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.

Contact BCA:

Toll Free:
1800 033 660

Phone:
03 9654 1400

Text:
0488 824 623

Email: Blind Citizens Australia

Donate to Blind Citizens Australia by using the PayPal “Donate” button below (you can donate via PayPal without setting up a PayPal account).




New Horizons Podcast

New Horizons is Blind Citizens Australia’s weekly radio show. It is an interview style, with topics relevant to people who are blind or vision impaired. It runs for about 15 minutes, in MP3 format. To listen, you can use the audio player below.

From January 2018, New Horizons and other BCA audio files are available from a new podcast feed ! You can subscribe to the Blind Citizens Australia podcast feed by pointing your Pod-Catcher to: http://blindcitizens.podbean.com/feed

To visit the Blind Citizens Australia podbean page, go to: http://blindcitizens.podbean.com

Consultation for Aged Care

Blind Citizens Australia invites you to share your stories and experiences of accessing services, support and information for those who are aged 65 or older. How are My Aged Care and other disability-related programs and services supporting you, a person who is blind or vision impaired? What are the gaps in what is available to you?  If there are services that you haven’t yet accessed, what is stopping you from connecting to them?

BCA is making a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. A royal commission is the highest level of public inquiry in Australia. Its main functions are to investigate an issue, produce a report and make recommendations to government. This work is informed by extensive input from members of the community, who are invited to share their concerns about the matter/s being investigated.

To ensure we include the views of people who are blind or vision impaired, we are asking you to share your experiences with supports, or lack thereof, for those who are blind or vision impaired and are 65 or over. We know that it is essential that our thoughts and viewpoints and recommendations that we present are backed up by examples and numbers.  Providing real life experiences and stories is the best and most effective way that we can advocate for change. We are interested in hearing from you whether or not you currently access services through the aged care system.

Some initial thoughts on topics that you may be able to include in your feedback:

  • My Aged Care Assessment Process – how can this be more individualised and related to the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired?
  • Focus on frailty in ageing rather than individualised disability-specific needs.  The needs of BCA members are generally related to their blindness or vision impairment, which may have been supported through disability services prior to the introduction of the NDIS.  How are these support needs being met now?
  • Access to Assistive Technology.  How can you access blindness-specific supports through the aged care system?  What are the gaps in getting this support?
  • Available packages and waiting lists – how does the system ensure safety and independence by making appropriate levels of support available to individuals?
  • Lack of independent access to information on aged care in accessible formats – especially care plans and contracts.
  • Issues with dog guide access and maintenance through My Aged Care.  What are the barriers with service providers in getting and paying for dog guides if you are 65 or over?
  • Service Provider issues with high admin fees and unethical practices
  • Lack of training in disability/ability awareness for aged care service providers

Please note that to ensure your privacy and confidentiality, all stories we receive will be de-identified, with all names and identifying details removed before we use it.  BCA may use your story as an example to the submission to the Royal Commission, as well as further communications with government in the future.

You can contribute to this important consultation in a number of ways.

Phone: 1800 033 660 and talk to a BCA staff member, who will take down your story with you over the phone.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone over the phone, you can share your story by leaving a message through the feedback option on BCA’s phone system by selecting option 2 when calling. This can be done anonymously if you wish.

You can also email: bca@bca.org.au with the subject: Feedback on Aged Care

If you have been considering making your own personal submission to the Royal Commission, we can also assist you in that process.

If you are sharing someone else’s experience or story, you must have their permission to do so.

If you know of someone who may not get this call out for feedback from BCA but who would like to contribute, please pass on this information to them, or encourage them to contact BCA for further information.

All stories and feedback for the Royal Commission into Aged Care must be received by BCA by Monday 5th August 2019.

Sharing personal stories may bring up feelings of distress. If you are feeling affected by this process, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Angela Jaeschke
Advocacy and Policy Manager

Media Release: Airlines Not Listening to the Needs of Deafblind Australians

Peak bodies Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) and Deafblind Australia (DBA) have called on all airlines to implement policies to make their practices fully inclusive and respectful towards all passengers, irrespective of their impairment.   Last week, twenty-one-year-old Vanessa Vlajkovic was prevented from boarding the Jetstar flight she had booked from Perth to Adelaide because she is deafblind. Ms Vlajkovic requested assistance when she booked the flight and stated she was deafblind, but her loss of both sight and hearing was not recorded by the airline in its entirety. The notes only mentioned her hearing loss.

Jetstar apologised and said that if they had been aware that Ms Vlajkovic is deafblind, the airline would have advised her that she would not be permitted to fly without a carer being with her.

Jetstar’s treatment of Ms Vlajkovic last week was disgraceful according to BCA and DBA. Jetstar’s failure to accommodate Ms Vlajkovic’s needs was discriminatory and presents limitations for people who are deafblind that other passengers are not subjected to.

“I am more familiar with my limitations than ANYONE else, I will not willingly put myself in harm’s way. If I thought I couldn’t fly alone I wouldn’t,” said Ms Vlajkovic. “It isn’t the administration error itself of not entering my disability that is the issue. The ignorance is the worst bit, and I hope to see that change soon. The airline’s job is to accommodate my needs, not kick me off a flight simply because they see fit.”

“The claim that Jetstar made saying that Ms Vlajkovic’s safety would be at risk if she did not travel without a carer is baseless,” said David Murray, CEO of DBA. “Technology is readily available which enables the communication gap that once existed between people who are deafblind and their non-disabled peers to be easily overcome.” Ms Vlajkovic uses an iPhone combined with a braille display. This technology enables her to both read incoming communication which she can receive via text, and to send her responses via text also.

“People who are deafblind use a wide variety of methods to communicate depending on what situation they are in,” said Rikki Chaplin, President of DBA. “This does not mean that people who use their sight and hearing to communicate are prevented from interacting with people who are deafblind. That’s why it’s so important for airlines to develop policies based on demonstrated evidence, rather than ill-informed perceptions of how people with disabilities interact with others.”

It is this message which Deafblind Australia and Blind Citizens Australia wish to convey to all airlines.

“At a time when society is working towards becoming more inclusive of people with disabilities, it is disgraceful for any airline to think that they are exempt,” said Emma Bennison, CEO of BCA.

“We live in a time when technology has the potential to make genuine inclusivity a reality for people who are deafblind, and we fully support DBA and Ms Vlajkovic in holding Jetstar accountable.”

BCA has been working closely with airlines to ensure that their practices are fully inclusive. BCA and DBA call on Jetstar to join other airlines in collaborating with people who are deafblind to ensure that their policies and procedures are truly inclusive.

View the full media release here.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Morrison,

In your victory speech on Saturday night, you said that you would govern for “all Australians”. That statement gave many people with disability hope that they would have a stronger voice and that their needs would be given higher priority by your Government in this parliamentary term.

Blind Citizens Australia believes there are three opportunities for you to demonstrate, quickly and decisively, your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

  1. End the inequality which sees Australians who are blind or vision impaired denied the right to watch television while people who are deaf or hearing impaired have their right to do so enshrined in legislation;
  2. Appoint a suitably qualified person with disability as CEO of the NDIS to ensure the needs and aspirations of people with disability are central to decision-making; and
  3. Review the appointments of Commissioners to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, to replace those Commissioners with actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Audio Description

For over twenty years now, we have been advocating for Audio Description, an additional audio track which provides us with details of action and scenery so we can enjoy television like other Australians. During the election campaign, Labour committed $4 million in funding to the ABC and SBS for the establishment of an Audio Description service, yet to date, your party has remained silent on the issue.

You got your miracle on Saturday night, now you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” and ensure we have the same access to television as people who are deaf or hearing impaired in this country. That would constitute a miracle for us and would be a visible way to demonstrate your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

A Disability-led NDIS

Blind Citizens Australia works actively and constructively with the NDIA to ensure our NDIS provides choice and control for participants whilst remaining economically sustainable. We are confident that, if led by a skilled and highly qualified executive with disability, the culture of the scheme would better reflect our needs and aspirations. After all, you wouldn’t put a teacher in charge of a bank, and so it is inconceivable that you would put a non-disabled person in charge of a scheme designed to ensure people with disability have the capacity to lead their best life.

What’s more, there is no doubt that leaders with the management experience and business acumen exist. You need only look to the Disability Leadership Institute, or to members of disabled persons organisations like ours for examples of the talent within our community. So, give us a go so that we, the experts, can work with you to get the NDIS working better for us.

Royal Commission

When you announced the Royal Commission into the epidemic of violence and abuse against us over many years, people with disability, our organisations and supporters were relieved and hopeful. Now that the election is over, we trust that you will heed our calls to review the appointment of two Commissioners, whose conflicts of interest threaten the integrity of the Royal Commission process. This is essential if we are to be confident that we can give evidence safely.

Mr Morrison, congratulations to you and your colleagues on your re-election. On behalf of the members of Blind Citizens Australia, and the thousands of people who are blind or vision impaired that we represent, we wish you all the very best for your upcoming term as our Prime Minister.

People with disability, more often than not, are the quiet Australians you spoke of in your campaign. We want nothing more than the right to live, work and play in communities which acknowledge our rights and afford us safety. We’re taking your advice; we’re having a go like most Australians, but we are tired. Tired of having to fight just to be allowed to watch TV with our family and friends, with no indication of when that might change. Tired of not being considered sufficiently talented, economically responsible or experienced to lead our own insurance scheme. Tired of having to fight for the right to give evidence safely in our own Royal Commission.

Despite all our best efforts to work collaboratively with your Ministers and Government agencies, people with disability are not getting a fair go right now. But like you, we believe in miracles, so we look forward to working with you to see ours come to fruition during your first 100 days in Government.

We remain ready, willing, and well able to support you in achieving the next miracle. 

Yours sincerely

Emma Bennison
Chief Executive Officer
Blind Citizens Australia

Calling Braille Writers – 2019 Onkyo World Essay Contest Now Open

The World Blind Union Asia Pacific Onkyo Braille Essay competition is now open for entries, closing 15 June 2019. If you or someone you know is a writer who uses braille, please read the information below and share with your networks. We look forward to receiving your entries by 15 June. Should you have any questions, please contact Samantha Marsh on 1800 033 660.

About the Contest:

The Onkyo World Braille Essay Contest is a worldwide initiative planned and sponsored by Onkyo Corporation Ltd. and the Braille Mainichi in Japan, and is implemented by the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific (WBUAP). It is administered locally by the Australian National Onkyo Selection Committee for the World Braille Essay Contest. The Committee comprises representatives from Blind Citizens Australia and other blindness agencies and organisations whose focus is on information access and braille.

The purpose of the contest is to promote Braille literacy and encourage the reading and writing of Braille; and to encourage cultural and social interaction among blind and vision impaired persons through their writings. The top 5 entries will be sent to the WBUAP Onkyo Selection Committee for final consideration, and any winning Australian entries will be published in Blind Citizens News.

This is an annual competition, with cash prizes awarded to the best seven entries received from within the WBU Asia Pacific Region. The main prize, “the Otsuki Prize” is $US 1000. Other prizes are for “Excellent Works” ($US 500) and “Fine Works” (either $US 300 or $US 200) depending on the age group. Participation in the contest is open to people from 14 years of age, living in the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific Region. Entries are divided into two age groups: persons between the ages of 14 and 25 years; and persons from the age of 26 years upwards.

Essay topics:

  1. Having Overcome the Challenges of Blindness, How I Can or Have Contributed to Society.
  2. The Significance of Braille in the IT Era and in my daily life.
  3. The people or organisations which have helped me on my journey to success.
  4. How Music Has Shaped My Life and Changed the Attitude of Society Towards Blindness.

Closing date is 15 june 2019. Winners will be notified in November 2019.

Essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words and presented in hard copy Braille or in computerized Braille if you can provide proof of your Braille literacy. This can be in the form of a letter from your Braille instructor, teacher or other professional who can vouch for your skills.

When submitting your essay to BCA, you must also provide an electronic photo of yourself, a cover letter stating your full name, address, and contact details, your date of birth and your status ie. student, home maker, worker. If a student state what school you are from including the name, address and email contact for your school

Please submit entries to BCA by June 15 2019 at:
Attention: Samantha Marsh
Samantha.marsh@bca.org.au

Blind Citizens Australia
Ross House
Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

Best of luck!

South Australia: Accessing the Support You Need – Workshops on the NDIS and My Aged Care

Are you interested in learning more about accessing support through the NDIS or My Aged Care?
Regardless of whether you’re still looking at joining one of the schemes or whether you’re already receiving support, if you have questions that you’d like to discuss we’d love for you to come along and join us.

The workshops will cover topics such as:
• Becoming a participant of the NDIS or My Aged Care
• The planning process
• Receiving support
• Assistive Technology
• Accessing information in alternate formats
• There will also be plenty of time to ask questions

We will be running one session on the NDIS and one on My Aged Care concurrently to ensure the information is tailored to your needs.
These workshops are part of the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building work that BCA is undertaking in South Australia, which have previously been offered in New South Wales, Victoria and by teleconference (we have received great feedback from people who have participated). As Blind Citizens Australia is not registered to provide services under the NDIS or My Aged Care we are in a unique position to provide you with information that will enable you to make decisions about how and where you receive the support that best meets your needs.

Location: Royal Society for the Blind, 230 Pirie Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000

Times:
Friday, 12th April 2019 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Saturday, 13th April 2019 9:30am – 12:30pm

Presenters:
Angela Jaeschke, National Policy and Advocacy Manager, Blind Citizens Australia
Sally Aurisch, NSW / ACT Coordinator, Blind Citizens Australia

For further information or to register, please contact Jennifer Parry on 1800 033 660 or jennifer.parry@bca.org.au with the date of the workshop you would like to attend and whether you are interested in the NDIS or My Aged Care.