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Publication of the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc
Volume 53 No 3 – September 2017

In this Issue

  • What does the future hold, editorial by Carolyn Weston pg 2
  • From the President, Jonathan Godfrey pg 8
  • Support the new RNZFB Constitution pg 13
  • Blind Citizens NZ’s Draft Strategic Plan 2018-2010 pg 16
  • Guide Dog Handler Forum pg 19
  • Representative appointments’ update pg 20
  • Listening, Engaging, Connecting pg 20

2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference

  • Blind Citizens NZ Board structure and process review pg 21
  • World Blind Union Representative, Election Update pg 22
  • BLENNZ Board of Trustees – representative required pg 23
  • Cyril White Memorial Fund, October 2017 funding round pg 24
  • Vacancy, World Blind Union Committee pg 25
  • Blind Citizens NZ joins the Access Alliance pg 26
  • Feeling rubbish, makes a blind bit of difference pg 27
  • Telephone dictation voting – the way to vote pg 28
  • Support Blind Citizens NZ financial efforts pg 29
  • Blind Citizens NZ personnel pg 31
  • Acknowledgement of financial support pg 32

What does the Future Hold?

Editorial from Carolyn Weston

Here we go with another edition of our Focus Magazine. Next month, October, our National Annual General Meeting and Conference will be held in Invercargill. I hope those of you intending to join us at our AGM and Conference at the Ascot Park Hotel will find it interesting and enjoyable. Remember to bring your swimsuit so you can enjoy an early morning swim in the hotel’s indoor, heated swimming-pool before breakfast and the start of our business sessions. That would be a refreshing wake-up call. Otherwise, you may decide to take a dip in the indoor spa pool after the evening’s business and relax before heading off to bed.

I continue to marvel as we get older, at the way time flies. This year is no exception. I recently asked my 87-year old father if time slows down once one is over eighty years. His response was, as he grows older, time speeds faster and faster. I then began to think of what life would be like for blind and vision impaired New Zealanders in the future. Over the past fifty years, we’ve experienced vast progress in technology which now plays a major role in our lives. The introduction of driverless cars into New Zealand is now a reality, no longer a dream. Blind and vision-impaired people should be able to ride along our roads in these cars, without depending on sighted family members or friends to take us shopping, to work, an appointment, visiting, etc.

In some countries, robots already do some physical tasks such as working in a factory or doing housework. It won’t be long before we will see more robots here in New Zealand, doing these tasks. In ten or twenty years, will we have robots doing home management tasks, which today are fulfilled by care-givers or support workers.

Blind people may even be prescribed with an electronic head-band which is placed over their forehead so audio information enables the wearer to receive visual impulses of their surrounding environment. You may recall the blind navigator on the Enterprise in the TV series “Star Trek Next Generation”, wore such a device. Today there are apps and other modes of technology providing oral information on your surrounding environment, transmitted to your iPhone or smart phone. Technology can open the world for blind and vision impaired people but if designers of new technology ignore or forget about our need for audible instead of visual information and outputs, we will continue to struggle to compete with our sighted peers for jobs and to live an independent life.

Many government ministries, companies, and organisations now provide forms on their website so customers can fill in a form on-line. Whilst this is a brilliant opportunity for us to independently fill in our own forms, security access programmes such as “Real Me” which identifies each individual who has logged into the programme developing their own identity profile, uses visual prompts allowing a person further access so they can fill in the form then store it in a private domain within the website. Other website programmes may use graphic identification systems to verify each individual meaning that if we can’t see what’s on the computer screen then respond to it, we are unable to progress further because our screen readers can’t verbalise graphics, just text.

Other blind people may not have received training to fill in forms on-line. Whilst many people expect the Blind Foundation to train everyday computer skills to all blind people throughout the country, this isn’t happening due to restricted resources. It is a higher priority to provide training to blind people who wish to study or work in the paid workforce. Others consider that blind and vision-impaired people should be able to access computer training from community agencies such as SeniorNet or a local adult educational institute.

This is a great concept but tutors and teachers working in the mainstream adult education arena don’t have knowledge of our adaptive technology. For example, some years ago I enrolled and attended a computer course at the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT). The tutor didn’t know anything about JAWS the screen reader I use and during the course, I found it difficult when experiencing problems when accessing websites as the tutor didn’t know how to resolve these problems. At that time my son was living at home. He had considerable computer knowledge and he was permitted to come and help me during the classes. However, many blind people don’t have someone available who can assist them in this fashion. Today my son lives in another part of New Zealand so I don’t have this option anymore either. At present those of us who are older and not in paid employment or study are in a catch twenty-two situation, where we need to gain more generic computer skills to be able to do everyday computer operations such as filling a form in on-line, ordering groceries or clothes on-line or being involved in social media.

At present, in many regions throughout the country, especially in smaller cities and towns, it is even more difficult to access training to obtain these skills. Let’s hope that within the very near future local tutors and teachers of generic computer skills can learn about adaptive technology so they have the confidence and knowledge to teach blind adults in their classes. Then we can join our friends in a SeniorNet class or another community computer course.

Another issue is the cost of equipment and technology. There have always been some blind people with the ability to purchase their own equipment and adaptive technology. However, many others are unable to do so due to lack of personal funds. The blind community should be grateful for the Sir Arthur Pearson Memorial Fund, which provides funding to clients of the Blind Foundation requiring equipment or some other commodity to assist with their sight loss.

This is a fund of last resort, and a financial contribution may be required. The Pearson Fund can consider requests for items which are considered a cost of blindness. This is defined as costs that a blind person incurs that are not normally incurred by a person who is not blind. Examples include day-to-day blindness items, glasses and items of adaptive technology such as computers, smart devices and adaptive software. The application process varies for each type of request so please contact the Pearson Fund Administrator for advice on 0800 24 33 33 or you can listen to the Pearson Fund Guide on the Telephone Information Service at option 3 3 or read the Guide online at https://blindfoundation.org.nz/how-we-can-help/community-resources/financial-assistance/

While we do not know whether other disabled New Zealanders (who do not have any sight impairment of any kind), can access disability specific funds such as the Pearson Fund, we who are blind should be grateful, especially to those people who came before us, and had the foresight to create this fund.

At present clients of the Blind Foundation access blind rehabilitation and support services by enrolling for services, and then under-going a needs assessment. Once the client has identified their needs, services will be offered to address them. However, in the future Government ministries such as the Ministry of Health may not contract disability service providers such as the Blind Foundation to provide rehabilitation and support services to blind and vision-impaired people. Instead, the Ministry of Health may allocate funds through an option called Individualised Funding, for us to purchase these services from a service provider who offers blindness rehabilitation and support services. Individualised Funding is a mechanism that enables disabled people to directly manage their disability supports. It seems Government intends to fund more disability services such as those provided by the Blind Foundation this way, but we do not know when this funding model will be introduced.

Some of us will already be using Individualised Funding for personal care or household management. Whilst Individualised Funding will provide clients/customers autonomy, there will still be checks and balances such as a needs assessment that takes into account essential need and natural supports available to you. Individualised Funding gives you increased choice and control to choose who provides this support, and how and when you use it. Options range from engaging support workers and planning how your supports will be used, to employing your own care providers and managing all aspects of service delivery. The Ministry of Health contracts Host Organisations to support people using Individualised Funding, and they provide a range of services including ensuring and reporting to the Ministry of Health that funds are used for the purpose for which they have been allocated.

Another aspect we need to consider prior to its introduction to the blind community is how much money will be available to each client/customer for purchasing the services they need. Today we know Government doesn’t contract the Blind Foundation to support 100% costs of the rehabilitation and support service it provides. Will Individualised Funding ensure that 100% of each person’s needs are funded by Government, or will a user pay system be introduced to cover the shortfall from Government funds? If so, blindness rehabilitation and support services will become inequitable.

Also, once Individualised Funding is fully introduced, this should enable customers to purchase blindness services from one or more providers. Competition could improve service quality or not, depending on an agency’s ability to market their services and manage their budget. While this could create further inequities, the problem is that we don’t know. Funding of services is an important issue and we should all be prepared for new funding models in the future.

Maybe in time the world will no longer depend upon economic structures as we do now. Blind and vision-impaired people may become extinct due to medical and technical intervention. However, Governments will have to feed more funds into medical eye interventions to eliminate the incidence of sight loss before we see a huge reduction in the number of blind and vision impaired people in our world. Recently, the New Zealand Herald published an article reporting that about 20,000 patients were waiting for over-due hospital eye-appointments. Throughout the country, almost 70 people had experienced loss of sight due to the delay in their eye appointment. Such statistics in a developed country like New Zealand is appalling and we shouldn’t hear news about patients who are not receiving much-needed medical treatment due to lack of Government resources.

We do not know what influence medical interventions and technology may bring about long-term. However there is no doubt in my mind, when looking back over the past fifty years, observing all the changes we’ve experienced, that the trend for patients not to receive medical treatment due to a lack of Government resource, will not just continue but increase.

The Board has recently appointed a new Focus Editor, which means this will be my last editorial. It is almost ten years since I took on this role. I hope you have found my writings interesting and stimulating. Also that these have given you the confidence to stand up and advocate on something that has bugged you. Such as children dropping their bikes over the footpath outside your local dairy, seeking control from your local authority on where they permit sandwich-boards to be placed, or making a formal complaint because a shop or restaurant wouldn’t let you bring your guide dog into their premises, despite the law. I have to say I am looking forward to sitting back and reading our new Focus Editor’s editorials.

To conclude, I wish the new editor good luck in their role, and I thank those of you for your assistance in providing your thoughts on some topics. As I say my goodbyes as your editor, I also thank you all for taking the time to read Focus.

Freedom to Choose

From the President, Jonathan Godfrey

Greetings everyone. It’s been an action packed few months since I wrote my last column, both for me personally and for Blind Citizens NZ. I don’t know where or when I first heard the three words of the title of my column, but they keep coming back and back to me in a variety of situations as a personal mantra.

Your Board has been gathering feedback on the Draft Strategic Plan over the last few months. The Board agreed to the statement of purpose “Blind Citizens NZ exists to give voice to the aspirations and lived experiences of blind, deafblind and vision-impaired New Zealanders.” I’ve used this single sentence several times in public presentations and more often when I’ve been talking to people; it seems to work well for everyone I’ve spoken with, whether they be blind or sighted. The “aspirations” in the purpose speaks very loudly to me because it says we are looking for something different to what we have now. We may want to develop or grow as individuals in a very personal way, and we also want the best for each other as blind people. We need to have the right information to help us make the best decisions that allow us to make the most of the opportunities before us, and we want to decide for ourselves what it is that we each want. For me, that is about choices – the freedom to choose, and actually the freedom to decide not to choose.

Further into the Draft Strategic Plan, you’ll see “Goal 1: Blind people live in an accessible, equitable and inclusive society” and “Goal 4: Blind people receive the services they need to approach everyday life with independence, confidence and dignity.” I invite you to take a slow read of the Draft Strategic Plan and tell us if it speaks to what you want from Blind Citizens NZ. I want each of us to have the freedom to choose the life we want and at the moment the key phrases that speak to me are “an accessible, equitable and inclusive society” and “everyday life with independence, confidence and dignity.”

All too often in life, I feel my personal dignity being reduced because of the disabling situation I find myself in. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these situations come about because another person made a decision or took an action that left me short-changed somehow. Was it the person that didn’t listen to my concerns about not being able to use the printer in my workplace now that it uses touch screen technology? Was it the person that decided the additional tools we as blind people need to travel with dignity in a variety of modes of transport are not able to be accommodated because they aren’t in the budget?

These are questions that express my frustration, and they then lead to more expressive questions that are perhaps a little more challenging. For example: Should I have to pay for a service that leaves me feeling vulnerable or feeling like I am nothing more than a parcel to be manhandled around, told where to sit, when to stand up and when to sit down? These are real situations I’ve experienced, and I know other blind people have had experiences that are as, or even more, demeaning.

I recently attended the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB) Annual Convention held in Orlando.

I went for work reasons (teaching blind students about statistical software), but I couldn’t help but soak up some of the culture I found in a large hotel complex hosting its fifth gathering of well over 2000 blind people bashing and crashing around independently.

Yes, there was a lot of noise, and perhaps some of us would cringe at the behaviours of some individuals, fiercely defending and demanding independence, but not once did I get any service from hotel staff that I felt was going to question my dignity in the week I was there.

I was a valued guest at reception, a valued customer in the market where I bought lots of tools and toys for blind people, and a valued diner at breakfast where I demolished another massive heart attack inducing American breakfast. I learnt a lot while I was overseas; a lot about the way blind people live in different places, and a fair bit about myself too.

I started writing this column on the day I heard of the passing of Sir Colin Meads, and so progress was a little slow as I listened to numerous commentators talk about the man and what it means to be a New Zealander. I was able to reflect on the way we work in New Zealand, as a society in general and how Blind Citizens NZ operates as a Disabled Person’s Organisation in particular.

Kiwis tend to like to work with others more than working against them; we play the ball and not the man; we admire humility and modesty. These attributes were brought home to me as I attended the NFB Convention. Why? Because I felt very alone in that very large crowd of blind people at times because the kiwi in me felt quite at odds with the way the NFB works. I felt that speaker after speaker at the Convention promoted the need to fight, to stand up and be counted by joining others in their fight, and the language used was often combative and inflammatory.

In contrast, I remember my first Blind Citizens NZ Conference back in 2002, where I felt like I had come home. Yes, our members speak passionately about the issues of the day, and there are times when we do not agree with one another, but very seldom have I observed anything close to personal attacks or such heated debates that have led to long-held grudges.

I’ve been reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of my first NFB Convention; discussing it with my friends and family, both sighted and blind alike; and trying to work out how we can protect the Kiwi way in the work we do when others want to follow a more combative approach.

I can already hear someone claiming that we haven’t tried hard enough to use the legal mechanisms available to us, which don’t have to be combative. Yes, I think we ought to use every tool that is available to us, but perhaps we need to use the tools that are the most appropriate for each of us. Some of you might prefer to send an email while others will reach for the phone when it is time to let a decision-maker know what it is we need as blind people; some people will want to use Human Rights legislation to pursue some matters. At the moment, the momentum is with the Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) Coalition and the Disability Action Plan. That is where my personal energy is going today, but when the time comes that progress towards getting the dignity I want in my everyday life is slowing to an unacceptable pace, I’ll be more than willing to change my game plan.

The work being done through the DPO Coalition has led to some advocacy matters being progressed. A key example is the progress being made on getting an acceptable form of identification in place of the driver’s licence used by many sighted people. Through the meetings held with Government officials where the right people came together, we discovered that the need for ID is a much bigger concern than we’d considered previously.

We’ll still have to see what that progress looks like in the end, but this is an advocacy issue that has been coming up time and again for blind people over many years.

Another development (a little closer to my professional interests) is that of data. There is a cynical saying that suggests that if something doesn’t matter it doesn’t get measured (true enough), but that if it isn’t measured then it doesn’t matter (not always true). Data on the impact of disability has been a difficult exercise worldwide. Results from the census and survey questions used in NZ have not been directly comparable to the other countries we normally compare ourselves to.

That is undergoing change right now. We will see different questions in the next NZ census and we’ve already used them in a major survey called the General Social Survey. TO quote Statistics NZ, “We carry out the General Social Survey (GSS) to provide information on the well-being of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over. It covers a wide range of social and economic outcomes, and shows how people in different groups within the New Zealand population are faring.” This time, for the first time, we, as disabled New Zealanders, are one of the identifiable groups.

When asked a question about their overall life satisfaction, 37.6% of the disabled people surveyed gave an answer in the range 0-6 on a 0-10 scale as compared to only 15.1% for nondisabled respondents. On a question asking if life is worthwhile, the two percentages were 25.2% and 11.8%. On asking if adequacy of income to meet every day needs, the proportions of respondents saying that they did not have enough money were 20.2% and 10.0%; when asked about the need for immediate or extensive repairs on their home, the percentages were 11.4% and 6.2%; and the list goes on. It is depressing, but this is a story that needed to be told and more importantly, needs to be heard.

The ability to add the real evidence from impersonal aggregated population data to the very personal anecdotal evidence from individuals is a game changer. We can put this evidence on the table when we meet with the people that can make a difference. I trust that they as Kiwis will be wanting to work with us to make this a better New Zealand for all of us. I look at those questions in the GSS and wonder what I would have answered, and why. In the end, I conclude that the questions where I have the freedom to choose are those areas where I would have answered at the highest (better) end of the measurement scale. That’s what I want for all blind people.

Blind Citizens NZ Supports the newly drafted RNZFB Constitution – We encourage members to support this too

Since early 2016, the Blind Foundation’s Constitutional Review Committee has worked steadfastly on the development of a new RNZFB Constitution. While the journey has not always been smooth, of note are the many opportunities there have been to influence the outcome. Blind Citizens NZ, along with several others, have made submissions and/or met with the Constitutional Review Committee along the way.

When thinking about the work that has happened and the extent to which changes have been introduced, the achievements overall are of significance, such as:

  • the removal of proxy voting;
  • there will be a mandatory period for members to consider proposals before they are voted on;
  • when mandatory Board policies are to be amended there is a requirement to consult with members about those changes;
  • there is greater clarity regarding processes involving members initiating proposals and/or special meetings;
  • the Associate Director seat has been removed;
  • there is greater clarity around and promotion of ways for members both individually and collectively, to seek information from the Board and hold it to account; and
  • there are restrictions around the extent to which the Board can modify the Constitution without the approval of Members.

During its August meeting, the Board of Blind Citizens NZ, considered the draft RNZFB Constitution noting all the above points as well as self-determination. A key aspect for Blind Citizens NZ and individual members is the requirement for a preamble about self-determination to be included in the newly drafted Constitution.

Blind Citizens NZ’s position on self-determination, is further emphasised in the remit from Blind Citizens NZ’s Auckland Branch, and championed by Don McKenzie. This remit asks that in the event the new RNZFB Constitution does not include a preamble about self-determination, that Blind Citizens NZ should not support it.

The Board of Blind Citizens NZ is pleased to have this opportunity to state publically, its support for the preamble about self-determination, and changes overall. Additionally, on behalf of Auckland Branch, the Board advises the branch’s intent to withdraw its remit on self-determination, when this arises during Blind Citizens NZ’s 2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference.

The preamble about self-determination that will appear in the final draft of the RNZFB Constitution follows. Given all the changes introduced, including the preamble, Blind Citizens NZ encourages members to support the newly drafted RNZFB Constitution, and to ensure your vote counts at the Blind Foundation’s Special Meeting on11 November 2017.

Now to the preamble from the final draft of the RNZFB Constitution…

[begins] This Constitution and interpretation thereof is to be consistent with modern disability philosophy as expressed through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Convention), the New Zealand Disability Strategy (Disability Strategy) and the principle of self-determination of blind people.

The Disability Convention promotes, protects and ensures the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and it promotes respect for their inherent dignity, requiring they are closely consulted and actively involved in decisions relating to them.

The Disability Strategy adopted in 2016 guides the Government’s work on disability issues. The Government’s vision is that New Zealand is a non-disabling society where disabled people have an equal opportunity to achieve their goals and aspirations and New Zealand works together to make this happen.

The principle of self-determination of blind people was first incorporated into the Constitution of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (Foundation) in 2003. For the Foundation, self-determination means that blind people have the right to:

  • full citizenship;
  • personal autonomy, choice and control over their lives;
  • be fully included in New Zealand society;
  • equitable access to specialised blindness services and support to enable them to live effectively;
  • individually and/or collectively shape the design and direction of these services and supports;
  • effectively monitor the Foundation’s accountabilities and performance based on transparency and access to information;
  • elect the Board of Directors;
  • individually and/or collectively advocate on their own behalf. [ends]

The next stage will shortly commence leading to the final step in the process i.e. the Blind Foundation’s Special Meeting on 11 November 2017, to consider and vote on the newly drafted RNZFB Constitution. The Board of Blind Citizens NZ congratulates the Constitutional Review Committee, and reiterates its support for the preamble on self-determination and changes overall, in the newly drafted RNZFB Constitution.

Blind Citizens NZ Draft Strategic Plan 2018-2020

One of the many pieces of work the Board has invested its time in over recent months, is the preparation of Blind Citizens NZ’s next strategic plan. The draft has done the round of branches and networks, and been publicised via other options including on our National Feedback Line Bulletin on the Blind Foundation’s Telephone Information Service. It will now make its way to this year’s Annual General Meeting and Conference for final discussion, and adoption. To make sure our members and supporters are privy to the approach Blind Citizens NZ will take through to 2020, the draft strategic plan is publicised in our September Focus issue. For those familiar with Blind Citizens NZ’s strategic plans of recent times, you will note the difference here where a purpose, vision, and values are included.

We hope you will read the draft Strategic Plan 2018-2020. Most important is that you will find ways to offer feedback and/or your support, remembering you can do this in person if attending this year’s Annual General Meeting and Conference.

Draft Strategic Plan 2018-2020


Blind Citizens NZ exists to give voice to the aspirations and lived experiences of blind, deafblind and vision-impaired New Zealanders.


Blind, deafblind and vision-impaired people live the life they choose.

In the context of this document, the word “blind” encompasses all those who are blind, deafblind or vision-impaired who can identify with our goals.


  • We value:
  • respect for the different ways each of us responds to the challenges of blindness;
  • the shared learning and support received from the lived experiences of others;
  • adherence to democratic principles that ensure our representations are broadly based;
  • commitment to sustained effort in our advocacy;
  • constructive, cooperative and mutually supportive relationships with other disability organisations;
  • the principles and opportunities afforded by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the New Zealand Disability Strategy;
  • our history and the role we have played in the lives of blind people since 1945.

Goal 1: Blind people live in an accessible, equitable and inclusive society

  • We will advocate on the grounds of human rights and equity to those whose laws, regulations, operations, activities, attitudes or products create barriers to our full participation in society.

Goal 2: The community’s response to blindness is reflected in affirmative actions and attitudes

  • We will create greater community awareness and education around the abilities and capabilities of blind people to participate fully in society given the means and opportunities to do so, and will ensure blindness is always portrayed in a positive light.

Goal 3: Blind people are confident and successful advocates on both a personal and systemic level

  • We will provide and support advocacy training for our members and demonstrate through collective action, how blind people can bring about change for the better in their own life and in the lives of others in the blind community.

Goal 4: Blind people receive the services they need to approach everyday life with independence, confidence and dignity

  • We will assess the services of providers specifically funded to provide blindness services to ensure that the needs and expectations of those receiving them are being met; and will advocate for improvement in both quantity and quality where there is evidence of unmet need.
  • We will advocate for a better service experience for blind people using public services, and support training for non-blindness-specific service providers in how to cater for our needs.

Goal 5: Blind Citizens NZ is recognised for its leadership in the blind community, and as a leading Disabled People’s Organisation in the disability sector

  • We will work with Government and our disability sector partners to translate the rights conferred under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Disability Strategy and the Disability Action Plan into tangible and practical outcomes that will create a non-disabling society for all those with a disability.

Goal 6: Blind Citizens NZ is a listening, receptive and responsive organisation that encourages people to want to belong

  • We will maintain a consistent flow of information through a variety of media to the blind community and seek every opportunity to engage with blind people of all ages about the impact of blindness on their lives.
  • We will promote and provide a safe and welcoming environment within our branches and networks for activities that encourage social interaction, peer support and the sharing of information and advice.

Goal 7: The value of what Blind Citizens NZ adds to the blind community and society in general is evidenced both in growing membership and funder support

  • We will actively promote the benefits of joining our organisation to the blind community, with special attention to youth engagement.
  • We will demonstrate to supporters and funders that we are a dynamic and constructive disabled people’s organisation worthy of their financial support and backing.

Guide Dog Handler Forum

Yes, we are all go and well into preparation for our first ever, Guide Dog Handlers Forum. By the time this Focus issue arrives in your mail box, attendees coming to this Forum will be hearing snippets of information about the two-day event, and where applicable, learning about their travel and sundry other related-matters.

Our two-day forum is on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 October. Attendees comprise both existing and aspiring guide dog handlers, and whanau. Anyone who has questions about the Forum should contact our National Office (details at the end of this Focus issue).

Representative Appointments

In the March and June Focus issues, three representative positions were advertised. The Board considered expressions of interest for each of the three positions during its August meeting. Congratulations go to the following members on their respective appointments:

  • Allan Jones, Focus Editor;
  • Paula Waby, Workbridge Council representative;
  • Mary Schnackenberg, Ministry of Health Disability Support Services Consumer Consortium.

Listening, Connecting, Engaging

2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference

There is still time to register and join everyone at this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference. The theme is Listening, Connecting, and Engaging. There is so much information to absorb and share. This led the Board to explore what new and different ways there might be to communicate and engage about its work, and what members want to hear about.

The Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill is this year’s venue and already the programme for Friday 13 to Sunday 15 October inclusive, is looking full, with several thought-provoking discussions planned to happen. Bearing in mind there will be a 10am start time on 13 October, attendees are encouraged to plan travel and to arrive Thursday 12 October. Working around air-travel departures primarily, we will be finishing up no later than 11.30am, Sunday.

Guest speakers include a panel of past and present National Presidents of Blind Citizens NZ from 1993 to present. Aine Kelly-Costello will present on the topic of blind youth and communication. Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero is joined by speakers each of whom has a specific focus on human rights and/or legislation.

Graeme Nahkies from BoardWorks International talks about organisational procedures that contribute to the Board’s work programme.

Costs for accommodation and meals are always a key consideration for everyone. In this regard, the Board, with the support of the Ascot Hotel’s support and competitive pricing, has taken steps to ensure accommodation and meal costs are on a par with those for last year. When considering attendance involves three nights’ accommodation (not two), and all meals from dinner Thursday evening, through to Sunday’s morning tea, the package is great i.e. costs are $542 for single accommodation and $400 per person for shared accommodation. Additionally, even at this stage you can take advantage of our registration instalment plan, to avoid taking that hit when a large sum of money needs to be paid. To complete your plans to attend, contact our National Office on 0800 222 6940 or email us at admin@abcnz.org.nz for full details.

Blind Citizens NZ Board Structure and Processes

The Board has been giving serious thought over recent times, to its own processes and operations and how these may be impacting on Blind Citizens NZ as a whole. To this end, the Board is bringing to this year’s Annual General Meeting and Conference, a discussion paper entitled “Blind Citizens NZ Board structure and processes”.

Circulated to branches and networks during July 2017, the discussion paper explores a number of governance-related items in which the Board feels change may be beneficial. Items the Board is raising for consideration, discussion, and guidance from attendees at this year’s AGM and Conference include:

  • The abolishment of extra-ordinary elections forthwith.
  • Reducing the number of Board Members to eight, with the option of a reduction to seven at an appropriate time.
  • Delegating to the Board the authority to appoint up to two co-opted members for a period not exceeding two years and who need not be financial ordinary members of Blind Citizens NZ.
  • Increasing the term of office for Board members to three years.
  • Reviewing the position of World Blind Union Representative, as a board position and that it become an appointed position subject to expressions of interest in future.
  • That the Annual General Meeting and Conference discuss what remedial action can be taken to attract people to put themselves forward for the Board.

The discussion paper in its entirety is available on our National Feedback Line Bulletin. You can read this by selecting options: 5 (consumer organisations), 1 (Blind Citizens NZ), 4 (Blind Citizens NZ organisational documents), 8 (Memos to Branches), then select the option for Memo 17.

Blind Citizens NZ 2017 Election Update

Rose Wilkinson, Returning Officer

This election update will alert financial ordinary (voting) members of an election that is underway. Additionally, this informs everyone there will be no election for the positions of National President, and four Members-at-Large. At the close of nominations, 4pm Thursday 24 August, the incumbents were each re-elected unopposed.

At approximately the same time as the September Focus issue arrives in your mailbox, financial Ordinary Members will be receiving ballot material to vote for one of two candidates standing for election to fill the World Blind Union Representative vacancy. Candidates standing for election to this position in alphabetical order by surname are Áine Kelly-Costello and Paula Waby.

Expressions of Interest – Representative on the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ Board of Trustees

Blind Citizens NZ is calling for expressions of interest to fill the position it holds on the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) Board of Trustees.

BLENNZ is a special character school, providing education services to blind and low vision learners (including those who are deafblind, or have additional special needs) from birth (or diagnosis) to age 21. Centred at its residential campus at Homai, through its Visual Resource Centres and mainstream schools attended by blind and low vision learners BLENNZ provides services throughout the country. Jonathan Godfrey has been in this role for three years and has made it known he will not be seeking reappointment.

If you are keen to commit to a three-year appointment and meet the following expectations, the Board is keen to hear from you.

You will be eligible for consideration provided you:

  • have experienced the education system as a blind person at primary and/or secondary level;
  • understand the implications of special education as it relates to the core curriculum;
  • identify with the needs of a wide range of students who are at different points in the schooling process; and
  • can demonstrate familiarity with Blind Citizens NZ’s position on life-long education.

Having read the requirements of this representative position, if you believe you meet them, and above all, that you are passionate about making sure blind and low vision students get the best education they can, then please consider putting your name forward for this role. Additionally you are encouraged to request information about the duties and responsibilities required of Blind Citizens NZ’s representative from National Office.

We need to receive expressions of interest by 4pm, Thursday 9 November 2017. You can submit this via any of the following options:

Cyril White Memorial Fund

Closing Date for Applications – 2 October 2017

The Cyril White Memorial Fund facilitates funding opportunities that encourage and cultivate leadership skills and qualities among blind, and vision impaired people. Blind Citizens NZ, together with the Blind Foundation, are responsible for publicising these opportunities. The next round closes on 2 October 2017 (noting 1 October is a Sunday).

Cyril White was a pioneer in the blindness advocacy movement, and is it this that led to the establishment of the Cyril White Memorial Fund following his death in 1984. Eligibility of applicants is primarily about those eligible for full registration with the Blind Foundation. In addition, projects that are likely to be of direct benefit or interest to blind and vision-impaired people are eligible for consideration.

If you have a project or activity and want to find out whether this meets the fund criteria, contact us for full details. Then when you submit your application, you will be confident you have ticked all required boxes, and most of all, that you meet the eligibility criteria.

We must receive applications to the Cyril White Memorial Fund by 4pm, 2 October February 2017 (noting 1 October is a Sunday). These should be for the attention of: Cyril White Fund, C/ Blind Citizens NZ, PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242. Alternatively, by email to admin@abcnz.org.nz including in the subject line, Cyril White Fund application.

Blind Citizens NZ – World Blind Union Committee Vacancy

Expressions of Interest Invited

Are you interested in international blindness matters? Do you have a yearning to put this to good use? If you do, then read on…

Our World Blind Union (WBU) Committee exists to support the role of the WBU Representative. This committee comprises up to four financial Ordinary (voting) Members of Blind Citizens NZ, plus the WBU Representative. The term of office for all four positions is two years, and runs concurrently with the term of office for the WBU Representative. You will have already read in this Focus issue, that an extra-ordinary election to fill the WBU Representative position is underway. As it happens, we have a vacancy to fill on the WBU Committee also. The term of office for all positions concludes at the end of Blind Citizens NZ’s 2018 Annual General Meeting and Conference.

Our September Focus issue is a great opportunity to publicise the vacancy on our WBU Committee and call for expressions of interest. Therefore, if you meet the criteria and are interested in filling the vacancy, submit an expression of interest along with a profile that reflects your involvement in and interest of Blind Citizens NZ and blindness issues internationally. Please be aware there is a 1,000 word-limit. Additionally, we have a set of guidelines that will assist you to compile your profile (CV) when sending in your expression of interest. You are encouraged to contact National Office for these.

We need to receive your expression of interest by 4pm, Thursday 9 November 2017. You can submit this via any of the following options:

Blind Citizens NZ joins the Access Alliance

You too can support the Accessibility Matters Campaign

Blind Citizens NZ is a member of the Access Alliance Steering Group. In conjunction with our organisational advocacy programme, Blind Citizens NZ is lending its support for accessibility legislation (Accessibility for New Zealanders Act). The Access Alliance, which leads the Access Matters Campaign, is a coalition of disabled people, disability organisations and supporters.

Blind Citizens NZ takes this opportunity to promote information about the Open Letter, which you too can support. The Open Letter petitions leaders of political parties, calling them to commit to the introduction of accessibility legislation, including enforceable accessibility standards. The Open Letter is available in audio and braille from the Blind Foundation, electronically from the Access Alliance website http://www.accessalliance.org.nz/ and large print and electronically from Blind Citizens NZ i.e. email us at admin@abcnz.org.nz or phone 0800 222 6940. The open letter:

  • Calls on leaders to show leadership this election by committing their party to introducing accessibility legislation, including enforceable accessibility standards, in the next parliamentary term.
  • Urges leaders to recognise that increased accessibility presents one of the largest opportunities for social and economic development for all New Zealanders.
  • Requires leaders to invest in the wellbeing of all New Zealanders by acting to ensure that jobs and workplaces are accessible to everyone, including 14,000 New Zealanders with disabilities who are ready and able to work, yet struggle to gain employment.

You can find more information about the Open Letter and details of the proposed Accessibility for New Zealanders Act, and the Access Matters campaign at http://www.accessalliance.org.nz/

“Feeling Rubbish” Makes a Blind Bit of Difference

From Auckland Branch, Blind Citizens NZ

The Auckland Branch of Blind Citizens NZ has launched Feeling Rubbish, a guide to help blind and vision impaired Aucklanders sort household rubbish by touch.

Paul Brown, former Chair of the Auckland Branch, said, “Thanks to a ‘zero waste’ grant from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund (WMIF), I’m very proud to launch the first guide on reducing waste that we could find specifically aimed at blind and vision impaired people. As Aucklanders, we intend to make more than a blind bit of difference by dealing with our waste responsibly.”

Written by Vicki Hall, with the help of blind and vision impaired members from the Auckland community, Feeling Rubbish is available in audio CD, braille and large print as well as electronic formats. To further help distinguish between soft plastics and composites, “rubbish rings” with samples of rubbish have been created to help us identify the different types of packaging and waste by touch, and where to put it.

We launched the guide at our AGM on 5 August. Auckland Councillor Penny Hulse, Chair of the Environment and Community Committee says the council is committed to support community groups who share their goal of zero waste by 2040.

“Feeling Rubbish will help our blind and vision impaired community to sort household rubbish and recycle as much as possible, as well as help make their lives a little bit easier. This is a very exciting project and I am thrilled at the innovative ideas in the guide. It is full of information that is relevant to everyone, and I hope it will inspire other Aucklanders and communities beyond Auckland to find new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

As a huge bonus our guide has been endorsed by our own National President, Jonathan Godfrey, who is a gardener with some 30+ fruit trees and he practises composting, worm farming and bokashi management of his household and garden waste. Speaking at the launch, Jonathan told us that our guide explained in about an hour of reading how to manage rubbish, which he had needed to learn the hard way by attending several workshops for sighted householders.

Auckland Blind Foundation library borrowers should by now have received the CD version of the guide. It’s up on Booklink for smartphone users and also on TIS at menu option 4 1 1 1 1 4. We’ve posted large print copies to our Auckland Branch members who have chosen large print as their format, and braille copies to branch members who have braille as their format. The accessible PDF version is at http://makethemostofwaste.co.nz/media/1390/feeling-rubbish-accessible-pdf.pdf. More copies of Feeling Rubbish are available from the Auckland Branch Secretary, Mary Schnackenberg, phone 09 520 4242 or email mary@lansink.co.nz.

Telephone Dictation Voting the way to Vote

If you are not already registered to vote in the General Election by Telephone Dictation Voting, you have until 7pm, Thursday 21 September to register – phone 0800 028 028. If you are already registered, voting by Telephone Dictation Voting opened Wednesday 6 September.

Information, including a short video and accessible resources, is available online here


This information is also available on the Blind Foundation’s Telephone Information Service.

Please Support Our Income Generation Efforts

Blind Citizens NZ has both Charitable and Donee status, which is important for anyone thinking about the mutually beneficial outcomes of payroll giving and making us your charity of choice. Income received through donations, bequests and payroll giving for example, go a long way towards supporting the many facets of our work such as our advocacy campaigns, promotional campaigns, and communication and community education. Making us the recipient of a bequest or legacy, is another way you can support us. We include information about each of these options.

Payroll Giving: this is an easy simple way for an employee to donate to a charity of their choice, such as Blind Citizens NZ. When an employee donates to a charity through their payroll, they receive a tax refund immediately. For all other types of donation, the donor must wait until the end of the tax year to receive their tax refund. One of the key benefits of donating through your wages (Payroll Giving) is that as an employee you may decide to donate your refund to the charity as well. Charitable Payroll Giving is optional and not all employers will participate. Blind Citizens NZ has Donee Status, and is eligible to receive payroll gifts. There are five steps to Payroll Giving donations.

  1. Ask your employer if payroll giving is an employee benefit. Advocate for Blind Citizens NZ, and outline why you are passionate about the organisation. Some employers match payroll gifts with a contribution of their own.
  1. If payroll giving is available, provide your employer with the bank account details for Blind Citizens NZ. If necessary, provide contact details for the Executive Officer Rose Wilkinson.
  1. Decide how much you can afford, and how frequently you will donate, considering the immediate tax benefit.
  1. Notify Blind Citizens NZ that you are making a payroll gift. Your employer may transfer the money into Blind Citizens NZ’s bank account without any notification.
  1. Tell all your friends and colleagues about how the good work of Blind Citizens NZ supports you. Encourage your work colleagues to support us.

Making a Bequest: Through our efforts and your financial support, we are working on the removal of the barriers we face so we can make our mark in the world. We are not an organisation helping blind people. We are blind people ourselves putting our own personal time and energy into pursuing our vision of a world in which we can be fully independent and able to contribute to our full potential. During the past 12 months, Blind Citizens has been extremely fortunate to benefit from legacies, and we take this opportunity to recognise generically, the generosity of those people and their families.

Your Will can make a lasting gift and Blind Citizens NZ would be extremely grateful for any contribution. If you choose to leave a gift to Blind Citizens NZ, suggested wording for your will is:

I give and bequeath (_________) percent of my estate to the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Incorporated to be applied for general purposes. A receipt taken by my trustee as being given on behalf of Blind Citizens NZ will be a complete discharge to my trustee for the legacy.

To find out how we inform those who have pledged their support to us, if you have questions or you wish to make a contribution contact:

Personnel – Blind Citizens NZ


Focus Editor

Email articles to: focus@abcnz.org.nz

Post: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242

National Office

Postal: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242

Physical: Ground Floor, 113 Adelaide Road, Newtown, Wellington

Phone: 04-389-0033; 0800-ABCNZ-INC (0800-222-694)

Fax: 04-389-0030; Internet: http://www.abcnz.org.nz

Email: admin@abcnz.org.nz

Executive Officer, Rose Wilkinson: rwilkinson@abcnz.org.nz

Blind Citizens NZ is appreciative of donations received from our members, and for funding from the Blind Foundation, Lotteries Grants Board, Think Differently, and Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui.

Focus, Volume 53 No 3 – September 2017

Blind Citizens NZ Nelson Branch General Meeting
Held on Saturday 20th May 2017 at 2.00pm at Church of Christ Hall,

Mike Stevens (National Councillor), standing in for Amanda (Chair) Welcomed all to the Meeting

Present: Mike Stevens, Kaye Halkett, John Monk, Beryl Stansbury, Andrea Kepes, Betty Hodda, Ruth Chignell, Gill Clayton, Kathy Harris, Judy Campbell, Beryl Spencer, Valeria Alford, Elizabeth Raaijen, Mavis Ducray, David McNamara, Joan Davidsen, Susie Diserens, Ann Taylor, Ruth Nicholson, Shane Mead, and Jenny Meadows (acting Secretary)

Blind Citizens NZ Nelson Branch General Meeting
Held on Saturday 20th May 2017 at 2.00pm at Church of Christ Hall,

Mike Stevens (National Councillor), standing in for Amanda (Chair) Welcomed all to the Meeting

Present: Mike Stevens, Kaye Halkett, John Monk, Beryl Stansbury, Andrea Kepes, Betty Hodda, Ruth Chignell, Gill Clayton, Kathy Harris, Judy Campbell, Beryl Spencer, Valeria Alford, Elizabeth Raaijen, Mavis Ducray, David McNamara, Joan Davidsen, Susie Diserens, Ann Taylor, Ruth Nicholson, Shane Mead, and Jenny Meadows (acting Secretary)

Apologies: Noreen Cater, Amanda Stevens, Sue Maxton-Massey, Claudette Pow, Tess Grooby, Maureen Bettany, Chrissy Fern, and Lennane Kent. Irene Merrilees said she’s moving to Tauranga and is grateful for our friendship. And Joan Raynor, now 94, says she can’t go to everything, has enjoyed us but now must ration things.

Minutes of the Previous General Meeting – accepted by all as true and correct

Matters Arising:
Queen Street upgrade – Changes on a daily basis. Road cones are around the street, footpaths are open. The bus stop is outside Warehouse. For the most up-to-date information, call Chris Forman, 0800 000 413, and ask for the current status. Chris is the community liaison person with Downer, who is doing the upgrade.

Accessibility for All:
Tasman District Council walkabout – Councillors and Council staff (mostly engineers), and Mayor Kempthorne joined us. Kempthorne and the other councillors were walking with glasses that simulated vision impairment, or they were in wheelchairs, on crutches, wearing earplugs, or breathing through a straw to simulate asthma and emphysema. Some highlights were their recognition of the inconsistency of crossing places and the general lack of safety in carparks. We had a good conversation with the engineers about safety. It was a windy day, so shop owners had placed the sandwich boards where they wouldn’t get blown over. It created a slalom course. Inside Council buildings, the toilet was difficult to access because of heavy doors. And the handles were silver-grey, like at the Suter. Feedback from the Councillors was that they found it tiring walking around with their various impairments and negotiating the barriers in the inadequate environment.
The next Accessibility for All meeting is 9 June.

Proposed speed limit on Queen Street:
It is currently reduced to 30k/hour during the upgrade, and the proposal is to permanently reduce it to 30k/hour after the upgrade is completed. Kaye has put in a submission on Blind Citizens NZ’s behalf, taking your comments as supporting evidence. On the walkabout, the mayor and the Councillors also supported the reduction. Amanda is going to speak to our submission in chambers on 12th June at 1:20pm. Members’ support is welcome

National Councillor’s Report:
Blind Citizens NZ’s Management Committee has been determining how best to use the bequest to us nationally for the benefit of us all of $130,000. One way is to upgrade the equipment in the head office, like copiers and such. The auditors have also been determined by the Board for this annual cycle. The Work Plan with the Blind Foundation has also been agreed. More details available from National Office on 0800 222 694.

Memo 9 Access Alliance:
aims to persuade all political parties to commit to introducing accessibility legislation, as part of their election commitments in the lead up to 23 Sept 2017 general election.
Blind Citizens NZ, being representative of its members and listening to your voices through remits at Conference, is part of the Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) Coalition. Those Disabled Persons Organisations who have signed up to the Access Alliance include:
• Blind Citizens NZ
• Deaf Aotearoa
• Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA)

Complementary organisations include:
• Blind Foundation
• CCS Disability Action
• Auckland Disability Law
• Parents of Vision Impaired New Zealanders

Your Board, from your comments, believes the work of The Access Alliance is complementary to Blind Citizens NZ’s work programme and links to the Disability Action Plan and the NZ Disability Strategy. We need to persuade our MPs and candidates going into the election that access and participation in so many areas matters to us, and we want, at the very least, the minimum standards. Some of us contributed to the Strategy last year. Please contact National Office on 0800 222 694 if you have any further questions.

Memo 8:
Concerning the proposal that children up to age 12 and people over 65 be allowed to ride cycles on footpaths. Blind Citizens NZ has expressed strong opposition to this and has released a position statement which has been and will be used when speaking to both Councils and the Accessibility for All forum in relation to Health and Safety on pavements.

2017 dates:
Accessible Art Group:
Friday, 2nd June, at the hobby room in Summerset, in collaboration with Blind Foundation and volunteers. The cost is never more than $8 per sessions. We’re doing hand modelling and hand-making mosaic tiles. Contact Gill Clayton for more information.

Next Coffee & Chat:
Friday, 9th June, 10 am, McCashin’s Brewery in Stoke
If interested, just turn up, or contact Chrissy Fern 027-295-3331, or contact the Blind Foundation in Stoke.

Mid-Winter Lunch
This will be on Wednesday, 21 June at The Playhouse in Mapua. A coach and driver will take us there. The building and toilet facilities are accessible. Cost is $23, with 3 courses to choose from. Send your response to Ann Taylor by 13th June. Pickup pointes are Miller’s Acre at 10:30am, then on to Stoke by the tennis courts. A place in Richmond will be determined, depending on who opts to go. If you have difficulty getting to a pickup point, let Ann know.

Extra Touch Award:
Nominations close 30th June.

Membership subs are due 1st July.

Remits to National Office:
10th July is the closing date. Please bring your remits for the AGM to the June General Meeting.

Nelson AGM:
15th July, 2 pm, Church of Christ Hall in Richmond

Audio-described opera in Christchurch:
The opera is Carmen, which will be audio-described in Christchurch on 18th July. Gill told about her previous experience with Madame Butterfly. Before the rest of the audience will be allowed in, Blind Citizens will go on stage and get to touch the props and costumes. We will get a description of the set design. Once we’re back in our seats, we will get a headset. The audio description comes between the songs.
If you are interested, contact the Blind Foundation. If a group goes, transportation and accommodation would be shared.
Ruth Nicholson, Kaye Halkett, Ruth Chignell, Gill Clayton, and Jenny Meadows expressed interest in going.

Museum Visit:
Friday, 11th August, 11 am. $8. DaVinci Robots and Machines. Guided by the education team at the museum. Jenny Meadows has already seen this exhibition and was fascinated to discover how many things we use today were created by DaVinci 600 years ago. Many of the displays are hands-on.

Guide-dog Handlers’ Forum:
Wednesday and Thursday, 11th and 12th October, in conjunction with and just prior to this year’s national AGM and Conference in Invercargill. The forum is for current handlers, those who aspire to be one, and members who have been a handler but don’t have a guide dog at present. The Forum will provide an opportunity for handlers from around the country to contribute to or benefit from peer-to-peer support. The Board has allocated funds from BCNZ’s leadership fund and will be providing some financial support. Ideally, attendees from the Forum will stay for BCNZ’s AGM and Conference.
Expressions of interest close at National Office at 4pm, Thursday 1st June. Contact Puti Rutene, Administrative Support: prutene@littlerocket.dnserver.net.nz/ABCNZ-D6

National AGM/Conference:
13-15 October in Invercargill.
Door prizes will be used to get people back into the room after breaks in sessions. Do we want to contribute one or more door prizes?

This is a valuable source of information. We may have another session in August about using it, so you learn how to get the most value from your telephone.

Transport for Meeting:
Today’s transport has been provided by U3A. Thank you for your service.

There being no further business, the meeting closed at 2:55 p.m.

Afternoon tea was served and raffles drawn. Thanks to all who contributed to the many raffle prizes.

Entertainment: Eva McComb with her exquisite all-wood, 11-string lute. After she performed, she took the lute around to every member, letting them feel it and hold it.

Publication of the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc
Volume 53 No 1 – March 2017

In this Issue

  • Breaking news – National President election outcome pg   2
  • Making informed decisions on who will lead us pg   5

   Editorial by Carolyn Weston

  • What’s in a meeting, from Jonathan Godfrey pg 10

   Acting National President

  • 2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference pg 14
  • Forum for Guide Dog Handlers pg 15
  • Focus Editor – Expressions of interest reminder pg 17
  • Blind Citizens NZ 2017 Election timelines pg 18
  • Onkyo 2017 World Braille Essay Contest pg 21
  • Call for nominations for Blind Citizens NZ’s most pg 24

   Prestigious Awards

  • Your expertise and knowledge can make a difference pg 27
  • Ever needed ID and nothing works pg 29
  • Membership Renewal Reminder pg 29
  • World Blind Union Committee – Vacancy to Fill pg 30
  • Letters to the Editor pg 30
  • Blind Citizens NZ Personnel          pg 31
  • Acknowledgement of Financial Support                            pg 32


Breaking news – National President Election Outcome

From Rose Wilkinson, Returning Officer


An extra-ordinary election to fill the National President vacancy was notified in the December 2016 Focus issue. Voting in this extra-ordinary election closed at 4pm Tuesday 21 March. Now, just as our March Focus issue heads to the printer, we have finished counting your votes. The opportunity to share news of the outcome is too good to miss. To recap – at the close of nominations on Tuesday 31 January 2017, three nominations to fill the vacancy were received. In alphabetical order by surname these being from: Jonathan Godfrey, Jonathan Mosen, and Daniel Phillips.

Congratulations are extended to Jonathan Godfrey, the successful candidate elected to fill the National President vacancy. He takes office immediately, filling the vacancy created when Clive Lansink resigned in November 2016. Jonathan Godfrey will complete Clive Lansink’s term of office which concludes at the end of Blind Citizens NZ’s 2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference.

Extra Ordinary Election – Member-at-Large Vacancy Notice from Rose Wilkinson, Returning Officer

Jonathan Godfrey’s newly elected position of National President, means he must vacate his Member-at-Large position on the Board. The term of office for the vacated position concludes at the end of Blind Citizens NZ’s 2018 Annual General Meeting and Conference.

The Board has confirmed procedures to conduct an extra-ordinary election to fill the Member-at-Large vacancy. Voting members should note that timelines for an extra-ordinary election are set by the Board. They vary to those for annual, scheduled elections. Timeframes for this extra-ordinary election are stringent.

  1. Term of Office: the successful candidate will commence in the position immediately following the conclusion of the election. Their term of office will conclude at the end of Blind Citizens NZ’s 2018 Annual General Meeting and Conference. Guidelines that outline duties and responsibilities of Members-at-Large, and of Board Members in general, are available from the National Office upon request.
  2. Who can participate in this extra-ordinary election? You will be eligible, provided that at the close of nominations, you are recorded as a financial Ordinary Member on the member database held by the National Office of Blind Citizens NZ. Candidates must live in New Zealand. Associate members are not eligible to participate in Blind Citizens NZ’s election processes.
  3. The nomination process: nominations must be endorsed by the nominee (i.e. the person standing for election), the person proposing the nomination and the seconder. Nomination forms require the signature of each of these three individuals. Email procedures similarly require each of the three individuals to actively confirm their role in the nomination process. Candidates choosing the email procedure, are required to contact the Returning Officer to notify their intent to use this option, prior to this occurring. Instructions for the email nomination procedure will be provided.
  4. When do nominations close: nominations must be received and in the hands of the Returning Office no later than 4pm, Thursday 20 April 2017. Candidates are required to submit their CV with their completed nomination. You can request a nomination form from our National Office, or you can locate it on our website.
  5. Conducting the election: after nominations close, and in the event more than one nomination is received to fill the Member-at-Large vacancy, ballot material will be provided to all eligible Ordinary (voting) Members. Ballot material will be distributed in the member’s preferred format no later than Wednesday 3 May 2017.
  6. Options for receiving receive ballot material and voting: Blind Citizens NZ has several options for receiving ballot material, and three options to choose from, to cast your vote. You can receive ballot material in: large print, CD (audio), electronic (email), braille, or TIS (Blind Citizens NZ National Feedback Line bulletin on the Blind Foundation’s Telephone Information Service). When casting your vote, you have the choice of a paper-embossed ballot paper, braille voting cards, or TIS. If you are yet to experience TIS as an option why not try it? Voters who use TIS prefer it for so many reasons – they no longer need to watch for ballot material to arrive in the mail. They cast their vote knowing it will be recorded immediately i.e. no more worries about whether their vote will reach the returning officer in time to be counted.


Completed ballots (votes cast) must be received at the National Office no later than 4.00 pm, Friday 26 May 2017. The counting of votes will take place the afternoon of Monday 29 May 2017.

Anyone requiring more information, a print nomination form, finding out more about the email option, checking if you are financial, using TIS, checking that we have your preferred format correctly listed, or any other aspect of the election procedure, please contact our National Office on any of the following options: Phone 0800-222-6940 or 04-389-0033; post to PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242; Fax: 04-389-0030; or email election@abcnz.org.nz

Making informed decisions on who will lead us Editorial from Carolyn Weston

Here we are, another year 2017 and I’m still asking myself where did 2016 go. Never mind, we are now well into 2017 which will bring some changes and no doubt new challenges.

Over the past few months we have been swamped with elections. Our Local Body Elections and Blind Citizens NZ Board Elections, both held in October. We also watched in amazement the USA Presidential Elections where Donald Trump won from Hillary Clinton.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s (RNZFB) Board of Director elections also took place in late October. Then in November it was announced that Blind Citizens NZ’s then National President Clive Lansink, had been successful in being elected on to the Blind Foundation’s Board. Clive Lansink then resigned as our National President so he could take his seat on the RNZFB’s Board. His resignation as National President of Blind Citizens NZ meant Blind Citizens NZ needed to hold another election so we can elect a new National President. In early February, Rose Wilkinson, our Returning Officer announced that three candidates were standing for National President.

One issue dominating discussions in and out of Board-rooms and amongst people involved in any organisation is Board member’s accountability to their membership. This is important as people will stand for a position in governance, stating they want to achieve outcomes which will benefit the people the organisation is serving. Election information packs should contain candidate’s reasons for standing and what they hope to achieve if they are elected into the position they seek.

Election candidates are usually restricted in the number of words they can write in their CV, resulting in many voters not having enough information on each candidate to cast an informative vote.

Candidates elected on to boards such as the RNZFB Board of Directors and Blind Citizens NZ’s Board are accountable to all members of that organisation. Voters will want to know if successful candidates are following through with their promises or not. There is more than this to accountability, like paid employment positions, people have to account for their actions to either their boss or in a governance position of an organisation such as Blind Citizens NZ, to their members.

There are some quantitative measures we can use by examining the Minutes of meetings for example, the number of meetings each board member attends, how often each person moves or seconds a motion and sometimes, depending on the style of the Minutes, how often each board member speaks. This gives only half the picture as Minutes don’t include qualitative measures, identifying the amount of work and value each board member brings to the governing function. You may be interested to know that whilst you are struggling with this aspect of accountability, so are many boards. There are some mechanisms boards can use to measure their individual Board members and the Board as a whole performance but these can be problematic due to various styles of mechanisms used and how measurements are reported. The main point is that most boards today are grappling with the issue of self or external performance appraisals. Whilst this may not address members concerns about board accountability, including individual’s performance, I hope that it demonstrates that many boards’ personnel are striving to address accountability through mechanisms such as Board performance appraisals.

Now back to elections. At each of the 2014 and 2016 Blind Citizens NZ’s Annual General Meeting and Conference, sessions were held, where candidates standing for the RNZFB’s Board of Directors were able to give further information about themselves and why they were standing for the Board. Each candidate was invited to present a two minute speech, and they participated in a question and answer session. Personally I found these sessions very informative.

Last year, all six candidates accepted the invitation to speak and answer questions at the Sunday morning session. This enabled Conference attendees and other Blind Citizens NZ members to ask questions either prior to the start of proceedings or at Conference. This session was revealing as it provided us, the voters, with more information about each candidate, their values, dreams and what they hoped to achieve if they were elected on to the Board of Directors. This session enabled us to make a more informed choice on whom to vote for.

Blind Citizens NZ hopes the RNZFB will begin providing opportunities for all their governing members to listen or participate in a similar session described as above so voters can make an informed vote in future elections.

Discovering the benefits of hearing candidates’ two-minute speeches and, participating in question and answer sessions, I wonder why Blind Citizens NZ haven’t provided us with opportunities to learn more about our own Board and National President candidates standing for election. Blind Citizens NZ’s voters have the same rights as RNZFB’s voters to learn as much as we can about each candidate prior to casting our vote.

In 2015 Blind Citizens NZ was unable to hold an RNZFB Board of Directors’ candidates’ session for reasons outside its control.

At present we have double standards, expecting more accountability from candidates standing for the RNZFB Board of Directors than from those standing for Blind Citizens NZ’s Board. We should expect all prospective leaders within our blind community to speak up and state what their values, dreams and aims are, for standing for that particular board. This is the starting point for each board member’s accountability back to the electorate. Yes, Blind Citizens NZ’s Board candidates do write a CV and give reasons why they want to stand for our Board as candidates standing for the RNZFB’s Board do.   The question we should ask is why should one set of candidates be given the opportunity to provide further information to assist voters to make an informed choice but not provide this opportunity to our own Blind Citizens NZ Board candidates? As a voter in both elections I want to know as much as I can about all candidates before voting.

I have no idea why Blind Citizens NZ’s Board have provided us with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the RNZFB’s Board candidates but have neglected to provide the same level of information sharing in their own elections. Now we have a tried mechanism in place enabling more information sharing, shouldn’t Blind Citizens NZ’s Board candidates also be prepared to share more information such as answering questions put to them during the election?

When I am voting in any election I want to learn more about all candidates standing for the positions. Many blind people ask about the RNZFB’s Board of Directors accountability back to their community but how often do we ask questions about the accountability of Blind Citizens NZ Board members? We should be asking questions from all board or executive committee members within the blind and wider disability consumer organisations. People may argue that the RNZFB who provides services to us should be more accountable to those who receive services.

It is a good point and I wouldn’t argue with that ideology but I believe other leaders of organisations in our blind community should be accountable because they are providing blind people advantages such as peer support, advocacy, recreation and social interaction. You could argue that these are not the same as providing guide dogs, a talking book library or rehabilitation services etc. however our blind consumer organisations enrich the lives of all blind New Zealanders by advocating for talking ATMs at banks, audio described TV and theatre, better access within our cities and towns and much more.

At the beginning of this editorial I spoke of possible changes occurring in the Focus Editor role. We have been advertising for someone to fill this position and all going well, we may have someone keen to take over this role. Time will tell, and for now, I take this opportunity to thank those people who have passed on feedback about my editorials.

Over the years I’ve heard blind people criticising Blind Citizens NZ for many reasons. They’ve forgotten the vision, determination and fighting spirit our blind forefathers and mothers gave to our blind community. If the Dominion of the Blind wasn’t created in 1945 where would we be today? If we hadn’t fought and won blind persons’ self-determination giving us the right to nominate and elect people on to the RNZFB Board of Directors, would The Blind Foundation Board still be appointed and controlled by Government and sighted people? If we hadn’t led the way would other disabled people have gain consumerism and would Governments have placed disability issues higher in their agendas, establishing and maintaining a Minister for Disability Issues and the Office for Disability Issues? If we hadn’t spoken up about issues relating to accessible environments, public transport, education, career training and employment where would we be now? Our history proves that we have had to fight and win many battles but the war isn’t over yet, we still have many more battles to fight and win.

Until blind and vision impaired people enjoy the same life-styles as our sighted peers, Blind Citizens NZ and other disability consumer organisations must continue leading us on the path to an accessible world for all.


What’s in a Meeting?

Jonathan Godfrey, National President

Not so long ago, the older of my two daughters asked me what I do in all those meetings I go to. Her question deserved an answer that was true, but more importantly, it had to be meaningful with respect to what those meetings represented to her. It might have been a question asked by a four and a half year old girl, but I suspect it is a question the membership ought to ask of your Board and National President. For Annabelle, the meetings I attend seem numerous, long, and far away; to make things worse, she doesn’t really understand what we want to talk about because so many of the issues just don’t exist in her world. Her lovely naivety has caused me to think about the work your Board does on behalf of blind New Zealanders and the role your National President plays as part of that team.

A large portion of Board time and effort goes into making sure Blind Citizens NZ exists, and will continue to exist for as long as is necessary so that all blind New Zealanders can enjoy the lives we choose for ourselves. For many years now we’ve relied on the support of the Blind Foundation as our major funding source. As in recent years, we’ve negotiated an agreement with the Foundation to do the advocacy work our members have determined is important to blind people. I’m pleased to report that we’ve received a significant increase in the level of support from the Foundation because we’ve demonstrated that we are the organization in the best position to do the advocacy work required.

Blind Citizens NZ is a leading Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) which has opportunities to influence Government officials so that improvements can be made. We can see the impact we have had on the Disability Action Plan and the new New Zealand Disability Strategy, but I suspect that seeing how this work changes the world we live in is a little more difficult for our grass roots membership. I do worry that members might not see the value of the work we do as having a positive impact on their everyday lives because those changes have a long-term impact and therefore don’t lead to overnight change. There are other advocacy topics to work on that could have more immediate impact though.

Let’s compare two current issues receiving the Board’s attention.

  1. The NZ Transport Agency has recently released a proposal to allow young children under supervision of an adult to ride bicycles on the footpaths.
  2. Our annual conference passed a resolution about the need for touch screens to be made accessible to blind passengers on international flights.

Both issues affect blind people, but they affect different blind people differently. Most of us use footpaths at some time; everyone using a footpath wants to be safe; and none of us wants to see young children riding bikes to be in danger. Relatively speaking, few of us will travel on international flights, but all of us that do take these flights will rely on another passenger or a member of the crew to help us drive the touch screen. The problem is that those touch screens are the way most passengers will call for a member of the crew to help them, and interrupting another passenger’s sleep or enjoyment of a movie so they can help call for the crew is an imposition. I suggest that might leave some blind passengers feeling vulnerable and unsafe, just like a blind pedestrian being surprised by seemingly random cyclists on the footpath.

These issues both have merit, but the Board must decide how best to progress each of them and the very long list of other issues we have before us. We must weigh up the amount of effort needed to make progress, be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come along, and work out which allied organizations are most likely to have an interest in supporting our work. For example, it is my hope that we get a chance to make a submission on the pedestrian issue and get to back up our written work with an opportunity to speak to the Select Committee because it is important that Government hear from “blind people speaking for ourselves”. I believe we are more likely to get this opportunity sooner than we’ll get meetings with Air New Zealand and other airlines so it is important that we get on with creating our position statement and supporting documentation. Both of the issues are likely to affect New Zealanders represented by other DPOs so it makes sense to work with them to progress these issues if we possibly can; international travel also affects blind people from other countries so it makes sense to raise this concern through our World Blind Union connections too.

Getting to grips with how we present the issues as they affect our members and other blind people takes time and effort, not all of which is expended at Board meetings. Some Board members are skilled at document preparation while others are skilled in teasing out all the perspectives we need to address if we are to represent the views of the broader membership. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we have at present is the need to formulate a new Strategic Plan for Blind Citizens NZ. Note I used “we” there, not “the Board” on purpose. The Board has already identified the need for the new plan, but also that communication and engagement with our membership is crucial. The new plan will need to resonate with the existing membership base, but also reach out to new members. Making sure the direction the Board takes our organization in coming years is something all members need to feel part of.

A proposed Strategic Plan will therefore be distributed for consultation well before our conference in October so that everyone has a chance to share their views on it. Ultimately, that plan needs to be a document that we show to everyone to tell them what it is we do and why.

Speaking of conference, you should look out for the full details given in this issue of Focus. We will be gathering for three days and there’s no time like the present for planning your travel; we’d love to see more members join us as we determine what our organization is going to be in years to come. Booking ahead of time will make it easier to arrange other activities around your trip. Our Southland Branch colleagues recommend some options that you might like to visit: Bill Richardson’s Transport World (a few blocks along from the Ascot Park Hotel) where there is a café with themed bathrooms; Queens Park, home of the Southland Museum which has live displays of Tuatara; last but by no means least, E Hayes and Sons, the home of Burt Monro’s original World’s fastest Indian Scout, the centrepiece of over 100 classic and vintage motor vehicles.

Annabelle was in the hotel during our 2016 Conference. She knows there were lots of blind people talking to each other, sharing ideas and concerns. She saw people having fun and she knows Conference is important to us. All three of my children spent the weekend in Wellington with me when the Board met in November. They know the work your Board and I do is because we want to make the world a better place for all blind people to live in. My next parental challenge is to explain the important work done by our staff at National Office; for the moment I hope you’ll forgive me not making the distinction clearer. I can tell you that our work as a Board would not be as successful if we were to do it without our National Office staff, because the workload your DPO works on is beyond the capacity of a volunteer Board, all of whom have lives to lead outside Blind Citizens NZ.

2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference

Listening, Connecting, Engaging

From Rose Wilkinson, Executive Officer

In November 2016, the Board began planning for Blind Citizens NZ’s 2017 three-day Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference. Consistent with the policy to alternate between the North and South Island, this year’s event will take us a little further south than in the past. Notification of this year’s three-day event includes specific information for financial members who will be first-time attendees…

This year’s AGM and Conference will be held Friday 13 to Sunday 15 October at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, home of Blind Citizens NZ’s Southland Branch. The Board recognises there will be travel logistics to balance, however it sees this as a great opportunity, and urges you all to start thinking about being part of this year’s AGM and Conference in Invercargill. Start and finish times will differ to what has been the norm for many years and likely see Friday’s session commence at 10am, and concluding Sunday at 11.30am.

The Board’s primary focus is to ensure attendees arrive in good time, well-rested and ready to participate. Balancing these elements in particular, will require attendees from most destinations, to arrive the day prior i.e. Thursday 12 October. Of note however, is that accommodation and meal costs for members, will be on a par with those for 2016. There are a range of accommodation options that some attendees may find appealing. Further information about the venue, business sessions, and the registration form, will be available by the end of March.

This year’s theme is Listening, Connecting, and Engaging. Focussing on Blind Citizens NZ and exploring new and different ways of communicating, and engaging with members, is key to the Board’s approach towards this theme.

Input from members and branches about topics and speakers is needed. Ideas and suggestions received at our national office by 20 April will be considered by the Board at its meeting 28-30 April. The Board suggests the following question may guide your thinking i.e. what is it that would bring you to this year’s AGM and Conference?

In addition, the Board has introduced an incentive for financial members who will be first-time attendees i.e. financial assistance will be available. The number of members and the level of financial support, will be determined by the Board once it knows the extent of interest. If you are a financial member of Blind Citizens NZ, are interested in coming to this year’s AGM and Conference, and this will be your first time, the Board wants to hear from you. Members submitting an expression of interest are asked to include an indication of how much they will be in the position to financially contribute towards costs (accommodation and travel), if at all. Although this will have no bearing on decisions reached by the Board, it may enable the Board to support more first-time attendees.

Thursday 1 June 2017, 4pm, is the closing date/time by which expressions of interest must be received at National Office. These can be submitted for the attention of the Executive Officer via any of the following options:

Email: prutene@abcnz.org.nz (Puti Rutene, Administrative Support)

Post: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242;

Fax: 04-389-0033

Forum for Guide Dog Handlers


In conjunction with, and just prior to this year’s AGM and Conference, Blind Citizens NZ is holding a two-day forum for Guide Dog Handlers i.e. Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 October.

The forum is for current handlers, members who aspire to be one, and those who have been a handler but for one reason or another, do not have a guide dog at present.

The Forum will provide an opportunity for handlers from around the country to contribute to, or benefit from, peer-to-peer support. While the Forum will facilitate a sharing of experiences, it will be influenced by attendees i.e. the Board is open to suggestions as to what you would like to have included during the two-days. These will be taken into consideration as the framework for the two days is shaped. Although planning is in the early stages, the Board’s desire is to involve key stakeholders from the blind community.

The Board has allocated funds from Blind Citizens NZ’s leadership fund towards the Forum, and will be providing some financial support. In addition, external funding sources continue to be explored. Ideally, following the conclusion of the Forum, attendees will stay for Blind Citizens NZ’s AGM and Conference.

The Board is now calling for expressions of interest from interested members who want to be part of the Forum for Guide Dog Handlers. Expressions of interest should include your guide dog handler status, it should provide a statement of the benefit to you from attending the Forum, topics you would like to see covered, whether you intend to remain for Blind Citizens NZ’s AGM and Conference, and if you are in a position to make a financial contribution.

Expressions of interest close 4pm, Thursday 1 June 2017. They must be received at National Office. These should be submitted for the attention of the Executive Officer via any of the following options:

Email: prutene@abcnz.org.nz (Puti Rutene, Administrative Support);

Post: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242;

Fax: 04-389-0033

Focus Editor – Expressions of Interest Reminder

From Rose Wilkinson, Executive Officer

In the December 2016 Focus issue, we refreshed the call for expressions of interest in the Focus Editor role. For anyone interested in considering this opportunity, a reminder of the closing date and aspects of the role are provided.

Key elements for prospective editors to bear in mind include that:

  • the appointment will be for a two-year term;
  • Focus is the official national publication of Blind Citizens NZ;
  • Blind Citizens NZ’s membership is the target audience;
  • editorials are intended to raise and promote debate on issues that are current and topical to the blindness community, and stimulate reader-interest in submitting Letters to the Editor.

At its November 2016 meeting, the Board considered how Focus presents to readers who like to remain abreast of Blind Citizens NZ’s work. It is mindful the presentation of Focus remains largely unchanged since early 2000 hence the opportunity for the Focus Editor to influence change.

Expressions of interest from amongst financial members of Blind Citizens NZ for this position, are called for. Should further information be required, applicants should contact National Office for full details of the position. Expressions of interest close at 4pm Monday 10 April 2017. All expressions of interest will be considered by the Board at its meeting the weekend of 28-30 April 2017.

Blind Citizens NZ – 2017 Election Timelines

National President and Four Member-at-Large Positions

Rose Wilkinson, Returning Officer

Constitutional Ruling 10 (Elections) directs Blind Citizens NZ in its election procedure. Positions that fall due for election this year are those of National President (held by Jonathan Godfrey), and four Member-at-Large positions, currently held by Martine Abel-Williamson, Geraldine Glanville, Shaun Johnson, and Paula Waby.

The March Focus issue is the first of two opportunities to call for nominations for all five positions. Please note that:

  • people currently in each of these positions are eligible for re-election;
  • the term of office for all positions is two years;
  • successful candidates will commence their term immediately following the conclusion of this year’s Annual General Meeting and Conference;
  • the election for all five positions will be conducted at the same time, by a ballot of all eligible Ordinary (voting) Members;
  • nomination forms and / or email nomination procedures are available upon request from National Office.

Details about timelines, and the procedure for all positions for election are provided. Additional information for each of these positions, is available upon request from the national office. You will also locate them on our website. If you are standing for election, you are encouraged to obtain information pertinent to the position. An insight into the duties and responsibilities of Board Members, and prerequisites for National President and Member at Large positions, will be gleaned from reading available information.

Contact details for national office and our website will be found at the conclusion of this Focus issue. Now to the timelines and procedures…

  1. How do I know if I am eligible to be nominated for one of the positions in this year’s election? Eligibility requirements are set out in Constitutional Ruling 10.1. You are eligible to be nominated for one of the positions, provided you live in New Zealand and have been a financial Ordinary Member of Blind Citizens NZ for no less than 24 full months measured cumulatively during the period of five consecutive years ending on the closing date for nominations. If you are thinking about being nominated for one of the positions and you are uncertain whether you meet the criteria, please contact national office for clarification.
  2. How do I go about getting nominated? Nominations must be agreed to by the nominee (the person standing for election), and the people moving and seconding the nomination. Nomination forms require the signature of all three individuals. Email procedures similarly require each of the three individuals to actively confirm their role in the nomination process. Candidates choosing the email procedure are required to contact the Returning Officer prior to commencing this process. This is important for there are instructions unique to the email procedure that must be followed i.e. the email process mirrors as closely as possible, requirements for the paper-based option.

Requirements for the nomination process must be concluded (including completed nominations being received by the Returning Officer), by the close of nominations, 4pm, Thursday 24 August 2017. Contact details for the Returning Officer are:

  • Postal: Blind Citizens NZ, PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242;
  • Fax: 04-389-0030;
  • Email: election@abcnz.org.nz

Candidates are required to submit their CV to the returning officer with their completed nomination.

  1. What happens after nominations close? In the event the maximum number of nominations for the five positions is received (National President and four Members-at-Large), then no election will be held. Candidates standing for these positions will be declared duly elected. However, in the event nominations exceed the number of positions being elected, an election will then be held.
  2. Financial Ordinary Members have their say: Ballot material (names of people standing for election, information they have provided about themselves and voting information), will be sent to all Ordinary Members recorded as financial on the member database at National Office as at 4pm, Thursday 24 August 2017. Ballot material will be distributed in the voting member’s preferred format no later than Thursday 14 September 2017.
  3. When does voting close: Completed ballots (votes cast by voting members) must be received at National Office no later than 4.00 pm, Monday 2 October 2017. Vote counting will take place on Wednesday 4 October 2017.
  4. Receiving election information and casting your vote: Blind Citizens NZ has several options available for members to participate in our election process. This means you choose how you receive your election material, and how to cast your vote.

Election (ballot) material that informs you about candidates standing for election is available in the following options: large print, audio (CD), braille, by email, and via our National Feedback Line on the Telephone Information Service (TIS).


If you are in any doubt about whether your preferred communication option for elections is correctly identified on our records, please contact our national office to check.

When casting your vote, there are three options to choose from, and, the way you vote, can differ from the way you choose to receive your election (ballot) material. You can vote using the large print ballot form, the braille ballot option, or TIS. If you currently receive a large print ballot form but are unable to independently cast your vote, we encourage you to use TIS as this offers a truly independent and empowering voting experience. Why? Because you can independently access information about all of the candidates standing for election, and you can also cast your vote.

If you would like to know more about using TIS, or you want to cast your vote using this option, and you are unsure if you are registered with us to do so, please contact our national office.

Onkyo 2017 World Braille Essay Contest

Tell Your Tale in Braille – Cash Prizes

Do you write in braille and enjoy writing essays when guided by a topic? If you are, then how about giving this competition a go? And if you are relatively new to braille, think of this as the perfect opportunity to put your skills into practise.

Before entering the competition, please be sure you meet all of the following requirements i.e. that you: live in New Zealand; are blind, vision-impaired or have low vision; write braille; and that you are 14 years or older. Provided you meet all the criteria, then you can enter the competition. You can send one entry only, and it must be all your own work.

From New Zealand, previous winners of the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest include Olivia En (2012) and Lisette Wesseling (2013).

Topics and length of essays: the contest rules state essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words. The rules also ask contestants not to give long explanations about the braille system or the negative side of being blind. The emphases are on the positive experiences of being blind and the creative uses of Braille “In MY Life”. The three topics from which you may choose for this year’s contest are:

  1. The positive experiences and opportunities of my life from being blind.
  2. The importance and creative uses of braille in my life.
  3. Music brings opportunities, joy, development and change in my life.

Submitting your braille essay entry: The following details must be provided:

  • full name (as written on your birth certificate);
  • age (attach your birth certificate or a statement from someone in authority to confirm your age);
  • your gender plus an electronic photo;
  • your occupation e.g. student, receptionist, homemaker etc;
  • name, address and e-mail of the organisation (blindness service provider or consumer organisation), you belong to;
  • your own contact details including phone and e-mail.

Closing date / where to send your essay: entries and all other information mentioned above must be received no later than 4pm, Wednesday 31 May. Entries should be sent to:

  • Post: Onkyo Braille Essay Contest, C/- Blind Citizens NZ, PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242; or
  • Email: onkyo@abcnz.org.nz

Late entries will not be considered.

All countries are limited to sending a maximum of five essays. In the event more than five are received, our Selection Committee will identify the five best entries. These will be submitted to the WBU-Asia Pacific Onkyo Selection Committee.

Cash Prizes will be awarded to the seven best entries out of all participating countries. Prize categories are:

  1. The Otsuki Prize – US$1,000 and a trophy. This overall prize is given to the best entry from either of the age groups.
  2. Excellent Works – US$500 and a trophy. Two prizes will be given, one to each age group.
  3. Fine Works – Four prizes will be given, two prizes of US$200 to the 14 to 25 year age group, and two prizes of US$300 to the 26 and above age group.

Braille-writing tools and requirements: Your entry must be written in braille using any of the following options: Perkins, Mountbatten, Braille Notetaker (e.g. Braille Lite, Braille Note, Braille Sense or Pac Mate). You must use six-key Braille entry. Do not use the Notetaker’s on-board braille translation. Your essay entry can be submitted as hard-copy braille, or as a .brf file.

An electronic MS Word translation (.doc or .docx file) of your essay entry is required, and must be sent at the same time as your braille file / document. We have some handy-hints that we hope will help ensure your entry meets the required criteria.

If writing your essay on the Perkins we suggest writing several drafts until you are satisfied. Then write a final version.

If writing your essay using a braille note taker, we suggest opening a .brf file from the start, and saving in .brf as you go. That way, you will have a .brf file at all times, rather than having to convert later from another format. Please note that some note takers have their own proprietary braille files.

This format cannot be accepted by the judges. You can either emboss your essay or send the .brf file by email.

If writing your essay using a computer with a qwerty keyboard you must write directly into a braille translation programme with the translation bar turned off, using six-key entry. You cannot type in standard qwerty and then have the computer translate your work into braille.

The Braille Essay Contest is sponsored by the Onkyo Company Limited and The Braille Mainichi Newspapers of Japan, and is implemented by the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific (WBUAP). Rules for participation and topics for the contest, are notified to all countries who are members of the WBU Asia Pacific Region.

New Zealand is a country member of the WBU Asia Pacific region. The Blind Foundation and Blind Citizens NZ are New Zealand’s National Onkyo Selection Committee – we jointly co-ordinate promotion of the essay competition. Should entries be greater than the maximum number of five, we would judge and submit the best five entries.

The World Onkyo Selection Committee will announce winners at the beginning of November 2017. Once the sponsors have publicised category winners, the NZ Onkyo Selection Committee can then do so. The sponsors own the copyright of all winning essays and reserve the right to publish them in the manner they so choose.

Call for Nominations for Blind Citizens NZ most Prestigious Awards

Annually, the Board calls for nominations for its most prestigious awards these being: Beamish Memorial Award, Extra Touch Award, and the Johnston Cup for Leadership. Criteria for each award are provided and should guide your thinking towards making a nomination. For each of these three awards, nominations may only be made financial Ordinary (voting) Members of Blind Citizens NZ, branches, and the Board. The close of nominations is advised in conjunction with each of the awards – these should be sent to National Office, the details for which are located at the end of this Focus issue. The element of surprise is paramount thus the Board’s decision for all awards remains confidential irrespective of whether or not an award is to be presented. Please do read on, and pop on you respective thinking caps…

Beamish Memorial Award: The Beamish Memorial Award is the single most prestigious award that Blind Citizens NZ has the honour and privilege of bestowing on anyone within the organisation. It can only be awarded to an Ordinary Member of Blind Citizens NZ who has made an outstanding contribution to society in their particular field of service to the community. If you know of someone who meets this criteria, and whose outstanding efforts you believe should be recognised, then please do take advantage of this opportunity. The name of the person being nominated, their contact details, along with information and reasons in support of the nomination are needed. Nominations close at 4pm, Wednesday 30 August 2017 and must be received at our National Office no later than this date.

Extra Touch Award: This esteemed award is aimed at recognising an individual or organisation where, as part of the process of catering to the general public, an outstanding contribution is made towards improving access or services to blind and vision impaired people. Examples to start you thinking about worthy recipients of this award are given – the opportunities to recognise contributions are diverse and include access to information, society, technology, transport and pedestrian safety, everyday equipment, educational, vocational or recreational opportunities, shops and customer service, and services in general.

Information about last year’s Extra Touch Award recipient might guide your thinking – Arts Access Aotearoa New Zealand was recognised for the extent of work to raise awareness about audio description of live theatre, museums, galleries, as well as training of audio describers.

Nominations must include the nominee’s name, their contact details and information that mirrors with and responds to criteria for granting the Extra Touch Award. These must be received at the National Office of Blind Citizens NZ by 4pm, Friday 30 June 2017.

Johnston Cup for Leadership: First presented in 2007 by Doug and Jeanette Johnston (Doug Johnston is a past National President of Blind Citizens NZ), this award is intended to encourage and recognise leadership potential from amongst members of Blind Citizens NZ; to encourage them to accept leadership responsibilities inside and outside the blindness community; and to develop an environment where they can be recognised for leadership in their field of endeavour.

Do you know of a member of Blind Citizens NZ who you believe meets this criteria and who has contributed in some demonstrable way to the betterment of the community by way of their leadership? Provided the person you are thinking about is an Ordinary (voting) Member of Blind Citizens NZ, and you believe they are worthy of being nominated for this award, all you need to do is tell us. Information in support of the nomination is required. Nominations must be received at National Office by 4pm Wednesday 30 August 2017. Contact details for national office are located at the end of this publication.

Your expertise and knowledge can make a difference

Blind Citizens NZ holds representative positions on several national organisations. As the term of office for positions fall due, the Board determines whether to publicise these, or to reappoint. At its 2016 Annual Planning Meeting, the Board resolved that all positions as they fall due in 2017, would be advertised. Unless a representative has served the maximum term set by the organisation, the representative may submit a further expression of interest.

The Board calls for expressions of interest from financial Ordinary (voting) Members of Blind Citizens NZ to represent it on the Workbridge Council, and the Ministry of Health Disability Support Services Consumer Consortium. Details for each position follow.

  1. Workbridge Council: Paula Waby has represented Blind Citizens NZ on the Workbridge Council since 2015. The Board is keen to hear from members interested in this role which involves attending approximately three one-day meetings per year in Wellington (all actual costs paid). The term of office may be one to two years, and is determined by the Board on a case-by-case basis. Paula Waby is eligible to submit an expression of interest. Provided your extensive skills and expertise include knowledge and understanding of the following you will be well-suited to this role:
  • the disability community in general;
  • barriers to employment and the challenges experienced by blind and vision impaired job-seekers, and those in employment;
  • vocational services and funding opportunities available for disabled job seekers and those in employment; and
  • the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

You will also be required to:

  • articulate the views of Blind Citizens NZ on behalf of the blind community;
  • ensure you have necessary time to read and be familiar with the full agenda of each one-day meeting including all relevant documentation;
  • provide reports to the Board within two weeks of your attendance at meetings of the Workbridge Council.
  1. Ministry of Health Disability Support Services Consumer Consortium: Andrea Courtney has served two consecutive terms as Blind Citizens NZ’s representative i.e. the maximum that can be served consecutively. The Consortium meets twice a year – each meeting comprises three days, and all actual costs are paid for. As Blind Citizens NZ’s representative you will have a sound knowledge and understanding of:
  • the disability community in general;
  • the service needs of the blind community, service providers, service availability, ease of access and service gaps;
  • projected changes to future service funding and delivery, e.g. Enabling Good Lives, and individualised funding;
  • the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

You will also have the skill and expertise to be able to:

  • take a pan-disability approach to service funding and provision;
  • become familiar with the Consortium’s terms of reference;
  • promote understanding between the Ministry and Blind Citizens NZ;
  • represent the interests of Blind Citizens NZ rather than personal interests.

If you are interested in finding out more about either of these positions, please contact the Executive Officer Rose Wilkinson at National Office. For each of these two positions, your expression of interest should include a CV that identifies the strengths, experiences and skills you believe you bring to the position. Expressions of interest should be marked for the attention of the Executive Officer and should be received at National Office by 4pm, Tuesday 1 August 2017 (refer to contact details at the end of this publication).

Ever needed ID and nothing works

Members around the country have shared through our branches and other mechanisms, challenges experienced when needing to produce identification (ID). Either what they have is not amongst those sought at a given time, or there have been additional challenges to obtain ID.

Identification, is central to enabling people to complete legal transactions, and Blind Citizens NZ holds to the principle that all New Zealanders should have access to a number of forms of identification that are universally accepted.

If you have had an “ID” experience that you are willing to share with us, we would love to hear from you i.e. the more information we have, the more evidence we have to influence change. We are supported by other disabled people’s organisations, and collectively we are making inroads with our work. You can share your experiences by email, phone, fax, post, audio, or posting on our Facebook page. Details for options are located at the end of this Focus issue.

Membership Renewal Reminder

Membership renewals fall due on 1 July annually. If you are uncertain if you are financial, it is best to check by contacting our national office, or your local branch treasurer. Being financial is particularly important for Ordinary Members, who are eligible to vote Blind Citizens NZ elections.

World Blind Union Committee – Vacancy to Fill

Call for Expressions of Interest

If you have an interest in international blindness matters then please read on for we have a vacancy to fill… Blind Citizens NZ’s World Blind Union (WBU) Committee exists to support the role of the World Blind Union Representative. The committee comprises up to four financial Ordinary Members of Blind Citizens NZ, plus the WBU Representative. The term of office for all positions is two years and they conclude at the end of Blind Citizens NZ’s 2018 AGM and Conference.

For personal reasons, Latifa Samy has resigned from the WBU Committee. The Board with regret, received her resignation and is now calling for expressions of interest to fill the vacancy. You can be certain that being part of the WBU Committee will quench your thirst of international blindness matters. Financial Ordinary Members of Blind Citizens NZ are invited to submit expressions of interest. Your CV should mention your involvement in and interest of Blind Citizens NZ, and blindness issues internationally. There is a 1,000 word-limit. The closing date by which expressions of interest must be received is 4pm, Thursday 1 June 2017. These can be provided via:

Letters to the Editor

Articles for potential publication in Focus are encouraged. Submitters are encouraged to take into consideration that we have limited resources, coupled with space constraints. This imposes an approximate word-limit of 400 words. This equates to approximately one page. Articles can be posted to our mailing address PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242, or emailed to the editorial group at the following: focus@abcnz.org.nz

Personnel – Blind Citizens NZ


Focus Editor

Email articles to: focus@abcnz.org.nz

Post: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242

National Office

Postal: PO Box 7144, Newtown, Wellington 6242

Physical: Ground Floor, 113 Adelaide Road, Newtown, Wellington

Phone: 04-389-0033; 0800-ABCNZ-INC (0800-222-694)

Fax: 04-389-0030; Internet: http://www.abcnz.org.nz

Email: enquiries@abcnz.org.nz or admin@abcnz.org.nz

Executive Officer, Rose Wilkinson: rwilkinson@abcnz.org.nz

Blind Citizens NZ is appreciative of donations received from our members, and for funding from the Blind Foundation, Lotteries Grants Board, Think Differently, and Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui.

Focus, Volume 53 No 1 – March 2017


Blind Citizens NZ has worked alongside the Reserve Bank of New Zealand for many years, contributing to, and influencing, the design of New Zealand’s currency so that people who are blind or vision impaired, can more easily identify their money.

You can learn more about our work, from our media release at this link: Taking charge our money banknote gauges facilitate and confidence

To find more out, about the banknote gauge, and its use, check the short video put together by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand: http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/research-and-publications/videos/note-gauges

Or, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s media release at: http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/news/2016/10/helping-people-with-sight-loss-to-u…

Blind Citizens NZ has worked alongside the Reserve Bank of New Zealand for many years, contributing to, and influencing, the design of New Zealand’s currency so that people who are blind or vision impaired, can more easily identify their money.

You can learn more about our work, from our media release at this link: Here

Blind Citizens NZ has worked alongside the Reserve Bank of New Zealand for many years, contributing to, and influencing, the design of New Zealand’s currency so that people who are blind or vision impaired, can more easily identify their money.

You can learn more about our work, from our media release at this link: Here

To find more out, about the banknote gauge, and its use, check the short video put together by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand: http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/research-and-publications/videos/note-gauges

Or, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s media release at: Here

Each of the six candidates standing for election to the Blind Foundation’s Board of Directors General Seats of which there are two this year (these candidates are elected by governing members), agreed to participate in a “meet the candidates” session, hosted by Blind Citizens NZ the morning of Sunday 9 October, during our AGM and Conference. In alphabetic order, the six candidates and the means by which they participated are: Garth Clarricoats (phone); Clive Lansink, Pam MacNeill (in person); Peter Ruddenklau (phone); Judy Small (in person); Allan Webster (phone).

Questions posed by attendees, and those joining Blind Citizens NZ courtesy of Jonathan Mosen and MushroomFM’s live stream of our proceedings, were put to candidates.

You can listen to the “meet the candidate’s” session by taking the following link for the MP3 file http://mushroomfm.com/audio/forum.mp3

Our three-day event commences 2pm Friday 7 October, and goes through to approximately 2pm Sunday 9 October.

Our theme for this year is “My Life, My Choice – Self Determination Starts with Us”. It is a reminder that to us the term self-determination means taking charge of our own lives as disabled people, speaking for ourselves individually and collectively.

Business sessions comprising our annual general meeting are held over Friday and Sunday. During the open day on Saturday, there will be a full presentation from Judge Boshier. He is relatively new in his position as Chief Ombudsman, but he is most well-known for his previous role as head of the Family Court. The Office of the Ombudsman has been taking a little more interest lately in disability issues, so with his legal background, it will be interesting to hear what Judge Boshier has to say about the issues facing disabled people in New Zealand.

We will also have presentations on what the Government is doing in the areas of accessible public buildings and accessible information. These directly relate to two actions in the Government’s disability action plan and of course they are very relevant to blind and vision impaired people. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussions.

We will be exploring what it means to be a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) and how we can best use our limited resources to be a more effective voice that is driven directly by disabled people at street level. To get to grips with this issue, we will have short presentations from people from a range of disability organisations, including DPOs. We will have presenters from our own organization Blind Citizens NZ, Kapo Maori Aotearoa, Deaf Aotearoa, the Blind Foundation, CCS Disability Action, and people closely involved with the Enabling Good Lives Leadership Project. This will be followed by a panel discussion in which presenters will respond to questions and comments from people in the audience.

We expect this will be an interesting and perhaps provocative discussion at times, but we think it is critically important at this time.

If you can’t be with us in person, our entire proceedings will be streamed courtesy of Jonathan Mosen and Mushroom FM Extra. You can find the links to listen at the following site http://www.MushroomFm.com/extra.

You can also check out our programme to see what is happening and when.