He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
I love the sentiment expressed here which comes from a longer whakataukī Māori or proverb. It asks how the bellbird would sing if the shoot at the heart of the flax bush was plucked out and focuses on
the importance of the whānau unit for nurturing people. 
I’ve referred to this proverb in so many situations to remind my audience about the importance of people to me, our work, and hopefully, our society.
At the Blind Citizens NZ Board meeting in November, I put forward the idea that the title of this column should be the theme for our 2024 Annual General Meeting and Conference and that it should also be the over-arching theme of all we do as an organisation over the next twelve months. This was accepted for so many reasons, chief among which is that we must turn our focus towards our people, our branches and networks, and to securing the future of our organisation. Central to this thinking is that people are the future of our organisation.
If the next twelve months are to be transformative, we will need to commit organisational resources, both financial and human resources to the effort. We will need ideas and cooperation from people to make the transformation a reality we all wish to share in.
We will be running an advocacy/ | leadership workshop, and we will put energy into supporting branches and networks to help make Blind Citizens NZ more relevant to a wider number of blind and low-vision people.
In discussing what we need to think about, one Board member asked what we could do with artificial intelligence to help us do what we do. I’ve had a bit of experience working with ChatGPT this year, both to help me do what I want done, but also so that I can tell when my students are doing their own work. The next three sections of my column were generated with the help of ChatGPT. Each piece is 400 words long, and was generated by a single sentence describing what I wanted. I have modified the resulting text to remove obvious clangers in terminology. I think many of you will see that it is definitely
not my style, but each section could theoretically have been written by a real person. I hope you’ll consider what take-aways you have from reading them. I’ve provided mine at the end.
Building Bridges: The Crucial Role of Collaboration for Blind people in New Zealand
In the vibrant tapestry of New Zealand’s diverse society, the significance of collaboration cannot be overstated, especially for individuals with vision impairments. For the blind community, the journey towards inclusion and empowerment is paved with the bricks of cooperation and understanding.
Navigating the world without sight requires resilience and adaptability. In a society that often prioritizes individual achievements, the blind community in New Zealand thrives when the spirit of collaboration
takes center stage. Working with people isn’t just a preference; it’s a necessity for fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can contribute meaningfully.
One of the fundamental aspects of collaboration for blind individuals is the cultivation of an inclusive workplace.
By embracing diversity and breaking down barriers, employers not only create a more welcoming atmosphere but also tap into a wealth of untapped talent. Blind individuals bring unique perspectives, problem-solving skills, and a tenacity that enriches the collective experience.
Moreover, collaborative efforts extend beyond the professional realm. In a country known for its breathtaking landscapes, blind individuals often rely on the support of their community to explore and enjoy the beauty of New Zealand. Whether it’s participating in local initiatives, joining recreational clubs, or engaging in communal activities, the blind community’s involvement is not just about being present but actively contributing to the shared experience.
Technology, too, plays a crucial role in enhancing collaboration for the vision impaired. In a world dominated by screens and vision cues, assistive technologies have emerged as powerful tools, bridging gaps and enabling seamless communication. By investing in and promoting accessible technologies, New Zealand can further empower its blind citizens to connect, collaborate, and thrive in the digital age.
The essence of collaboration lies in breaking down stereotypes and fostering a culture of empathy. By working hand-in-hand, sighted and vision impaired people can dispel misconceptions, promote understanding, and dismantle the barriers that hinder full participation in society. New Zealand has the opportunity to lead by example, showcasing the strength that comes from unity in diversity.
In conclusion, the importance of working with people, especially for blind people in New Zealand, cannot be overstated. Collaboration isn’t just a means to an end; it’s the cornerstone upon which an inclusive and empowering society is built. By embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and harnessing the power of technology, New Zealand can pave the way for a future where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can contribute to the rich tapestry of the nation.
Co-Governance: Navigating New Frontiers for Blind Māori
in Disability Organisations
In the realm of disability advocacy and support, the concept of co-governance stands as a beacon of empowerment and inclusivity. For blind Māori individuals in New Zealand, the importance of co-governance within disability organisations cannot be overstated. It’s not just about representation; it’s about crafting a narrative that resonates with the unique intersection of blindness and Māori identity, steering towards a future where diverse voices shape the path to inclusivity.
Co-governance, at its core, is a commitment to shared decision-making. For blind Māori individuals, this translates into an opportunity to actively participate in shaping the policies and initiatives that directly impact their lives. In a landscape where cultural nuances and accessibility requirements intersect, co-governance becomes a vehicle for bridging gaps and fostering a more holistic approach to disability advocacy.
Disability organisations that embrace co-governance recognize the need for diverse perspectives at the decision-making table. Blind Māori individuals bring not only their experiences with blindness but also a rich cultural heritage that adds depth to the discourse. By weaving the threads of Māori identity into the fabric of disability advocacy, co-governance ensures that the unique challenges and aspirations of this community are not only acknowledged but woven into the very fabric of support systems.
Moreover, co-governance promotes a sense of ownership and agency among blind Māori individuals. When they actively participate in the decision-making processes of disability organisations, it empowers them to become agents of change within their own communities.
By fostering a sense of responsibility and leadership, co-governance becomes a catalyst for dismantling barriers and fostering an environment where blind Māori individuals not only receive support but actively contribute to shaping the future landscape.
Cultural competence is paramount in co-governance, especially in a country as culturally diverse as New Zealand. Disability organisations need to cultivate an understanding of the unique challenges faced by blind Māori individuals, from navigating cultural expectations to ensuring that accessibility initiatives align with cultural values. Co-governance becomes a bridge, connecting the expertise of disability advocates with the lived experiences of blind Māori individuals, resulting in more nuanced and effective support systems.
In conclusion, co-governance is not just a buzzword; it’s a transformative approach that holds immense significance for blind Māori individuals within disability organisations in New Zealand. By embracing shared decision-making, acknowledging cultural nuances, and empowering individuals to actively shape their destinies, co-governance becomes the compass guiding disability organisations
towards a future where the voices of blind Māori individuals resonate loudly, shaping a more inclusive and culturally sensitive landscape for all.
Empowering Blind Māori: Fostering Inclusivity for the Blind Community
In the pursuit of empowerment and inclusivity within the blind community in New Zealand, it is essential to address concerns about potential feelings of threat or disenfranchisement among non-Māori individuals. The goal is not to create divides but to foster a collective strength that embraces diversity and ensures that the empowerment of one group enhances the overall fabric of support and understanding within the blind community.
Firstly, transparent communication is paramount. Initiatives aimed at empowering blind Māori individuals should be communicated as efforts to enhance the overall inclusivity of the community. Clear messaging helps dispel any misconceptions and assures non-Māori members that the goal is to create a space where everyone’s unique experiences and needs are acknowledged and addressed.
Education plays a pivotal role in promoting understanding. Non-Māori individuals within the blind community should be provided with opportunities to learn about the cultural richness and historical context of blind Māori experiences. By fostering cultural competence, the community can build bridges of understanding, mitigating any potential feelings of threat or disenfranchisement.
Collaborative platforms that encourage open dialogue can further strengthen unity within the blind community. Forums, workshops, and discussions that involve both Māori and non-Māori members allow for shared experiences to be heard and valued. It is through these interactions that a sense of community solidarity can be cultivated, reinforcing the idea that empowerment for one group enhances the collective strength of all.
Leadership and representation should be inclusive. Efforts should be made to ensure that leadership positions within the blind community reflect its diversity. This inclusivity sends a powerful message that all voices are valued, regardless of cultural background. When individuals see themselves represented in leadership roles, it fosters a sense of belonging and diminishes any perception of exclusion.
Moreover, initiatives aimed at empowering blind Māori individuals should be designed collaboratively, with input from diverse perspectives. Inclusive decision-making processes ensure that the needs of all members are considered, fostering a sense of ownership and shared responsibility. This approach reinforces the idea that empowerment is a collective journey where each member contributes to the community’s growth and strength.
In conclusion, the empowerment of blind Māori individuals should be approached as a catalyst for broader inclusivity within the blind community. Transparent communication, education, collaborative platforms, inclusive leadership, and shared decision-making are key elements in ensuring that non-Māori individuals do not feel threatened or disenfranchised. By embracing diversity as a source of strength, the blind community in New Zealand can create a harmonious and empowering environment where everyone feels valued and supported.
Back to a real person
The text lacks a human touch that I try to incorporate into my writing. I’ve spent about two hours on this column, from idea to submission. I’ve used a tool and it has saved me perhaps four (or more) hours of time. There is a cost though. You don’t know if I agree with the statements made in the generated text. As it happens I generally do but there are some implications of the text that I’d prefer you asked me about in a person to person setting.
As for the content, some of the sentences are beautifully crafted, but they aren’t me. And the responses about blind Māori are coming from a computer, not coming from tāngata whenua themselves. ChatGPT has not embraced proper use of macrons on vowels, and some of the language used for blind people who also identify as Māori feels a bit clunky. I think it might be seen as disrespectful; well it feels wrong to me anyway. More to the point, the responses undermine the very essence of self-determination.
So what bothers me about the generated text is that it feels disingenuous to me. I haven’t engaged with it and nor has anyone else. I don’t feel like it is mine or that I own what is said. To know me, you must talk to me, or converse with me in a way that shows you who I am and what I stand for. We can only do that if we engage with each other as people. Yes, we can use tools to facilitate our communication, but we cannot afford to let the tools define us.
To that end, in order to play my part in our organisation having an increased focus on people, I will be making myself available at 5pm on designated Tuesdays to talk to anyone about anything you like. We will be online, but people will be able to connect using their landline or mobile phones. This will happen on a six-week cycle starting on Tuesday 20 February. I hope you can join me.