Image shows the Peer Mentoring group and their guide dogs posing in front of a curtain.

The Peer Mentoring program which was piloted in Christchurch in 2016, is now into its next round of training and matching.

The program aims to train and support clients who feel able to support other clients with blind and low vision matters. Mentors attend a two and half day training program where they learn more about what mentoring is and receive the tools needed to support others. Trained Mentors are then matched with fellow clients who would like support from someone who has true empathy and understanding of blindness or low vision. Mentors and mentees are carefully matched based on common interests, areas of skill or need, along with age, life stage and gender. The mentor and mentee connect on a regular basis and build trust and rapport, which leads to crucial conversations and encouragement for people to achieve rehabilitation goals and have a sounding board for the daily challenges they are facing. One area that has been a recurring topic of conversation between mentors and mentees is around other people’s reaction and attitude towards them when using mobility aids or adaptive equipment. Being able to talk about these experiences with someone else who truly understands and can share strategies to deal with these, is hugely empowering.

The Peer Mentoring program has 15 trained mentors in the South Island and is soon to train another 10 in the North Island. If you think you are someone that would like to use your experience to support others as a mentor or if you would like the support of the program as a mentee, please get in touch with the CLE team.

In the South Island contact Heather McGill on 03 375 4327. In the North Island, please contact Felicity Hutcheson on 04 380 2145.

Image shows the Consumer SEED group posing for a photo between 2 tables.

The end of August saw another successful Consumer SEED (Success, Empowerment, Excellent and Developing) Leadership Programme.

Held on Auckland’s North Shore, ten Blind Foundation clients came together over an exciting weekend to build leadership skills, explore their personal style, and make plans to participate in community projects.

The annual programme was extremely successful with the participants leaving inspired and motivated to give to their communities, with the knowledge that they have the support they need.

Over the programme, a newly blind member has discovered some of the many opportunities and services the Blind Foundation offers, including the peer support system another SEED participant plans to set up in Tauranga.

Another participant has hit the streets with her guide dog to raise over $7500 for the Blind Foundation’s charity run in Auckland on October 29.

One keen participant who already runs two Auckland walking groups has even been inspired to fulfil his dream of walking the length of New Zealand.

Participants left with improved confidence and an all-important support system to help them achieve their next set of goals, whether that be participating in a project, or having a courageous conversation involving their vision impairment. Everyone left feeling empowered to reach their personal version of excellence.

Big thanks must go to Felicity Hutcheson for her superb organising and Ali Marshall for her open contribution and support at this year’s SEED.

If you would like more information about the Consumer SEED Leadership Programme contact Felicity Hutcheson at fhutcheson@blindfoundation.org.nz or call her 0800 24 33 33.

Puppy warming itself by the heater

I hope you’ve all stayed dry in the rainy weather. I don’t mind going out in the rain, especially when I’ve got my red coat on. I’m still not a huge fan of wet paws; I leave a trail of wet muddy paw prints wherever I sneak to in the house. I’m not usually naughty, but like any cheeky puppy, sometimes I like to push my luck.

It’s worth getting wet paws when I get to explore the garden; it’s worth it just to explore the new smells that come from under the fence. We’ve had roadworks outside our house, which means a lot of different smells and sounds.  Being the socialite that I am, I like to introduce myself to the workers. I’m jealous they get to dig holes all day, but I still think my job is better.

My discovery this week has been the blueberry bush in the backyard. I absolutely love blueberries, even if they aren’t ripe yet, and apparently, they are full of antioxidants although I have no idea what those are. I’ve eaten the ones I can reach which I think is enough. You know how us Labradors love our food.

I’ve enjoyed my time back at home, but you know me –  I’m always on the move. I’ve gone to a boarder for a few days before I head to kennels for another breeding stock assessment. My sister Beth was in the car when I was picked up so I really didn’t mind leaving again. I was so excited I didn’t even want to say goodbye to my Puppy Walker.

I’m sure I’ll come back tired after playing with my friends, but I’ll make sure to write another blog in between my naps.

Until then,

Brooke.

Calling all youth who want to have their say!

The Blind Foundation is seeking feedback as to how they can improve Youth events. Currently the main Youth focused events, camps and workshops are the EPIC Youth Event, Youth SEED and being a leader at the annual Summer Camp.

A possible idea of a super event is currently being brainstormed (a combination of summer camp, EPIC and Youth SEED). The event would last 4-5 days and may include workshops on life hacks, leadership skills, camp activities or other Youth relevant content/activities.

Please fill out the google form to ensure these events are reflective of your opinion.

If you have any questions about the form please email abeaver@blindfoundation.org.nz.

Image shows a map of New Zealand

The Access Alliance have made it even easier to be part of the Access Matters campaign.

With the aim to make NZ fully accessible for all people with all disabilities, the Access Alliance is made up of 12 organisations including the Blind Foundation. The campaign is currently focused on introducing an Accessibility for New Zealanders Act which will introduce mandatory and enforceable standards for accessibility. With the general election taking place, now is a crucial time in the progress of this legislation.

The Alliance has recently gained support from Labour, Green, and  Māori  parties, and we know other parties are listening.

With the new Access Alliance tool, you can search your electorate and click to send an email to candidates asking them to support an Accessibility for New Zealanders Act. There is no better time to pressure the parties to support the campaign than now. The online tool also has specific information about the number of people with access needs in each electorate.

With your help, the Access Alliance hopes to achieve cross-party support for this issue which affects one in four New Zealanders. Please send an email, and share the tool with your friends and whanau.

It will only take 3 easy steps to urge the remaining parties to support your call.

Step 1: Select your electorate.

Step 2: Click to e-mail the candidates and ask if their party will support an Accessibility for New Zealander’s act – we’ve drafted the message for you.

Step 3: Add your name and email address and hit send.

Click the link to access the new Access Alliance tool.

Image shows David Lepofsky in a suit.

Between 3-9 September, lawyer, activist and academic David Lepofsky toured New Zealand to support and promote The Access Alliance’s ‘Access Matters’ campaign.

David comes from a strong background, being involved in activism since late 1970s and having completed a Masters of Law at Harvard Law School in 1982. But these are only some of his many achievements. David’s activism has had a huge impact on accessibility legislation in Ontario, Canada, going as far as influencing the Ontario Human Rights Code and chairing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

David spread the word about the Access Matters campaign from Auckland to Invercargill. The goal of the campaign is to ensure New Zealand is fully accessible for all people with all disabilities. That means everyone being able to find employment and fully take part in our society in a way that ensures they have a good life.

David thinks that New Zealand can adopt what he terms a “buffet” dining approach, by picking up aspects of Canadian accessibility legislation that has worked well, to improve access for people with disabilities across the board.

From podcasts and radio interviews, to local newspaper articles, David spoke out about the campaign and its importance. You can check out the media coverage from his trip below.

Media Coverage

David Lepofsky and Amy Hogan (Cerebral Palsy Society) interview on Radio New Zealand

Alliance media release on our UMR polling

Newsroom video story featuring David Lepofsky and Vivian Naylor (CCS Disability Action) – uncaptioned

Otago Daily Times: Disabled accessibility law gathering support

Podcast: Dianne Rogers interviews David Lepofsky

Black labrador puppy lying under a work desk

After a long time away, I’m finally back at work. I’ve missed being here.

I had an awesome time at my boarder’s, although a few days ago I had to go into kennels. I wasn’t upset in the slightest. My sister, Beth, was there so it was another chance for us to catch up and of course do what we love to do when we see each other, play. I came home absolutely exhausted.

In between my many catch up naps at home, I’ve been making sure I reacquaint myself with the outside world. I’ve been to malls, the supermarket and the butchers, as well as going on lots of different walks. I’m absolutely perfect at the supermarket, even in the dog food aisle. The butchers is a little bit harder, but I made it out without a problem; my Puppy Walker was very proud.

I’m very clever and I’ve managed to remember all of my commands from before I went away. If my walker doesn’t use hand signals, I can get a bit mixed up with the commands ‘down’ and ‘stand’. But as always, it’s a work in progress and I’m practicing every day.

Unfortunately, I’m only back for a week before I go back to kennels for another breeding stock assessment. I don’t know how long I’ll be away, but I’ll be updating you as soon as I get back.

Be good, I promise I will.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

It is Māori Language Week this week, from Monday, 11 to Sunday, 17 September 2017.

Every year since 1975 New Zealand has marked Māori Language Week. This is a time for all New Zealanders to celebrate te reo Māori (the Māori language) and to use more Māori phrases in everyday life.

The theme for this year is ‘Kia ora te reo’ – which celebrates New Zealand’s indigenous greeting and the intent of te reo Māori revitalisation efforts between the Crown and Māori.

To celebrate Māori Language Week at the Blind Foundation, Lloyd Ellison – our Deafblind Access Worker based in Christchurch – opened and closed our monthly staff meeting with a Karakia. You can listen to these recordings below.

Image shows the Youth SEED participants in the countryside.

Earlier this month 10 Blind Foundation youth clients came together for the annual Youth SEED programme, this year held in Christchurch.

The programme focuses on leadership and personal growth, with a key goal for clients to achieve Success, Empowerment, Expertise and Development (SEED).

Mana was established from the beginning with a welcome Mihi (Maori introduction).

What followed was a comprehensive three-day programme including a variety of leadership development workshops, personality profiles, teamwork exercises and self-awareness sessions.

The weekend’s learning was reinforced with some fantastic outdoor activities. The rain and cold didn’t stop participants facing their fears by soaring down a flying fox and dropping down a giant swing.

As part of the weekend, participants were asked to plan and implement a community project of choice. They came up with some great ideas; from volunteering as mentors, to running a sports camp, and participating in the development of Blind Foundation’s Youth Council.

Armed with a new sense of self-awareness and support, this group of young leaders are ready to take on new challenges.

If you would like more information about future Youth SEED programmes, please contact Heather McGill on 03 375 4327 or email hmcgill@blindfoundation.org.nz.

As you are aware, on behalf of the RNZFB Board, the Constitutional Review Committee has completed a full review of the RNZFB Constitution.  The committee’s work has been published throughout the process on the Telephone Information Service, the RNZFB website, on email, in Outlook Magazine and other media.

The draft of the new Constitution will be put to members to vote on through a postal ballot throughout October finishing with a Special Meeting of Members to be held in Hamilton at 10am on Saturday 11 November 2017.

Rule 5.8 of our constitution indicates that those who either receive services from the Foundation themselves or are the Guardians of persons receiving such services and who, in either case, might reasonably be supposed to be or to include persons eligible to become Governing Members of the Foundation should be notified of Major Proposals so that they can become Governing Members if they wish.

If you are not a Governing Member and wish to vote on the new constitution you must let the Board Secretary, Jane Moore, know no later than 5pm Friday 22 September 2017.  Jane can be contacted on 09 355 6894 or on email jamoore@blindfoundation.org.nz.