Category Archives: Community

Image shows three blind singers performing in the street.

Today, Thursday 12 October 2017, marks World Sight Day. There was a global Make Vision Count photograph competition, to mark the occasion, which ended today. Both professional and amateur photographers around the world were encouraged to send in their photos with the theme #MakeVisionCount.

To date, there have been 696 photo entries and 26,600 votes. The brilliant photographs range from close up images of individuals faces with a focus on the eyes, to a group of blind singers performing in the street. View the amazing gallery of photographs here.

The two winners of the competition will be announced on Monday, 16 October 2017. The winning professional photographer will receive a cash prize of $1,000 USD. The winning amateur photographer will receive a Canon 1200 DSLR camera.

The competition aimed to highlight eye health successes and also document unmet needs. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), who organised the competition, promotes universal eye health.

For more information on the competition, visit the #MakeVisionCount photography competition page.

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 or call her 0800 24 33 33.

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

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

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 low vision watch with black face and white numbers.

Our equipment team are delighted to be stocking a new collection of Swiss-made low vision watches.

These low vision watches are manufactured in Switzerland by Auguste Reymond and assembled by hand in their premises in Tramelan. In 1950 Auguste Reymond engineers developed two new lines of products that ensured the fame of the brand: one of which was the “braille” watches for the blind. Today Auguste Reymond SA is still the unchallenged specialist for tactile “braille” watches and low vision watches, which are distributed under the old brand name ARSA.

We now sell two new styles of the ARSA low vision watches, the Jumbo sized watch is an over-sized wrist-watch with a 40 mm face and a perfectly clear dial made with mat black aluminum which has set a trend that today is not only followed by visually impaired people. The unisex sized watch is made with stainless steel and has a simple, strong, clear design which offers the best possible reading on a smart looking wrist-watch.

Both watches come in two different options; a black face with white numbers and hands and a white face with black numbers and hands. All watches have 12 numbers and two block hands, forgoing the seconds hand gives them a more streamlined design which is easier to read. The watches also come with a high quality leather strap.

To find out more and to order one, please visit the Blind Foundation online shop. 

If you know a blind or low vision kid aged between 8 and 14, then make sure their parent/caregiver knows about the Blind Foundation Taupo Kids Camp 2018!

It’s a brilliant opportunity for blind and low vision children from around New Zealand to make friends, try new things and above all have fun this coming summer.

Applications close on 1st October and late applications will not be considered, so if you’re thinking of enrolling your child, now’s the time to get the form in.

Visit the Taupo 2018 Kids Summer Camp event page for more information and a copy of the application form.

Several members of the Royal New Zealand Blind Foundation, some with guide dogs, escorted by staff from the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Auckland Live’s Accessibility programme were fortunate indeed to experience  just prior to the Romeo & Juliet performance, a backstage tour accompanied with great explanations from the RNZB Education team, knowledgeable RNZB crew members, the two audio describers and Auckland Live’s support staff.

Having been informed this experience had also been made available to the Sponsors of Romeo and Juliet made all feel tremendously privileged. This tour, and the information emailed previously, enabled us to appreciate the colossal effort which is expended in each ballet production.

There’s a lot of ‘stuff’ backstage. Monitors, screens, underfoot cables identified with yellow tape, tripod legs extending from standing lights in the wings: all hazards to the visually impaired were ‘guarded’ against our fumbling feet by staff placed strategically. The performance area  had been overlaid with a sprung dance floor [so much kinder to the body], seeming to be about 75 mm high, made of sections of thin wood which cushion dancers as they land from those awe-inspiring leaps. Underneath the support blocks had been bolstered because transporting and the erecting and shifting of sets  wear and compact the structure of sprung stages. These, together with the sets and other accompaniments are hired out to other overseas companies. Barres [metal stands which dancers use for balance and support while exercising] stood to one side. No ballerinas or dancers were  practising with these. Someone joked that  was because this was a touch tour.  We did, though,  get to  handle  the varying fabrics and be-jewelled braids of which sumptuous costumes are constructed, the tights and loose blouse as worn by male dancers, a pair of pointe shoes and soft character boots, and what’s more the rapiers and swords needed in the fighting that goes on amongst the relatives of the star struck lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The thin metal blades of the rapiers were turned over for the whole length and the tips were well plugged. Obviously, though the sounds of these contacting during the fight and the parts  where one or two of the cast got run right through as they were ‘murdered ‘were most realistically acted, no one was taking chances with the dancers.

Then, having moved to the front stage overlooking the orchestra pit this  was found to be fenced off by a rope. We were told there was a net over the orchestra’s pit just in case anyone got too energetic with any of the props. How disconcerting it would be if the timpanist drumming discovered a mandolin flying over his head to wop off the piccolo player’s ear!

The last props inspected were masks to be worn in the ball scene which called for merriment before the dastardly deeds. Being gold and quite stiff they appeared sturdy enough for some rough stuff. The finale of the touch tour was a dance workshop where we were invited to try some of the movements as ballet terminology was explained. Based on the French language it described the form of various complex movements such as a pas de chat, pronounced  pah-d-chaa [step of the cat], or a Grand Jetè, announced as grond-jetay, [Big leap]. After this the audio sets were explained and collected. The Grand Performance was about to begin and were we eager? What do you think?

The Audio Described performance of Romeo & Juliet was presented as part of Auckland Live’s Arts Accessibility Programme.