the Hood” voting box at your participating Z service station and please vote for us! We would also like to invite you to encourage your friends and family to vote too.

Photo left to right: Z Curletts Manager, Joy McClintock (Supporter Marketing and Fundraising), Petronella Spicer and guide dog Fletcher, and John (Z franchisee) at Z Curletts Road, Christchurch
Photo left to right: Z Curletts Manager, Joy McClintock (Supporter Marketing and Fundraising), Petronella Spicer and guide dog Fletcher, and John (Z franchisee) at Z Curletts Road, Christchurch

Z energy stations supporting the Blind Foundation include:

North Shore, Auckland

  • Z Glen Park, 241 Glenfield Road, Glenfield, North Shore, Auckland, 0627
  • Z Manly, 934 Whangaparaoa Road, Whangaparaoa, 0930

Auckland

  • Z Ellerslie, 301 Ellerslie-Panmure Highway, Mt Wellington, Auckland, 1060
  • Z Beach Road, 150 Beach Road, Parnell, Auckland, 1010
  • Z Ponsonby, 5-9 Williamson Avenue, Grey Lynn, Auckland, 1021
  • Z Point Chev, 1143 Great North Road, Point Chevalier, Auckland, 1022

South Auckland

  • Z Takanini, 166 Great South Road, Takanini, Auckland, 2112
  • Z Manurewa, 1 Alfriston Road, Manurewa, Auckland, 2102
  • Z Hunters Corner, 72-76 East Tamaki Road, Papatoetoe, Auckland, 2025
  • Z Harris Road, 142 Harris Road, East Tamaki, South Auckland, 2013

Waikato

  • Z Liverpool Street, Cnr Anglesea & Liverpool Streets, Hamilton, 3204
  • Z Cambridge, 81 Victoria Street, Cambridge, 3434
  • Z Putaruru, 68-70 Tirau Street, Putaruru, 3411

Wellington

  • Z Vivian Street, 174 Vivian Street, Te Aro, Wellington, 6011

Hawkes Bay

  • Z Taradale, 21 Lee Road, Taradale, Napier, 4112

Blenheim

  • Z Grove Road, Cnr Grove Road and Budge St, Mayfield, Blenheim, 7201

Nelson

  • Z Halifax Street, 20-22 Halifax Street, Nelson, 7010

North Canterbury

  • Z Waiuku, 1413 Main North Road, Waikuku, 7473, North Canterbury

Christchurch

  • Z Bryndwr, 52 Strowan Road, Strowan, Christchurch, 8052
  • Z Brougham St, 495 Brougham Street, Waltham, Christchurch, 8023
  • Z Tinwald, 111 Archibald Street, Tinwald, Ashburton, 7700
Photo of Natalie at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Blind School.

Blind Foundation rehabilitation instructor Natalie Perzylo shared her knowledge and skills with students at a blind school while on holiday in the country.

After falling in love with the beauty of Vietnam during a visit in 2014, Natalie returned in November 2015. She dedicated part of her trip to helping students who are blind or have low vision.

Natalie made the trip with her partner and their first destination was the capital city, Hanoi. Here they volunteered to teach white cane technique at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Blind School.

They had to rely on a small number of canes that were donated to the school. The canes had no rolling tips and were often the wrong height for the students. Natalie says that all that mattered was they could walk without assistance

“I must admit that some students took to the cane like a duck to water – their eyes lit up when they understood that to didn’t have to be guided everywhere,” she says.

The school featured several sets of stairs and she says the blind students had come up with their own method to navigate their way around the school.

“The blind kids hold on to each others’ shoulders when walking down the stairs, with me holding my breath.”

But what stood out to Natalie the most was a teacher called Lam, who dedicates his life to the school.

Lam trained as an engineer but found his passion in working at the blind school.

“Pay is low so he works as a translator to subsidise his wages. I was amazed by his dedication to the school and I’ve made it my mission to do what I can to further support them,” she says.

Natalie returns to Vietnam, and the blind school in June and hopes to be able to buy and take books to help the students. If anyone would like to assist, please contact by emailing Natalie.

Rotary camp group photo, Latesha third in from the left second row

“Helping Blind Foundation clients achieve their recreation goals is what my job is all about,” says South Auckland Recreation Advisor, Latesha Sharp.

Latesha’s role involves meeting and conducting recreation assessments with clients who are referred to her. Together they will set recreation goals and ways to achieve them. Activities include, sports, crafts, and camps.

Latesha is also new to the Blind Foundation, joining us in January this year. She says she has just finished all her induction training and is glad to be getting into the work.

“Now with all my training done, I can focus on working with clients and organising our recreation activities. This includes our weekly trips for the garden group, new outlook, social lights, and safari. The trips generally have 10 people attending.

“I spend three days in the office and one day where I’m out on one of our weekly trips.”

In the office you can find Latesha catching up on work. You’ll find her busy planning trips, screening referrals, making follow ups, and at the moment working on next month’s newsletter.

It’s been all go for Latesha. Last month she took part in the Stadium Stomp event as a guide. The event sees its competitors participate in a stair climbing course. Latesha and her partner climbed 5000 stairs, that’s equivalent to doing the Sky Tower stair climb four and a half times.

Latesha assisted at the annual Blind Foundation Rotary Camp in March, helping out with various outdoor recreation activities. The three day camp, held at Camp Adair was for students from the ages of 10 to 20.

“It was an awesome opportunity, I learnt so much. I enjoy getting out there and helping our clients do the things they think they can’t.”

When she’s not working, Latesha can be found on the netball court or out on the field playing a game of touch.

Before working at the Blind Foundation, Latesha worked at Counties Manukau Sport. She was also a primary school sports instructor/coordinator. In that role Latesha visited primary schools around South Auckland to deliver fundamental sports programmes. One of those schools was BLENNZ, which got Latesha interested in her current role.

Photo of Jillian Mills

Jillian Mills always wanted to be a teacher and having low vision wasn’t going to stop her from following her dreams.

Being the only low vision student while studying for her teaching degree, Jill says she struggled to find someone to relate to.

“I persevered and enjoyed the course anyway. I got my work done and just got on with it.”

Jill has now been teaching for over 20 years and is currently a secondary teacher at Feilding High School. She teaches three classes; two year 12 Tourism classes and a year 13 Gateway class.

Jill says there isn’t much difference between her and her sighted colleagues except that she likes to keep things “old school”.

“I don’t do so much of the ‘alternative’ stuff.  I keep it simple, none of that fancy PowerPoint stuff” she laughs.

Of course there are the minor challenges that are affected by her sight, but nothing she can’t handle.

“I can’t take part in all the activities as the other teachers. For example I can’t take the time or be a judge for swimming sports.”

In class, Jill says that the students have laptops with programmes installed so they have access to class resources and recordings.

With students submitting work online and reports being sent by email, all Jill needs is her magnifier tool on her laptop. When she gets paper work, she uses physical magnifying tools or asks her husband to read it out for her. Having good accessibility means she can easily review her students work.

As for student behaviour, Jill says that many would be surprised that they don’t take advantage of her sight.

“They treat me in a kind and sensitive way and are always willing to lend me a helping hand. There are always those troublemakers in class; I just put them at the front so I can keep a close eye.

“I love what I do, it is tremendously rewarding. I always feel like I’m making a difference imparting my knowledge. It’s always a highlight seeing their faces light up when I’m teaching them something new.”

She has some advice to other aspiring teachers in the blindness community:

“Work hard and gain your qualifications. I would encourage more blind people to do it; there is definitely a place for you in the system.

“The important thing is to be honest with what you can and can’t do. Having good support from your employer is crucial to ensure you get all the tools you need. All you have to do is ask.”

Insight Outward Bound 2016 group photo

Stepping out of your comfort zone is no easy feat, but Blind Foundation client Dena Harnett says she is so glad she did.

A group of Blind Foundation staff and clients set off on the Insight Outward Bound course in February. Set in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, the eight-day course saw the group trying new experiences. With activities ranging from cliff diving, sailing, solo camping, to a high ropes course; the group was pushed to their limit.

Going on the course was a big decision for Dena. She wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but ended up walking away with a life-changing experience.

“I loved it! I was sheltered for years, and going on this course really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’m so glad I did it. The staff were incredible, supportive, and just blew me away with their knowledge.”

Dena on the flying fox Insight Outward Bound

Jumping off the rock face in the Pelorus River was one fear she overcame. After a cruisy kayak down the river, the group walked to the top of the rock. Hesitant at first, Dena took the leap after some much needed encouragement from Blind Foundation staff member, Deb Nash.

“It was amazing to see that with a little encouragement, Dena was able to overcome her fear and take a leap. There were so many things the group overcame. They were all supportive of one another, which I was so proud to witness,” says Deb.

Action aside, there were moments to enjoy the beauty of her surroundings. The solo camp was one to remember, spending a night under the stars, overlooking the ocean. It was one of Dena’s many highlights and one she describes as breathtaking.

“Insight Outward Bound was an overall amazing experience. I got to meet and know new people. Throughout the course I got to see everyone grow in different ways, we share a special bond, and we all plan to keep in touch.”

“I recommend it to anyone. Just give yourself the opportunity to go, bite the bullet and do it, there are enormous benefits. It’s a chance for you to find out new things about yourself, and discover you can do things you never thought possible. I now feel more able to break down barriers rather than putting them up around myself!

“I’m so grateful to the Blind Foundation for making this trip possible and for the amazing support that the recreation staff provided.”

Insight Outward Bound is confirmed for 3 March 2017, if you would like more information please contact by emailing Deb Nash.

Phone icon

A new phone service is making horse racing results more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

Thanks to the efforts of Blind Foundation member and racing enthusiast Robert Codre, the New Zealand Racing Board now provides the service which allows people to hear race results and scratchings read aloud.

Robert, who describes himself as “a horsey person”, says people who are blind or have low vision were at a disadvantage when watching horse racing on television because the results would be shown on screen, but not read out loud.

“It puts you at a disadvantage because you have to wait until you hear them on the radio. After the race, the results would come up and they [the presenters] would just say, ‘The results are up on the screen’. How are we supposed to know? That really got to me.”

He successfully took the racing board to the Human Rights Commission and the new phone service is the outcome.

“It’s the best way around it.”

Robert has tried the service and says he’s happy with the result.

To access the results, phone 0800 10 20 33.

 

 

Student volunteer week 11 - 17 April logo

Student Volunteer Week runs from 11 to 17 April. The Blind Foundation thanks all our student volunteers who make a difference to those who are blind or have low vision.

Student volunteers help with a variety of roles such as; mail reading, recreation support, guide dog kennel volunteering and collecting for our appeals.

Volunteering at the Blind Foundation is a great opportunity for students to put their talents to good use. Volunteering expands their experience and is a way for them to give back to the community.

Meet 18 year old Rebecca Welsh from Christchurch who has been volunteering for just over a year. Rebecca reads the obituaries onto our Telephone Information Service (TIS) weekly, and has also helped with the blind bowls end of year function.

Student volunteer Rebecca Welsh busy on the phone

“Rebecca is a delight to work with! She makes sure she checks the pronunciation of every name before she reads them on TIS,” says Petronella Spicer, Recreation Volunteer Coordinator.

“She began volunteering a year ago to gain service for her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. Though it is now completed, Rebecca will continue volunteering, as she has found the experience so interesting!”

We asked Rebecca what drives a young student like her to volunteer as a TIS reader.

She says, “I like to be of help to the Blind Foundation. I have learnt so much about people while volunteering in this role.”

Taylor Fifield is our new kid on the block. An Auckland University of Technology (AUT) student, Taylor volunteers for the Auckland Community Volunteer and Recreation team every Wednesday.

Student volunteer Taylor Ffield wearing her AUT t-shirt

Taylor alternates between recreation group support and gym support. She recently accompanied our Recreation Advisors, Jon Scott and Latesha Sharp for 10 Pin Bowling in Botany as part of the New Outlook Group.

She has also helped our Gym Manager with the Amblers Walking Group for a walk in the Auckland Domain. Her guiding skills were ‘top notch!’

“Taylor only started a month ago and is already making a difference to our recreation programme! She is a keen learner and her enthusiasm is something staff and clients equally benefit from,” says Sue Vyas, Volunteer Services Advisor.

Taylor says she chose to volunteer at the Blind Foundation to gain experience in working with different members of the community.

“I want to develop an understanding of a community organisation, how it is run and how it contributes to the community. The Blind Foundation was a welcoming and friendly place for me to become a part of and am glad each time I walk into the building that I choose here to volunteer,” says Taylor.

“The last few weeks have been absolutely great! I am thoroughly enjoying volunteering and assisting clients with recreational activities. From the physical activity to the social interaction, I can genuinely see the Blind Foundation making sure these clients get what they need and want.”

“With its wide range of volunteering roles the Blind Foundation offers many opportunities for people of all ages to get involved” says Alison Marshall, the Blind Foundation’s Community Engagement Practice Leader.

“Our student volunteers are an important part of our volunteer workforce. As an organisation we provide services to clients of all ages, it is great to have volunteers who reflect that.”

Get involved and visit our volunteering page for more information on our volunteering opportunities.