President's Blog

The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (ABC NZ) is the largest generic consumer organisation of blind and vision impaired people living in New Zealand. We make it our business to speak on behalf of our members, so Society as a whole can fully understand our needs, and how they can be met.

Through this blog, our aim is to provide regular public commentary on issues of concern to blind and vision impaired people in New Zealand. This commentary will reflect the Association's vision and perspective with a view to improving Society's understanding of blindness issues.

This blog will also be another way to keep our members up to date on what we are doing on their behalf.

You are welcome to comment on what you read. While we reserve the right to determine which comments are published, be assured that we will publish comments representing the full spectrum of perspectives we receive.

Rights, Responsibilities Results

This was the theme of our three-day National Conference held in Auckland last weekend, from 10 to 12 October. Now just one week on, I have pretty much recovered. Last year we could not afford our usual three-day conference so people came this time really highly motivated to contribute and enjoy themselves.
I'll start by sharing some of the observations I made during my opening address as President, and then go on to quickly summarise the main outcomes.
What do we really mean when we talk about rights?

A New Way to Vote in This Year's Election

Blind Citizens NZ has over several years invested time and energy advocating to Government and the Electoral Commission for blind people to be able to cast a fully accessible, independent and confidential vote in national and local elections. The Electoral Commission recently issued a media release announcing that telephone dictation voting will be available for blind people to use in this year's general election.

Ending the Book Famine – Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty

Countries world-wide are being asked to sign up to and ratify The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities. The goal of the Marrakesh Treaty is to help to end the book famine faced by people who are blind, vision impaired or otherwise print disabled. Only a small percentage of the world’s published books ever make it into accessible formats.

New Zealand to Come Under International Scrutiny Regarding Disability Issues

As I write my first blog post for the year, I am aware that it is already March and lots of things are now starting to happen which wil be important this year in the disability world.

More Accessible Websites

At a Parliamentary function hosted for us on 21 November by the Minister for Disability Issues, the Hon Tariana Turia, we launched our latest briefing document called “Does Your Website Shut the Door in Our Face?”. This publication draws attention to the problem of CAPTCHAs which often appear on today's websites. This compliments our other briefing documents including one on website accessibility in general, and emphasises the human rights issues that are involved particularly for websites that sell or provide goods and/or services to the public.

Next Year's Conference to Go Ahead as Usual

Many of you will know of the financial crisis we face since our primary funder, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, significantly reduced the funding it allocates to consumer organisations like ours. I won't repeat the details here, except to say that we have been working hard to develop other sources of income. One major challenge has been to explain to other funders how we are different from the Foundation and why they should support our organisation when they might already be supporting the Foundation.

Outcomes of This Year's Conference/AGM

We held our one-day conference (really just the AGM) on Saturday 5 October. Financial constraints meant we were not able to hold our more traditional full three-day national conference.

Making Our Rights Real Under the Convention – Representing the Voice of Disabled People

You have probably heard of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We often just call it the Convention, or UNCRPD. Article 4.3 states that in the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.

Making Parliament More Accessible

Our Executive Officer and I recently spoke to Parliament's Government Administration Committee as it was conducting an inquiry into the accessibility of services to Parliament. Blind Citizens NZ made a written submission and we appeared in person to support our submission and answer questions.

Perhaps a Step Closer to a Fully Confidential Vote

In July the Electoral Commission convened a workshop entitled “Promoting Participation in General Elections for Disabled People”. This was attended by representatives from the disability community including Blind Citizens NZ.
The workshop discussed the Electoral Commission’s Voter Participation Strategy which promotes the introduction of Telephone Dictation Voting. Blind Citizens NZ sees this as a positive step forward, but we have requested more information to ascertain how security and confidentiality will be assured.

Syndicate content