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.