Trampers in the bush

Are you interested in experiencing three different day tramps over three days? Are you up for a challenge, meeting new people and having fun? Then the North Island Regional Tramp may be for you.

What is the North Island Regional Tramp?

This tramp is for clients who are up for a challenge or are working towards taking part in Outward Bound in the future. This will be held in Rotorua and will be experiencing three different tramps. This will include The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest, Lake Tarawera and Rainbow Mountain – Maungakakaramea, meaning ‘mountain of coloured earth’. You will have the opportunity to create friendships, try something new, travel through beautiful nature surroundings and better yet challenge yourself.

Who can attend?

This tramp is for Blind Foundation clients aged 18 upwards who must be physically capable of walking up to 5 hours a day with a backpack. It is a priority that you are self-reliant with personal care and have good orientation and mobility. Please also be aware that you may be asked to help prepare meals in a team environment. This tramp is organized and led by Blind Foundations recreation staff.

What is the cost?

We ask for a contribution of $200 per person. This will go towards accommodation, meals and snacks for all days, water taxi to trail, activities, equipment, and transport during the tramp. All other expenses including incidental cost, extra accommodation, meals and travel from your home to and from Auckland will be at your own expense. Please contact Latesha Sharp for more information regarding transport as pick up and drop of locations are yet to be confirmed.

Where to from here?

To find out more information or for an application form please contact Latesha Sharp 09 281 6503 or

Please note: There will be a selection process once applications have been closed before confirming your attendance.

Participants on a tramp

The Blind Foundation is again running a tramp for clients from throughout the South island which will this time be based at Hanmer Springs.  Day tramps will encompass a variety of tracks in the Hanmer Springs, Hurunui area.

The aim of this programme is to provide an opportunity for members to extend their walking experience, have fun in the outdoors and to enjoy the companionship of other blind and low vision adults from throughout the South Island.

The trip is suitable for persons who are currently doing some walking e.g. able to walk up to 3 or more hours in a day.  We plan to be able to cater for a range of fitness levels within the group

The subsidised cost of this trip to members is $150.  This includes:

  • 2 nights at Abilities Lodge, Hanmer Springs.
  • 2x evening meals (you will need to bring your own breakfasts and lunches, along with any snack food).
  • Transport to /from Dunedin  or Christchurch.
  • Contribution toward volunteers costs – as without these wonderful people this trip would not be possible.

To confirm your interest in this trip please fill in this online registration form no later than 14th October 2016.  Depending on the number of applications there may be a selection process.

Places on the trip will be confirmed the week of 17th October and full payment will then be due by 4th November 2016.

Download the tramp programme (doc)

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

For the first time, Kiwis with sight loss will be able to read new books at the same time as the rest of the public.

A new agreement between Penguin Random House New Zealand and the Blind Foundation will give the Blind Foundation access to new titles before they are released, so that the books can be made available in an accessible format.

Selected books will be available to people who are blind or have low vision through the Blind Foundation’s Library service and their BookLink app on the same date as the print version is released.

The first book to come out under the new agreement is Lydia Ko: Portrait of a teen golfing sensation, by Michael Donaldson. It will be available on BookLink, Braille, and in print on 3 October.

“Being able to access new books as they are released is a fantastic step towards breaking down the barriers that face the blind and low vision community,” says Blind Foundation National Library Manager David Klassen.

“We are very grateful to Penguin Random House for making this possible. One of the frustrations for our readers is waiting for new releases to be available for us to produce in accessible formats. This will give Kiwis with sight loss the same access to a selection of new books as everyone else.”

“Penguin Random House Publishing Director Debra Millar said the company was pleased to help ensure vision impaired readers had access to new releases at the same time as everyone else.”

Lydia Ko: Portrait of a teen golfing sensation is a biography of New Zealand’s most successful international sporting star. It will be available on the Blind Foundation BookLink app and in stores on 3 October.

Clem and Walker

The chance to help others and give back to the blindness community keeps Clem Bruce signing up to collect for Blind Week.

Clem, 74, has been collecting for the Blind Foundation for more than 40 years and will be shaking a bucket for this year’s street collection on October 7 and 8.

He recalls collecting back when he used to run a Boys’ Brigade and the boys would go door to door with collection buckets.

“I just love people. I love helping people, especially the Blind Foundation because I have a guide dog so I try to support them as much as I can.”

Clem takes his guide dog Walker, who he has had for about five years, with him when he collects and says the dog gets lots of attention.

“He’s coming up for retirement and I’m going to be heartbroken. He’s a wonderful dog.”

In addition to Walker, Clem says the Blind Foundation has helped him over the years with things like talking books and equipment.

“They’ve helped me in lots of ways. I’m always very grateful to them.”

He says he’ll keep collecting for as long as he can.

“If I get assistance from someone, I’ll try to assist them as best I can. The best way I can help them [the Blind Foundation] is by supporting them. They’re wonderful, friendly people.”

We need more coordinators and collectors for Blind Week.

Click here to sign up online.

Photo of Jayne at the Friday Friendship group in Tauranga

Blind Foundation volunteer Jayne Popham shares her experiences on the blind and low vision kiwis she helps care for.

Jayne has helped in many ways since she started volunteering in 2008. She began as a reader/writer for someone completing a distance learning BA with Massey University. Since then, she has mainly helped with reading, sorting out papers and general companionship. Jayne is also on the list of drivers for Tauranga.

Most recently, she has taken over the running of a bimonthly friendship group, with two other volunteers. The group offers morning tea followed by indoor bowls, word games and newspaper reading. They also go on trips and go out for lunch.

Do they take sugar?

I became a volunteer for the Blind Foundation eight years ago and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I get to meet a range of wonderful people; happy, intelligent, complicated, angry, sad, and a little crazy. Whoever they are and whatever their needs, they are special people who deserve kindness and respect (to me, the most important ‘R’ word in the English language).

Some tell me that losing your sight is akin to bereavement. Sight loss forces changes in the routine someone knows so well, which can cause huge upheaval and uncertainty.

You lose your independence; feelings of anger, frustration and fear arise and confidence disappears. The thought of shopping is daunting and everyday tasks as you’ve done them have to be re-learnt. The layout of the house becomes an assault course if anyone moves the furniture or leaves a door half-open (open or shut is the door rule – nothing in between!).

There are a few things that you need to be mindful of when assisting someone who is blind or has low vision:

  • Do not touch.  Always ask if they need assistance first – otherwise, it can become very awkward.
  • Keep vocal. When speaking, use the person’s name first so they know you are speaking to them. Remember to explain unusual noises, describe surroundings when appropriate and, most importantly, encourage others to speak to the individual, not through you.
  • This one is a biggy. A common misconception is that because someone needs a sighted guide then they might not be as bright. This is one of the most common complaints of our clients.

Imagine the following scenario:

You are sitting at a table in your local club. Your friend has gone to the bar to buy drinks. Someone comes over to join you – they say hello and call you by your name.

You cannot see their face clearly and don’t recognise their voice. They chat away and you still don’t know who is talking to you. What do you do? Ask who they are and risk offending them? Just sit there and wonder and hope the penny drops?

Finally, you decide to just come out and ask them. Silence. Have you upset them? You ask again and then it dawns on you – they have moved away to talk to someone else and you have been talking to thin air.

Here’s my advice:

  • When meeting someone who is blind or has low vision, remember to tell them who you are. But also remember to tell them when you leave.
  • As a volunteer, you never know exactly what your next task is, so each day is different and, occasionally, a challenge.
  • Dealing with a group is like trying to herd cats. And wait before you jump on me for that one and say, “how dare you.” It is not meant as a derogatory remark but as a huge compliment. Think of Rudyard Kipling’s cat, ‘The Cat who Walked by Himself’ from Just So Stories. Cats are fiercely independent, will only ask for help if they really need it and like company, but usually on their terms.
  • Part of being a volunteer means you have to learn not to fuss around folk too much but help them as and when they need it, not when you think they do.

The rewards far exceed any exasperation. And laugh! I have had so many laughs with people over the years (emphasis on “with” and most definitely not “at”).

It’s that sense of humour, laughing at life’s adversities, together with an independent, fighting spirit I so admire. I hope that I have just a pinch of it when the vagaries of life and ageing finally catch up with me.

7 day challenge banner

It is now just a few days before 7 Blind Foundation clients take off on an epic 700km journey across the North Island in 7 gruelling days. This is a boundary breaking challenge with no winner and no clock to race against – just the satisfaction of living a life without limits, and all the tales that go with it.

The 7 Day Challenge is an exciting, demanding and fun, multisport challenge which will see participants biking the 100km flyer, running a marathon, canoeing the Wanganui River, sailing off the coast of Tauranga and hiking up Mount Tongariro and more.  It will test the boundaries of both brain and body and to prove that blindness or low vision is not a limit to how you live your life.

I know that the group would welcome your support. You can send them messages of support at To follow, track the group and find out what they are doing you can go to

We are also asking people to do their own challenge. As you will have read earlier in the newsletter, Julie Woods is reading to children from braille books for seven days. We have a team here who are running 7km every day for 7 days. Whatever your challenge is, big or small, we’d love to hear about it on the Facebook page. Include #LWOL (life without limits).

We want as many people as possible to know about this challenge and so please share it with friends and family.

Julie Woods with the Chairman Award trophy

Congratulations to Julie Woods (That Blind Woman) who is a finalist for the 2016 NEXT Woman of the Year Awards. She is one out of five finalists in the Community section.

An inspirational speaker and coach and the Queen of Cooking without Looking, Julie has become a champion for the blind community.

Declared legally blind at the age of 31, she decided to not dwell on the challenges but to get on with life. “I could either be pitied or admired and the first simply wasn’t an option” she says.

Since her diagnosis, she set out to visit 50 countries by the age of 50, refereed three games of nude touch rugby and now co-facilitates the Blind Foundation SEED programme, offering leadership training for the blind.

She tells us of the morning she found out she was a finalist:

“It was a Saturday morning, and Ron (my husband) went to collect the mail. He came back and gave me the letter while I was still in bed. The letter was in braille, which was so special. It was a nice private moment; I had no inkling of what the braille was.

She adds, “I am honoured to be in the running for the award. It’s nice to know that someone is noticing the work you do, especially when there are so many other people doing great things. It is truly humbling.”

While waiting for the winner announcement on 13 October, Julie is working on her next community project.

As part of the Blind Foundation’s 7 Day Challenge, Julie is doing her own 7 day challenge. The aim is to do something every day (for seven days) that challenges you; for Julie, this is reading aloud.

“I had low vision since the age of 18 and for the past 30 years struggled to read aloud. This is going to help me overcome that fear. In order to grow, you need to get out of your comfort zone.

From the 2 to 8 October she is going to read one children’s book, in braille a day.
In conjunction with the Dunedin Public Library, Julie will visit libraries across the region every day for the week.

She plans to set up a comfortable environment for children which involves blanket huts, pyjamas and onesies.

“I would like to read to my grandchildren one day and this is where it starts.”

If you’re in the area you can find Julie at the following locations:

  • Sunday 2 October at 11:30am: City Library, Storypit.
  • Monday 3 October at 3pm: Blueskin Bay Library.
  • Tuesday 4 October at 11am: Mosgiel Library.
  • Wednesday 5 October 3pm – Pop up Braille blanket hut! Surprise!
  • Thursday 6 October at 3:30pm: Port Chalmers Library.
  • Friday 7 October at 3pm: Waikouaiti Library.
  • Saturday 8 October at 2pm: City Library, Storypit.

For more information contact Kay Mercer, Events Coordinator, Dunedin Public Libraries by phoning: 03 474 3419.

Terry Wilson at the datacentre

When Terry Wilson received his first laptop in first form, it sparked his interest in computers. After high school he completed a few papers in business, with one based around IT, intriguing him to pursue it further.

“I decided to do a Bachelor of Information Technology at Otago Polytechnic. After graduation, I worked my up from an entry level position on a service desk then progressed to a couple of commercial and consulting roles.”

Today he is a Senior Systems Engineer, part of the Systems Services Team, at the University of Otago. Terry manages a team of systems engineers who manage the servers and storage that provide core services for the university. This includes things such as e-learning, email and file sharing.

Terry’s role involves project management, coordination with clients and prioritising work as it comes in. A big part of what he does is talking to people, understanding what they need and identifying how IT plays a role in solving their challenges.

He says that having low vision barely affects his work at all. He prides himself on being quite independent and sticks to two simple tools; his monocular (a refracting telescope) and ZoomText. ZoomText is a magnifier that enlarges, enhances and reads aloud everything on the computer screen.

“My laptop is an ultraportable 14”, so the zooming comes in handy when working on the tiny screen!”

The biggest challenge is in fact, transport. Managing multiple sites across the country in former roles meant Terry had to do a lot of advanced planning.

“I could achieve half of what I needed to do from the office and so would forward plan my trips to make the most efficient use of my time. It wasn’t so much the cost, but the time it took to wait for taxis.”

“There are no limits to the kind of job a blind or low vision person can do (aside from the obvious of course). As long as you put your mind to it, get equipped with the right tools and with some planning, you can do it.”

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

Nominations for the Chairman’s Award 2016 are now open.

The award will be presented at the Annual General Meeting of the RNZFB to be held on Saturday 12 November 2016 which this year will be held in Napier. The award comprises a trophy to be held for one year, a cheque for the sum of $500.00 and a framed certificate.

The award is for a registered member who has demonstrated an outstanding level of achievement in any field of endeavours.

Please send in your nominations to the Board Secretary no later than 4:00pm on Friday 14 October 2016.

Please address nominations to Ms Jane A Moore, Board Secretary, The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

Tel: (09) 355 6894
Mobile: 021 0224 2716

Full CV details are to accompany the nomination. Please feel free to nominate persons who may have been nominated previously but were unsuccessful.


Image of voting paper ballots

The local elections are an important opportunity for you to decide who you want to be making decisions for you and where you live. This year Auckland Council are working hard to ensure everyone has access to all the information they need to participate.

You will receive your voting papers through the post between 16 and 21 September and you will have until midday on 8 October to submit your vote.

As it is a postal vote, you will not be attending a polling booth to cast your vote, rather you will need to complete your voting papers and then post your papers back to the Elections Officer using the prepaid envelope provided.

If you would like assistance completing your postal vote for the Auckland Local Elections, whether that’s needing someone who is not a friend or family member to mark your papers, or even just someone to post your completed paper, then it’s time to let Auckland Council know.

Please call Independent Elections Services on 0800 922 822 to register your interest in having a fully trained Auckland Council volunteer attend your home in order to assist. You will need to provide them with your name, address and contact number.

Auckland Council will then call you back to arrange for a volunteer to visit you at a convenient time between 21 September and 7 October.

You will be able to access all candidate biographies on TIS from 16 September and if you are a Blind Foundation Library user, you will receive the same information on disc through the post. This is the first time the Blind Foundation and Auckland Council have worked together to ensure Blind Foundation clients have this information in an accessible format for the Local Elections.

If you have registered for a volunteer to visit you, it is recommended that you listen to the relevant candidate information beforehand – the process will be a lot easier and quicker if you have an idea of who you would like to vote for before your volunteer arrives!