Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

It’s time again for Blind Foundation members to start thinking about the Board Elections.  This is a pivotal opportunity for members to have a say in who leads the organisation forward for the next three years.  As a full or governing member of the Blind Foundation, you are able to vote in our annual Board Elections to elect our Board of Directors.

Voting Pack Information

Voting Packs will be sent to all voting members in their preferred formats on 5 October 2017. The voting pack includes:

  • A cover letter;
  • A letter from the Board Chair, Rick Hoskin, and information on expectations of Board directors of the Blind Foundation;
  • Instructions on how to vote in either print, braille, via the telephone information service (TIS), via telephone dictation voting and, new for 2017, via online voting;
  • Information on each candidate standing in the election;
  • The notice of the 2017 AGM;
  • A proxy form for those who wish to nominate a proxy to vote on resolutions to be put to members at the AGM; and
  • A freepost envelope to mail back voting forms/cards and/or proxy form.

Audio Interviews with Candidates

In addition, this year’s interviews with each of the 2017 candidates will be available on the Telephone Information Services (TIS) or on CD.  The TIS menu option will be confirmed closer to the time.

Damaged Voting Forms

If you should spoil or damage your voting forms, braille voting cards or return envelope, please contact the National Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33 and replacements will be sent to you.

Further questions

If you have any questions about the election process or how to vote, please phone National Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33.

Please consider all the information careful and please do cast your votes in the election of Directors.

Annual General Meeting and Special Meeting of Members

Please visit the AGM and Special Meeting of Members event page for more information about these meetings, which will be held on 11th November in Hamilton.

David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer and activist from Canada, is currently visiting New Zealand as a guest of the Blind Foundation. He’s given a talk on accessibility at AUT for the Access Alliance, and was also interviewed on Radio New Zealand about accessibility issues.

Click below to listen to David’s interview with Katherine Ryan on Nine to Noon.

Image shows the group of Japanese students in the cafeteria at Awhina House.

A group of Japanese youth, who are blind or have low vision have been experiencing the Kiwi way of life this past week.

The youth, aged between 15-24 years are in New Zealand as part of their life enrichment programme.

Their week-long itinerary, managed by the Blind Foundation’s Community and Life Enrichment team, included:

  • A visit to Awhina House in Auckland where they toured the facility, recorded a song and met with Blind Foundation staff and members of the Epic Youth Group.
  • A tour of the Guide Dog facility where they met the puppies in training and took them for a walk.
  • A weekend homestay where they experienced the Kiwi way of life.
  • A trip to Rotorua where they took part in a Maori cultural experience, including a Marae stay.

They were blown away by the reception they received and have absolutely loved their time in New Zealand.

During their visit to Awhina House, they took a stroll to the sensory garden nearby.  The goal of the garden is to provide visitors with an experience that appeals to as many of the senses as possible, not just visual.  They couldn’t help but sing its praises.

“We loved the sensory garden; we have never experienced something like this before.  We have been around fragrant flowers but it was great to smell some herbs.  The plants were the right height so we didn’t have to bend very low.”

Blair Gilbert, National Manager Community and Life Enrichment said this is an exciting opportunity to open the door for cultural exchanges.

“I would like to think that this is the first of many youth exchange opportunities.  We have really enjoyed welcoming this delegation to New Zealand and look forward to welcoming many more in years to come.”

The group recorded a few songs in Japanese as a gift to our members, you can listen to them below.

You can also check out the photographs from their visit to our Guide Dog facility on our Facebook page.

a group of people wearing blindfolds

World Sight Day is on 12 October 2017 and there is a global Make Vision Count photograph competition to mark the occasion. Both professional and amateur photographers around the world are encouraged to take part. Send your pictures with the theme #MakeVisionCount to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) by 12 October. The competition aims to highlight eye health successes and also document unmet need. IAPB promotes universal eye health through advocacy, knowledge and partnerships.

Winners will be announced on 16 October 2017 and contacted by mail following the announcement.

The professional photographer winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000 USD. The winning amateur photographer will receive a Canon 1200 D DSLR camera.

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

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

Applications are now invited for the Blind Foundation’s Pre-Employment Programme 2017!

The Programme will happen in Auckland from 27 August to 5 September 2017.

This is a comprehensive 10 day residential programme aimed at fast tracking job seekers towards work readiness.  If you are keen and motivated to work but not sure where to start, or need some guidance to build your skills and confidence for the job search, then the FastTrack programme could be for you.

The programme will include:

  • Self-awareness activities including skill identification, values and personality
  • Exploration of career options and resources
  • Exploring labour market realities and the future of work
  • Identifying suitable jobs and the tools to do them
  • Adaptive technology options in the workplace
  • Job search tools and resources
  • Communication skills and presentation
  • How and when to disclose disability information during the job search process
  • Developing a great CV and writing cover letters
  • Practicing interview techniques
  • Meeting, sharing and learning with other job seekers
  • Opportunities to meet and learn from the experiences of other people in employment who are blind or have low vision
  • Develop a plan towards employment

Applicants must meet the following criteria to be considered for the programme:

  • Over 18
  • Be registered with the Blind Foundation Employment Service
  • Be prepared to complete pre-programme assignments with the support of your EC leading up to the programme
  • Be prepared to commit for the full 10 day programme
  • Be open to new ideas and prepared to commit their time and effort to participating in the programme and their ongoing job search

To apply, please complete the application form (click this link to download the document in Word format).

Please send your completed application to Contact Sharon Jefferies on 07 838 7516 for more information.

Travel, accommodation and food will be provided at no charge to participants.

We look forward to receiving your application by Friday 26th May 2017.

Image shows Ellen Boucher, Digital Communications Advisor, smiling in an office

This month we get to know Ellen Boucher, Digital Communications Advisor.

Ellen looks after the Blind Foundation’s digital presence. She looks after the Blind Foundation website, the Comms team’s Pegasus pages, and Blind Foundation social media. Ellen also looks after digital comms for the newly-formed Access Alliance.

A typical day for Ellen includes some edits and additions to things like events and job listings on the website, checking how our website and social media are doing in terms of how many people are looking at things, meeting with managers and anyone who’s a subject-matter expert to talk about their content, and being on hand for anything that needs doing, like fixing broken links or little mistakes in content. Ellen is always hunting for new stories to share on social media- so if you have a good story from your area, or if you’ve found something cool related to blindness or disabled people, she would love to hear about it!

Since starting at the Blind Foundation in January a particular work highlight for Ellen has been reading the Blind Foundation news for the Telephone Information Service. Ellen says recording the news is a lot of fun, and of course her Mum has phoned in to listen and is very proud.

Ellen’s favourite thing about working at the Blind Foundation is the people, “I really like my team and that makes a huge difference day to day. In terms of my job, I absolutely love that I’m working for an organisation that values accessibility and Plain English.”

Ellen is very into Live Action Role Play (LARP) and participates in it in her spare time. The best way to explain it is dressing up and playing pretend for adults. You play a character, costumed accordingly, and tell a story by roleplaying with other people. It’s improvisation, but the only audience is other people in the game. The usual perception is that it’s all high fantasy ‘Lord of the Rings’ type stuff, but the genres vary widely. Ellen has played everything from an android to Jane Austen, to a five-year-old at a birthday party. This weekend, Ellen is playing in a game set in the world of the Three Musketeers, where she is playing a crime-solving Nun!

Image shows hands typing on a braille keyboard

Thursday 18 May is Global Access Awareness Day. The purpose of this day is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion for people with different disabilities. Being blind or having low vison doesn’t stop your need to buy products, enjoy services and be part of society like everyone else. Often sighted people take for granted the ability to access websites and documents freely and easily and the impact not being provided access to such things can have on your life.

Making a document or website accessible means that someone who is blind or has low vision can access the information. There are many ways you can help to make the world around us more accessible. If your website is accessible adaptive technology can help blind or low vison users read the content. If your brochures are available by email as accessible PDFs, the same technology can help them access the information. If your menu is available in braille, a blind dinner will be able to choose their dish of the day.

There are lots of simple tricks you can use to create an accessible website.  The most common ones are:

  • Images and animations: use the alt attribute to describe the function of each visual.
  • Image maps: use the client-side map and text for hotspots.
  • Multi-media: provide captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video.
  • Hypertext links: use text that makes sense when read out of context.  For example, avoid ‘click here’.
  • Page organisation: use headings, lists, and consistent structure.  Use CSS for layout and style where possible.
  • Graphs and charts: summarise or use the longdesc attribute.
  • Scripts, applets and plug-ins: provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
  • Frames: use the noframes element and meaningful titles.
  • Tables: make line-by-line reading sensible.  Summarize.
  • Check your work: validate.  Use tools, checklists and guidelines at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines website.

If you want expert advice, the Blind Foundation team are here to help. Our free advice line provides quick tips and answers. We can also quote on a full service whether you want your current site evaluated or need to develop a new site. Give our team a call on 0800 932 847 or email

Image shows blind University of Auckland student Áine Kelly-Costello

Áine Kelly-Costello is a blind University of Auckland student studying Honours in Spanish, alongside French courses. She divides the rest of her time between her passions for music (mainly Celtic and Classical), languages, quality catch-ups with friends, and advocacy both for disability rights and action on climate change. Áine has written the following piece on why accessibility is important to her.

Consider these two personal anecdotes.

1. I’m blind and I’m catching a bus home from University. I know where to catch the bus, and I also know the route to walk home from my bus-stop at the other end. Hopping on the bus, I ask the driver to let me know when we get to my stop, providing the exact street corner. The driver doesn’t know where my bus stop is even though I’m sure it is on this bus route. I sit down anyway, having asked the driver to please look it up, as I’ll get lost if I get off at the wrong stop. The driver offers a non-committal grunt and we are on our way. The driver tells me I’m at my stop what feels like a little too soon, but I can’t be sure. I repeat the street corner and try to quickly check my phone, which is hard because he didn’t give me warning, so now everyone is waiting. The driver is getting more adamant it’s correct, so I get off the bus. Now, I have a good look (listen) to the map and discover I’m one bus stop too early. I get home in decent time, only thanks to the help of a kind stranger with a car.

2. I’ve been selected by my university to attend some sustainability leadership training. I ask where it is and the University staff member responding remembers I’m blind and offers to walk with me there as it’s about ten minutes away from the bulk of the campus. I gladly accept. A couple days later, I receive an email from another staff member (let’s call her Sally), noting that she mentioned to the presenter that I’m blind and the presenter has some visual material she will need to go over quite quickly. Sally takes the initiative to offer to run through these slides with me before the event and I also gratefully accept. At the beginning of the training day, Sally introduces me to the presenter who, it turns out, is keen to learn about how she can best describe her slides to make sure blind people are best able to interact with their visual elements. I’m more than happy to note down suggestions throughout the day, although thanks to the foresight of Sally, who ran through the slides with me, I barely get lost anyway.

A truly accessible Aotearoa is full of people like Sally who seek to honour their individual responsibility as part of a collective effort to ensure people with disabilities or other access needs feel fully included. A question we ask ourselves regularly in the advocacy space, I think, is “what is the most effective way of bringing more New Zealanders to this point?”. But I would rather focus on these two questions:

What methods will help us change mindsets? and

Why is each one effective and how can they complement each other? Below, I’ll do some cherry-picking, based on the areas I happen to know best.

The Blind Foundation gave me the opportunity to participate in some accessibility advocacy training last year. This lead me to taking up an internship with the Blind Foundation this summer, campaigning under the Access Matters banner for new accessibility legislation. Legislation can help make Aotearoa truly accessible because it has the potential to address the systemic roots of not being accessible. One of those roots surrounds the need to address what we, as people with disabilities, believe the concept of “accessibility” means and why access matters to us. Legislation would give us a platform to not only put our views in writing but ensure that all parties needing to comply are then aware of that collective view. Another root involves the need to push accessibility up the agendas of organisations and businesses and we can achieve this by putting deadlines on the writing and implementation of minimum accessibility standards.

An additional channel of advocacy, important to me, is that accomplished through Disabled People’s Organisations.  Here we, as disabled people, advocate on multiple issues for outcomes which will improve our quality of life. For instance, I am currently advocating via the Auckland Branch of Blind Citizens New Zealand for our local public library’s EBook service OverDrive to be more accessible. Finally, I, along with my fellow citizens with disabilities, spend no insignificant part of my life explaining why I need access to be improved andoften why that access is important or stating what I would miss out on without it.

This is a snapshot of just a few of the advocacy channels which seek to make Aotearoa truly accessible. It is often no easy feat to work out where we fit in among the numerous access barriers clamouring for our attention. As individuals and organisations, we may all have different priorities in terms of how we visualise creating an accessible country.  However, ultimately we would all, I think, like to see people with disabilities spend more time living the life they choose and less time removing unnecessary access barriers. I am proud to play some small part in advocating for this change.  I am grateful to the Blind Foundation for their tremendous support in empowering me to become a more thoughtful, strategic, and—I hope—effective accessibility advocate. Access matters — it will matter to me every day for the rest of my life — and I am excited to think that my actions can be harnessed to help communicate this message to all New Zealanders.

Image shows Sharon Jefferies, employment consultant, in front of a leafy plant.

Meet Sharon Jefferies, Employment Consultant based in Hamilton.

Sharon has been working at the Blind Foundation for three years now, covering a wide variety of responsibilities over that time.

Sharon’s job covers career development including providing assessment tools, CV, and cover letter support, mock interview tips, networking and job search strategies.

Sharon also supports clients on a range of challenges in their workplace including advocacy, disability rights, restructuring and job support processing for Workbridge.

In her role as Employment Consultant Sharon also works with BLENNZ on Tertiary Planning workshops and provides study and training support for clients in Waikato, New Plymouth, and Bay of Plenty regions.

Sharon has held many leadership positions in numerous committees and projects. She previously ran her own small company in career setting with staff, held and still holds several head coach roles, and led and developed the careers team at the University of Waikato.

Bringing this experience with her to the Blind Foundation, Sharon has worked on passing these leadership skills to clients. At January’s Taupo Summer camp Sharon held a session for the young leaders focused on the qualities of a great leader and how to develop those skills over the week.

Sharon loves being able to see clients put their leadership skills into action, “my favorite part is seeing clients motivating other members to achieve; mentoring and supporting each other and gaining confidence in communicating and self-advocating.”

When Sharon isn’t busy making a difference for clients she enjoys being involved with horses and sports, “I love X-country, jumping and dressage, I coach at pony club and for Riding for the Disabled and also mountain bike, run and go to the gym.”