Welcome, readers, to the July issue of Blind Citizens News, my first as editor. And thank you to all the staff and members who have welcomed me, warmly and kindly, on board.
I’d like to specifically thank former editor Lynne Davis, who has provided invaluable and generous mentorship throughout the preparation of my first issue. My conversations with her, and of course with CEO Emma Bennison and President John Simpson, have been pivotal opportunities to shape my ideas.
Finally, thank you to everyone who responded to my call for contributions. Some of you have already submitted amazing work for this edition, and I’ve begun conversations with others which I’m certain will lead to more great pieces soon.
Typically for an editor, the only thing I’m anticipating more than my next cup of coffee (strong and black please), is the next issue. I’m very pleased to announce that it will arrive sooner than you may expect, in October 2018.
I want you to be part of it. Once again, I’m eagerly seeking submissions, from informative pieces to personal reflections to letters to the editor. The final due date for this issue will be Friday, August 10. For more information, please read the submission guidelines at the end of this issue.
When I wrote to you to introduce myself, I explained that from my perspective, a large part of my role is helping you to tell your stories. If BCA is to be the united voice of Australians who are blind or vision impaired, then we must first talk amongst ourselves. BC News is the perfect place to begin those conversations.
Nothing gets people talking better than news. But news is far more than the reporting of events. It is also the examination of what is new. Looking at the arc of history, what isn’t new? The last decade has seen rapid technological innovations which have fundamentally changed the way information is accessed, spread and understood. It’s easy to forget that in July 2008, the iPhone was a novelty, and tablets didn’t exist. In 1975 when the first issue of Buff was released, the personal computer was a fanciful dream. Popular futurist Ray Kurzweil suggests that because each new technology makes it easier for us to invent the next one, the rate of technological change will increase over time. My intuition says this must be true. And if it is, then it’s vital that we don’t become complacent. These changes may not always improve our lives.
Take, for example, the increasing popularity of touch screen EFTPOS terminals, which are inaccessible to blind or vision impaired customers. Cases like this remind us of the importance of bodies like BCA, which speak on our behalf, and provide us tools and avenues to speak for ourselves, as outlined later in the issue.
We also live in a time of incredible social and political progress. This, too, demands our constant attention. Complex policies like immigration, for example, often fail to account for minorities, let alone individuals. If it is to achieve its own goals, the National Disability Insurance Scheme must be held accountable for its failures.
So what do stories have to do with any of this? In my experience, most people generally accept that people who are blind or vision impaired deserve dignity and equality, but find it difficult to act on such a nebulous idea.
But tell someone about the CEO of a national organisation who missed her flight because she couldn’t get help, and they will understand how she must have felt. Explain why sports fans can’t watch their team play, and a national media giant might rethink their approach to accessibility.
Martin Stewart, whose discussions with Telstra lead to that remarkable victory, writes more this issue about the value of the individual in advocacy. But I wanted to say here how important story-telling is, not just for bringing about change, but also for inspiring that unity which BCA promises.
Stories remind us that we’re not alone. In Louise Pearson’s reflections on blindness and mental health, you might discover that someone else, like you, has felt overwhelmed by the barriers between her and the help she needed, and take encouragement from her creative problem-solving.
Or thanks to Emma Bennison’s courage, we can see that even our leaders struggle with anxiety, self-doubt, and their high expectations of themselves, even as we’re guided and reassured by their vision and dedication.
Through the stories we tell one other, we find that exclusion comes in as many shapes and forms as we do, but it hurts everyone the same way. I believe that in all our diversity, we can be united in refusing to accept that hurt, for ourselves or for anyone else, in working toward a society in which no one is left behind.
To me, this is what BC News stands for. This is why I want to hear from you, even, and especially, if you’ve not spoken out before. There’s always something new happening, and the news will keep coming. Of course, we’ll keep bringing you the information you need to navigate the rapidly changing world.
But what we’ll also bring you is stories about that change, good and bad, and how it impacts people in complex and unexpected ways. So let me end by asking you, again, to think about what’s new in your life. What do you notice about the changes around you, and how they affect you and others? Can your experience help others, or do you need help yourself? Might someone else feel as alone as you do? Together, could you achieve something which you couldn’t have on your own?
Stories help us reflect on the past, interrogate the present, and imagine the future. Stories raise questions, which spark conversations, which can lead to answers. Stories change minds, and change lives. You can never predict what a story will inspire.
So ask yourself, what story could you tell?