Notice of 2015 BCA Annual General Meeting

Blind Citizens Australia

Annual General Meeting
11.00am on Sunday 11 October 2015


Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) will hold its 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Perth, at the Mercure Hotel, 16 Irwin Street Perth, on Sunday 11 October 2015 at 11.00am. The AGM will be held in conjunction with the 2015 BCA National Convention and will be streamed live over the internet.

The agenda for the AGM can be found here BCA 2015 AGM Agenda (Word doc) and includes presentation and discussion of the Annual Report and Financial Statements as well as the announcement of the election of Directors.

The special business for the meeting will be consideration of some minor changes to the BCA Constitution (details can be found here) BCA Minor Constitution Changes (Word doc)

All Full Members are entitled to one vote each in relation to any resolutions put forward at the AGM. If Full Members are unable to attend this meeting, they may appoint the chairperson, or another Full Member as a proxy. Information about Proxy Voting is available from the National Office.

It is important to note that no election will take place at the AGM. The method used to elect Directors is by postal vote. All eligible full members of BCA will have the opportunity to vote via a postal ballot should an election be necessary.

Board Elections

Call for Nominations for Directors of Blind Citizens Australia

This year there are five vacancies for Directors of BCA, all are for a three-year term.
Directors whose term of office concludes this year are Chelsea Bartlett, Stephen Belbin, Emma Bennison, Erika Webb and John Simpson. Emma Bennison is not eligible for re-election as she has recently been appointed as BCA President. The other retiring Directors are eligible for re-election.

Potential nominees are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Position Description for Director which is available from the National Office on request. People wishing to nominate for the position of “BCA Director” are required to complete and sign a nomination form. To obtain a nomination form, contact the National Office. A copy of the nomination form is also available here BCA Directore Nomination Form (Word doc)

Valid nomination forms must include the names and signatures of nominator and seconder both of whom must be Full Members of BCA as at 30 June 2015. Please contact the Company Secretary, Greg Madson, on 0408 396 333, to discuss alternate methods of submitting a valid nomination form.

All nominations should be accompanied by a written statement in support of the nomination by, or on behalf of, the nominee. Nominee’s statements, which should be submitted in electronic form, should be no more than 500 words.

Nominations for election as a BCA Director and accompanying statements must reach Greg Madson, Company Secretary, at or via the National Office, by 5.00pm Tuesday 1 September 2015.

Ballot Papers

Only Full Members of Blind Citizens Australia as at 30 June 2015 may cast a postal vote.
(i) If there are five or less nominees for election as Directors at the close of the nomination period, those members nominated will be declared elected and there will not be a ballot.
(ii) If there are more than five nominees for election as Directors at the close of the nomination period, a ballot will be held. At the close of the poll, the five nominees with the highest number of valid votes received will be declared elected for a three-year term
If a ballot is required, ballot papers, along with the details of all nominees and their supporting statements, will be mailed to all eligible Full Members by Tuesday 15 September 2015. Completed ballot papers must be returned to the Company Secretary at the National Office no later than Thursday 1 October 2015. Any ballot papers received after this date will not be counted.
The Company Secretary will declare the results of the poll at the AGM on 11 October 2015.

Annual Report

If you would like a personal copy of the 2014-2015 BCA Annual Report, please call the National Office on 03 9654 1400 or 1800 033 660 to lodge this request. This Report will be available in large print, Braille, or by email only. As soon as the Report is available it will be sent to you in your preferred format. The Report will also be published on the BCA Website.

National Policy and Development Council(NPDC)

As several of the recommendations that resulted from the recent BCA Leaders’ Summit relate to the processes that BCA applies to its Policy and Organisational Development functions the BCA Board has resolved to give urgent priority to the conduct of a review of the functioning of the National Policy and Development Council. To facilitate this review and ensure that the NPDC can continue to support BCA’s Policy and Advocacy work current elected members of the NPDC will be invited to remain in office until the review is completed. The Terms of Reference for this Review will be made available to members by the time of the 2015 National Convention.

Constitution Amendments

The BCA Board is recommending to members that five minor constitutional amendments be approved at the 2015 Annual General Meeting. Details of these amendments and an explanation of their purpose can be found in this document BCA minor constitutional amendments (Word doc)

Full Members of BCA present in person or by Proxy will be able to vote on the approval of these amendments at the AGM on 11 October 2015.

National Convention

Information regarding the 2015 National Convention is available on the BCA website, in the August SoundAbout and it will also be presented on New Horizons programs leading up to the AGM.
To obtain a registration form for Convention, please contact the National Office or download a copy from our website. You can register for Convention over the phone, via the BCA website, by email or mail. The closing date for registration is Thursday 24 September 2015.

Nominations for David Blyth Award

Every National Convention year, BCA presents an award to a person who has significantly contributed to the lives of people who are blind or vision impaired. Do you know someone who should be nominated? Has the person contributed at a national level? Written nominations outlining the work of the nominee and why they should be considered must reach the National Office by 31 August 2015. The nominee can be a person who is blind, vision impaired or sighted.

BCA Certificates of Appreciation

At each National Convention, BCA awards up to two Certificates of Appreciation to individuals who have contributed to advancing the values and mission of BCA. Successful individuals may have contributed to BCA at a national, state or territory level. If you would like to nominate an individual for a BCA Certificate of Appreciation, please submit a written nomination outlining the reasons why the nominee should be considered. Nominations must reach the BCA office by 31 August 2015.

The Nomination form for David Blyth and Certificates of Appreciation can be found here David Blyth and Certificates of Appreciation Form (Word doc)


On behalf of the Board and staff of BCA, I do hope you can join us at this year’s National Convention and Annual General Meeting. I encourage you to consider nominating for a position as a Director of BCA. As an organisation of and for people who are blind or vision impaired, it is important that we acknowledge and support each other to enhance the lives of people who are blind or vision impaired.

Greg Madson
Company Secretary
10 August 2015

Welcome to Blind Citizens Australia

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the united voice of Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

Our mission is to achieve equity and equality by our empowerment, by promoting positive community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and accessible services which meet our needs.

Whether you are blind, have a vision impairment , a family member or friend of a person who is blind or vision impaired, BCA is here to assist you.

We provide information, peer support, individual and systemic advocacy, and consultancy services. Our Branches act as local lobby groups and provide opportunities for social interaction for members.

Explore our site. Learn about us. Listen to SoundAbout for profiles of people who are blind or vision impaired and those working with our community. If you are interested in audio-described TV, cinema and DVD content check out It’s Our Turn. Set your dial and tune in to our weekly radio program New Horizons. For the issues and policies that affect you, plus useful information and tips, turn to the pages of BC News or Parent News.

Welcome to BCA, the national organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired.

contact BCA:

Toll Free:
1800 033 660

(03) 9654 1400

Email: Blind Citizens Australia

Donate to Blind Citizens Australia by using the PayPal button below

Registrations now open for BCA 2015 National Convention

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the representative body for Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

You can now Register for the 2015 BCA National Convention. the National Convention webpage link below will take you to further information.

A copy of the (draft) Program and the Registration form are available on the BCA 2015 National Convention webpage.

This year’s theme is “Looking Forward Looking Back” Celebrating Blind Citizens Australia.

Event details
Date: Saturday 10 – Sunday 11 October 2015

Starting with a Welcome function hosted by Blind Citizens WA on Friday 9th October evening.

Venue: Mercure Perth Hotel
10 Irwin Street, Perth WA 6000
Phone: 08 9326 7000
Email Mercure Perth
Mercure Perth website

Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #BCACONV and on Twitter @au_BCA

Visit the BCA 2015 National Convention webpage for registration details and further information.

BCA Office Update – Meet the CEO Teleconferences

Hi everyone,

It’s been a little over a week since I last wrote to you, but it feels like it should have been a month! Since my last email, we’ve had:three Meet the CEO teleconferences, the registrations for Convention in Perth have begun to come in, and the next BC Update is being written.

I wanted to share with you some of the questions and ideas which have come out of the Meet the CEO teleconferences. Firstly though, I want to thank everyone who took the time out of their week to come along to the teleconferences. It’s not always easy to make time to connect with organisations like BCA in the rough and tumble of day to day life, so thank you to those who did, including the Board members who came along to hear what you had to say.

There were lots of great comments and ideas from all three sessions, but I thought today I’d give you a sense of three of the common threads:

Aged Care is important, what’s BCA doing?
When I last wrote to the list, one member responded to ask about aged care and what the current changes might mean for people over 65. This topic came up a lot in the teleconferences, and has been raised in other places too. This week Rikki Chaplin and I met with Vision Australia to begin to build our understanding of how the changes in aged care are affecting people who are blind or vision impaired. Thanks to the VA staff who are helping us on the path to making sure BCA is better placed to be a strong consumer voice in this area. We’ll keep digging for information and exploring the issues in aged care, then we’ll let you know what happens next.

It can be a challenge for people to be involved with Branches. What can we do differently?
Every teleconference talked about how useful branches can be, and also how challenging it can be to get people to come along to branch meetings. At each of the teleconferences, we talked about the changes to the Branch by-laws, which allow for a less formal ‘coordinator’ to manage groups without the need for some of the more formal processes you would need at a Branch. Some Branches and groups are already looking at this model to see if it would suit them.

Access to information matters within BCA too.
There was lots of good discussion about how BCA communicates with its members, and what it can do differently. Many people recognised that we now have a challenge in making sure that information we send out electronically – which can go out very quickly – is able to be accessed by people who don’t use computers or social media. We also had some interesting suggestions about how access to information might work better within BCA. How can we help people who aren’t at Conventions to participate? What can we do about using electronic voting methods in BCA?

We also had some feedback that it was very valuable to have the time to connect with BCA leadership in this way, and it would be good to continue it. Based on that feedback, we’ll run some more CEO teleconferences in the future. Stay tuned for more details!

As always, if you’d like to know more, or you have some ideas for us, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly or the dedicated team in the office.

Kind regards,

Leah van Poppel
Chief Executive Officer
Blind Citizens Australia
Ross House
Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Mobile: 0430 210 980
Toll Free: 1800 033 660
Phone: 03 9654 1400
Twitter: @au_BCA
ABN: 90 006 985 226

BCA acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders both past and present.

Association of Blind Citizens of NSW Audio Description Forum,

The Association of Blind Citizens of NSW is pleased to make available, the recording of the recent Audio Description Forum, where a panel of people provided information and discussion on various aspects of audio description, including an update on the Court case against the ABC for not providing audio description on free to air television, a demonstration of the ABC iView application for accessing catch up television with audio description, and discussion of live audio description in community cultural events.

To download and listen to this audio presentation, please visit the Association’s Website, at: bcnsw Audio Description Presentation

Rowena Dowling.
Executive Officer.
Association of Blind Citizens of NSW.

New Horizons Program 413

This week on program 413 of New Horizons, Peter Greco speaks with Nicole Tobin Donnelly about the Upcoming Albinism Fellowship of Australia Conference in Cairns and with Stephen Jolley about his petition for audio description on television.

You can use the embedded audio player above to listen or download the program.

New Horizons is available as a podcast! Using your pod catcher of choice, use the URL to subscribe manually to the New Horizons program.

New Horizons is Blind Citizens Australia’s weekly radio program. It can be heard on RPH and community radio stations throughout Australia. Go here for Broadcast times and stations

Current and past Episodes of New Horizons can also be found on the Blind Citizens Australia audio page

And on the The Global Voice

New Horizons is produced at the studios of Vision Australia Radio in Melbourne. Blind Citizens Australia thanks Vision Australia for their technical Support and for the use of their resources. You can visit Vision Australia on the web at Vision Australia website

Senate Calls For TV Audio For Blind People

Source: ProBono news
Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 – 10:45
Author: Xavier Smerdon

The Australian Senate has supported a motion which could force television stations to introduce audio description services for blind and vision impaired people.

Australian Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, raised the motion yesterday which called for the implementation of audio description services on free-to-air and subscription television programs by the ABC and all other networks.

Senator Siewert said a large portion of the Australian population were being disadvantaged by not having full access to television shows. “Audio description describes actions, gestures, scene changes and facial expressions for those with no or low vision during pauses in dialogue,” Senator Siewert said.

“Currently the ABC, SBS, Foxtel, and the commercial free-to-air television networks provide no audio description in Australia. With approximately 350,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision, this is simply not good enough.

“The Senate acknowledged this today in supporting my motion. The motion calls on the Government to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to include requirements for the provision of audio description on free-to-air and subscription television programs.”

Senator Siewert said Australia had fallen behind the rest of the world in not making television shows accessible to blind and vision impaired people. “Audio description has already rolled out in the Germany, Spain, Ireland, the US and the UK on free-to-air or subscription services,” she said.

“It is time for us to catch-up and offer this service across the board. I hope Senate support for this motion increases momentum on the issue and encourages positive outcomes.”

In July this year NSW woman, Suzanne Hudson launched a case of unlawful discrimination against the ABC for its failure to provide audio description services. In February Not for Profit, Vision Australia lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and Foxtel, calling for an audio description service. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) represented Vision Australia in the complaints and said the organisation was asking for a minimum of 14 hours of audio described content per week on each channel named in the complaint.

“In the same way as captioning has facilitated media access for people who are deaf, audio description has the potential to significantly improve access to Australia’s cultural life for the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision,” PIAC’s CEO, Edward Santow said.

“The technology and accessible content exists, and it has already been successfully trialled on the ABC in 2012, so we are calling on the other Australian broadcasters to take this important, permanent step towards equality now.

Artificial intelligence enables people who are blind to “see”

An app that allows people who are blind to identify the world directly in front of them using machine vision technology.

This short video shows the reactions of first users: Youtube clip

Media release

Artificial intelligence enables blind people to “see”

Students at Singularity University have created an app that allows blind people to identify the world directly in front of them using machine vision technology.

The app, Aipoly, is an intelligent assistant for the visually impaired that empowers them to explore and understand their surroundings through computer vision and audio-feedback.

“The power is in helping us construct the mental picture. And not everybody has the same skill at creating mental images,” says Steve Mahan, president of the Santa Clara Blind Centre and Google’s self-driving car’s first user. “Most of us are trying to do [that]. Knowing where we are is sometimes more than an address.”

The user takes a picture that is automatically uploaded to the Aipoly servers, where it is analysed and tagged, and a description is sent back and read out loud using text-to-speech. This means that blind people may be able to see what their kids are wearing each day, recognise street signs, find objects that are out of reach, and have freedom to purchase gifts for their friends by themselves.

The machine vision algorithm is optimised for use by the visually impaired with training in street signs and objects commonly used by blind people.

Machine vision, or computer vision, is an exponential technology that has more than doubled in accuracy between 2012 and 2013. Convolutional neural networks are used to identify the elements within a picture and neural image caption generation to feed back a semantic description of its content.

There are 285M visually impaired people in the world and in the next 5 years, two thirds of them will become smartphone users.

As for the bigger vision, “developing this technology further could help us identify and search for objects around our homes and outdoors like we do with websites online,” says Aipoly cofounder Alberto Rizzoli.

Singularity University was founded in 2008 by Ray Kurzweil, a pioneer in blind technology having created optical character recognition (OCR) and the first text-to-speech synthesizer, with over 40 years of experience in the field.

“This complements the work that Ray Kurzweil has done,” says Aipoly cofounder and 2012 Young Australian of the Year Marita Cheng. “In every focus group, people mention a Kurzweil technology they use to get about their daily lives.”

Singularity University students learn about using exponential technologies to impact the lives of a billion people within 10 years. The Aipoly technology will be showcased at Singularity University’s Demo Day on 18 August at NASA AMES Research Park in Mountain View.

Aipoly is now looking for beta testers from around the world. Beta testers of all visual abilities (including fully sighted and blind) are sought.

Press kit, video, photos, logo, images:

Marita Cheng
Cofounder, Aipoly
+1 (650) 695-7409