Category Archives: Tech & Innovation

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. 

Image shows Dr Lauren Lieberman and Dr Pamela Haibach

We are excited to be hosting leading international experts Dr Lauren Lieberman and Dr Pamela Haibach, from The College of Brockport State University of New York, who will be touring New Zealand 15 – 20 May 2017.

Join us to hear from these two distinguished professors on how they have built inclusive and accessible recreation and sport opportunities and how this could apply for all New Zealanders.

Pam and Lauren will share their knowledge, research and perspectives on inclusion strategies and movement development. Pam and Lauren’s work has special relevance for all those interested in providing increased opportunities, with a focus on sport and recreation, for children, youth and adults who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. Of particular interest is their internationally acclaimed work with Camp Abilities, a very different approach from other camps run for people with vision loss.

Dr. Lieberman is a Distinguished Service Professor in Adapted Physical Education. She has published more than 85 articles in referenced journals, published 13 books and has received numerous awards for her work. Dr. Haibach’s expertise is in Motor Development and Motor Learning. She has published a first-of-its-kind textbook entitled Motor Learning and Development.

Register online for a seminar in your area or register by phone by calling Alison Marshall on 027 442 4100. Registrations close Friday 12 May.

You can find out more about our visitors online:

Read more about Dr Lauren Lieberman.

Read more about Dr Pamela Haibach.

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.”

Youth MPs on the steps of parliament

Imagine a world where all websites and applications are accessible.

That was the vision that our future leaders discussed during the 2016 Youth Parliament.

121 Youth MPs from around the country attended Youth Parliament in Wellington on July 20 and July 21.

The event is an opportunity for young New Zealanders to learn first-hand about New Zealand’s democracy and to influence decision making.

As part of the experience Youth MPs debated a mock bill on Accessible Web Pages and Apps. The mock bill is aimed at improving website and app accessibility for people with print disabilities in New Zealand.

The bill received overwhelming support from the youth MPs and was passed.

Among those promoting the bill was 16-year-old Blind Foundation client Britnee Tapara from Lower Hutt who was paired with National list MP Chris Bishop.

Britnee made a powerful speech on the bill which many described as being the highlight of the two day event.

“I have never let my vision defeat me. I like to think of it as playing the game of life on hard mode,” Britnee told stuff.co.nz.

In the lead up to the event, Blind Foundation staff briefed youth MPs on the importance of online accessibility.

Blind Foundation client and former Youth MP Ezekiel Robson also met with the officials from the Department of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Youth Development to support the initiative.

Dianne Rogers, Policy Manager at the Blind Foundation, says it was fantastic to see how enthusiastic the youth MPs were about accessibility.

“Thanks to their support the future of accessibility in New Zealand is really looking bright,” she says.

Over the coming months the Blind Foundation will be carrying out a survey to find out what New Zealand organisations are doing to make their web pages and mobile apps accessible.

Lance and guide dog Yogi using BookLink

Lance Girling-Butcher has always loved reading, but it became a challenge when he lost his sight nine years ago. The launch of the Blind Foundation BookLink app last year has been a breakthrough that allows him to continue reading.

The app gives readers access to the Blind Foundation digital library. It has over 11,000 audio books to choose from, and more than 70 New Zealand national and regional newspapers.

Lance says BookLink puts people who are blind or have low vision on a level playing field with a sighted person.

“BookLink gives me the independence of choosing my own book with a click of a button. I no longer have to go through the library to request a book to be made in my preferred format, then waiting for it to arrive.

“I’m impressed with this app it’s so easy to use, it’s a brilliant breakthrough. The search function helps me find any book I am looking for. I find it easy to navigate through, it operates in a logical way.”

Lance uses the app several times a week to read books, and his local newspapers. Based in New Plymouth he keeps up to date by listening to the Taranaki daily news and the Mid-week News.

With magazines soon becoming available, Lance expects it will be a popular addition.

“I’ll definitely be listening myself. I’d be interested in the Listener magazine and keeping up to date with topical events and business stories.

“I recommend BookLink to anyone with the capability of using a computer, or Apple device. It’s a great opportunity a keen reader shouldn’t miss out on.”

Download on the Apple App Store

Photo of BookLink user

Access the Blind Foundation’s digital library with the BookLink app, now available from the App Store.

There are over 11,000 audio books to chose from and more than 70 New Zealand national and regional newspapers.

The app has been designed for Apple devices, including iPhones (4S and later), later-model iPads and the latest iPod Touch.

All new clients should download BookLink from the App Store. To use the app you will need a login. If you are new to downloading the library’s books, please call us on  0800 24 33 33 or email library@blindfoundation.org.nz to register.

If you are using an existing version of BookLink please follow the steps below:

  • Finish reading any downloaded books. Please note existing content will be deleted when you install the new version.
  • Delete the existing app from your device (v1.3.0 or older).
  • Download the latest version of the app from the App Store.

Download on the App Store

Neil Jarvis holding the orbit braille reader

The Blind Foundation has helped develop a new affordable braille reader for people living with sight loss around the world.

The Orbit braille reader was launched last week at the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, California.

It is the first refreshable braille reader which is both affordable and portable.

A refreshable braille display is a device that allows a person who is blind or has low vision to read the contents of a display, like a computer, one text line at a time as a line of braille characters.

Until now, braille displays have cost from around $3,000 upwards, putting them out of reach for many people around the world.

In contrast, the new Orbit braille reader will retail for less than US$500 (NZ$742), providing an important new option for people who are blind or have low vision to access literacy at an affordable cost.

The Blind Foundation was one of 10 organisations worldwide involved in creating the new technology, along with the Royal National Institute for the Blind in England, National Federation of the Blind in the United States, American Printing House for the Blind, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Perkins, the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, Association Valentin HauY, Sightsavers, and Vision Australia.

The Blind Foundation provided research and development funding, expertise and testing.

In addition to the Blind Foundation contributing financially, Executive Director of Strategic Relations and Accessibility Neil Jarvis was on the board of managing members of the company set up by the agencies to create the display.

Neil says the display, which takes flash cards and has USB and Bluetooth capabilities, will give people greater access to computers, mobile devices and is great for reading electronic books.

“Rather than carry a book in seven or eight volumes, which is not uncommon for a novel in braille, you might be able to carry around thousands of books on a single flash card,” says Mr Jarvis.

“Reading is one of the everyday activities most affected by sight loss and making braille displays accessible to more people who are blind or have low vision will provide them with options and opportunities they may not have otherwise been able to afford.”

The Blind Foundation will be the exclusive supplier of the Orbit braille reader in New Zealand, which will be available later in the year.

BookLink app on iphone

The Blind Foundation is pleased to announce that there will be a new version of the BookLink app which will be available on March 30.

BookLink version 1.3 is packed with exciting new content functionality and accessibility and display features.

Users will be spoilt for choice with access to over 70 newspapers along with an added youth library. While listening to your daily news you can control the speed of the narrator’s voice with the added voice button.

Navigating the app with voice over will also be much easier with an updated search function. Now you won’t lose your place when you search. After completing a download, the focus will return to the place you were in the search results screen.

National Library Manager Chris Pigott says he is looking forward to the new release.

“Feedback from clients has been incorporated into the changes, and there has been lots of great work in the background from the design team and the developer. We’re hoping clients will find this version to be better, bigger, stronger, more handsome and an all-around more rewarding accessible reading experience.”

To install the new version, please go to settings and tap ‘Get Latest Updates.’

The app is free to all Blind Foundation clients.

Download on the App Store

For help call the Blind Foundation Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33.

a guide dog puppy with a laptop

Welcome to the new-look Blind Foundation website!  We hope you enjoy your time on here, and can quickly and easily find the information you’re after.

If you’re used to seeing the old site, this will look and feel really different.  To help you find your way around, here are a few hints and tips:

Easy Navigation – there’s one series of navigation (or information) tabs – so you can find what you want without being distracted by lots of different information.  Each time you click on a navigation heading, the next layer of information appears, until you get to what you want.   You also have breadcrumbs at the top of the page to help show you where you are.

Search that Works –  the new search function is slick.  Your top ten options will come up with short descriptors – and we’re confident they’ll have what you’re looking for first go.

Events – events are now one click away from the home page, and in one section. You can search for a particular type of event or can browse events in your region.

News –  just like events, all news is now in one section.  You can search for particular news items you want to read about using the Topics filter.

Shop – the new look shop is big and bold, with clear navigation options and easy processes.  You should be able to find what they want easily, get all of the information you need about any product in one go, and make your purchase easily.

Accessible – Following WCAG guidelines, the site was created with accessibility as a priority.  The functionality and design were tested with different blind and low vision users, so you should find that the site is easy to use.

Take a look around.  We’d love to hear any feedback – simply get in touch on comms@blindfoundation.org.nz