The COVID-19 situation is continually evolving and ever changing. On this page we provide you with information and links to resources that may be of interest or assistance to you during these times.

BCA’s Weekly Update

Each week, our CEO Emma Bennison will provide a weekly video update. You can watch them here, or access them on our Facebook Page.

Wednesday 28 October

This week we hear from Kathie Elliott and John Simpson about all things board related and the upcoming AGM on November 28 at 12pm AEDT. To register to attend, or learn more, visit our website link: https://www.bca.org.au/2020/09/28/2020agm/. We’re excited to announce Associate Professor Linda Agnew as our guest speaker at the AGM who will chat about her work and STEM pathways.

Click here to access a transcript of this video in Word format.

Happy Hours!

Happy Hours are BCA’s way of connecting with people who are blind or vision impaired. They are free and easy to join. Currently, Happy Hours are taking place every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30pm AEST, and Saturdays at 8pm AEST. For a detailed schedule of topics view our latest member update.

How to join a Happy Hour

  • If you are on a computer, laptop or tablet you can click on this link:  https://zoom.us/j/291084578
  • If you are on a smart phone, you can tap on this number: +61370182005,,291084578#
  • If you are on a landline, you can dial 02 8015 6011 and enter the code: 291 084 578

Zoom

Zoom is a platform you can use to attend virtual meetings. You can dial in using your phone and a meeting ID, or you can connect via a computer.

A lot of things are starting to happen on Zoom, including our Happy Hours. If you’ve never tried it before, or if you would like a bit more information, check out some of these resources:

  • New Horizon’s aired a Zoom tutorial where host Vaughn Bennison takes us through the various ways you can connect to a meeting. You can listen to the tutorial here.
  • Women with Disability Australia have created a How To guide for accessing Zoom, which is available here.
  • Jonathon Mosen’s audio book “Meet Me Accessibly – A Guide to Zoom Cloud Meetings from a Blindness Perspective” is now available for free. You can access it through the Vision Australia library or from the Mosen Consulting website.

It’s Business as usual at BCA

In terms of day-to-day operations at BCA, with a few exceptions, it’s business as usual. We are in the fortunate position where for several years now the vast majority of our staff have worked remotely, and we expect this to continue. We intend to maintain and even grow our staff team and we look forward to being able to provide you with blindness specific information, advocacy, resources and peer support. Our board and senior staff are planning ahead to ensure, as far as possible, we can continue to operate in the event that our organisation is impacted by the virus. We will keep you updated with any changes as they arise.

You can continue to contact BCA in all of the usual ways:

Changes to Branch Meetings

Despite the state and federal government beginning to ease restrictions in several areas, many of our branches are continuing to meet remotely. For the latest information on what your local branch is doing, contact BCA directly, or you can find the contact details for your branch here.

Advocating for our needs

BCA continues to advocate for the needs of all people who are blind or vision impaired. Our focus areas in relation to Covid-19 include:

  • Provision of information in accessible formats
  • Clear information on what people who are blind or vision impaired, and those around us, can do to maintain their safety due to an increased need to touch their surroundings and provide/receive sighted guide or tactile interpreting in the case of people who are deafblind.
  • Safe, fair and continued access to groceries and supplies
  • Accessible home-schooling resources both for students who are blind or vision impaired and for parents who are blind or vision impaired and required to support the education of their children.
  • Information on how people who are blind or vision impaired will be supported should they be hospitalised because of coronavirus.

If you have concerns that you would like to raise you can leave feedback on our phone system by calling 1800 033 660 or send us an email at bca@bca.org.au

Free membership

During this unusual time we know that there are people seeking support from BCA for the first time due to unprecedented impacts on many areas of life. Given that financial pressure is an impact that many are experiencing, we are offering BCA membership for FREE during the course of the pandemic. To take advantage of this opportunity, follow this link to become a member.

Other Resources

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations – COVID-19 Information

AFDO has created a dedicated section on their website where they are regularly providing up to date content related to COVID-19 restrictions, resources and information.

https://www.afdo.org.au/coronavirus-covid-19-information/

COVID-19 Testing at Home

The Victorian Health Minister announced a new program recently that will allow some people to be tested for the virus from their homes.

Victorians who cannot get to a coronavirus testing site easily will have access to a free home test within 48 hours.

Under the new “call-to-test” program, Victorians will need to contact the state’s coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398. More information is available through the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Call to Test website.

New guidelines for the rights of people with disability during COVID-19

New guidelines to support the rights of people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic have been released by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett.

The Australian Human Rights Commission developed the Guidelines on the rights of people with disability in health and disability care during COVID-19 to assist health care, disability services and support workers take a human rights-based approach to decision-making during the pandemic.
In April 2020, the Australian Government Advisory Committee for the COVID-19 Response for People with Disability was formed. Dr Gauntlett, who is a member of the Committee, said the Guidelines had been drafted to support the Committee’s Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, which focuses on clinical, public health and communications actions by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.
In addition to providing advice for health care and disability support workers, the Guidelines may also be useful for people with disability, their families and carers in understanding their rights.

Accessing Pharmaceuticals

Pharmacies around the country can offer free delivery on prescriptions to their customers. The initiative incorporates Australia Post’s contactless delivery in line with current COVID-19 guidelines.

The new delivery option will support vulnerable Australians, including those isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner, people over 70 and people with chronic health conditions. The initiative has been developed in association with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (The Guild) and allows vulnerable members of the community to receive medication and other essential supplies (under 500g) through Australia Post’s Express Post network, once a month, and pharmacies can receive the full cost back through government rebate.

For more information on this service, please contact your local pharmacy directly.

Information and referrals for people with disability and their supporters about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Do you have a question about coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Do you want to know what it means for you?

Do you need help because things have changed?

Do you want to know how you can support someone you live with, care for, or support?

Help for you is here. Contact the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787.

It’s available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm (AEST) and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm (AEST). It’s not available on national public holidays.

Research Survey – Share Your Experience

The University of Melbourne is working with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on a research project to understand your experiences during COVID-19. Follow this link to participate in the survey.

Access to Groceries

BCA has been working hard to ensure continued access to groceries for people who are blind or vision impaired. In many parts of the country delivery and pick-up options have returned to normal. If, however, you do experience issues accessing groceries please contact us with the details.

Information for dog guide handlers using taxis and ride share services

Guide Dogs Australia has issued an update which all dog guide handlers should make themselves familiar with.

Epidemic / Pandemic Policy

View BCA’s Epidemic / Pandemic Policy here.

Mental Health and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak

On Friday 18th April we held our regular Happy Hour with BCA staff Jane Britt, Policy Officer and Naomi Barber, Project Officer, co-facilitating a session on Maintaining Wellbeing. About 12 participants joined us for a thought provoking and enjoyable session.

Some of the tips we explored for maintaining wellbeing from Black Dog Institute included:

  • Minimise unhelpful media or information.
  • What behaviours increase your anxiety? Reduce them. Pay attention to what you do when you’re feeling more anxious.
  • Don’t give negative thoughts too much power. What else can you do instead to shift your focus?
  • Sleep, exercise and eating well will aid wellbeing.
  • Maintain a routine.
  • Stay connected with others by email, video chat, phone calls.
  • Avoid drugs or alcohol.

For more tips, go to: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/news/news-detail/2020/03/20/10-tips-for-managing-anxiety-during-covid-19

There are also some great resources available to help members in this time if you’re finding the effects of the pandemic to be stressful:

  • Beyond Blue – includes resources on how to talk to children about COVID-19, if you have COVID-19, if you are supporting others, and how to handle job loss. Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service can be contacted on 1800 512 348.
  • Black Dog Institute – includes resources for preparing your own self-care plan and weekly mental health check-in sheets
  • Government advice
  • Lifeline has released some important resources for dealing with mental health during this time. They can also be contacted on 13 11 14.

Mask Wearing Advice

Surgical Mask Description: A disposable surgical mask is generally a rectangle with two types of fabric. The front of the mask (the part that does not touch your face) has a slightly paper-y feel to it. The back of the mask (the part that is closes to your face) has a more plastic-y feel to it. The rectangle of fabric will often have 2-3 pleats, or folds, that run along it lengthways; these folds help the mask fit snugly over your face when you put it on. The colours of the fabric vary depending on the mask manufacturer.

The mask will have a thin piece of metal that runs along the length of one of the long sides of the rectangle. This is the top of the mask and will sit across the bridge of your nose.

On both of the shorter sides of the rectangle there is a piece of elastic, these will loop over your ears to secure the mask to your face.

A mask is being worn properly if it covers your chin, mouth and nose and there are no gaps along the sides.

It is important to remember that every mask is different. They vary in material, size and colour. There are some general rules to follow when wearing a mask.

  1. Before touching a mask, wash your hands with soap and water or, rub them with hand sanitiser.
  2. Inspect your mask. If it is dirty or damaged do not use it, dispose of it safely or wash it if it is reusable and clean your hands again.
  3. Where ever possible, try to avoid touching the fabric (the part that covers your face) of the mask as much as possible. You may need to so that you can identify the top from the bottom or front from back.
  4. Hold the elastic loops and place one over your ear, move the mask across your face and loop the other piece of elastic over your other ear.
  5. Ensure the mask covers your nose, mouth and chin.
  6. Press down across the metal strip to ensure the mask sits snugly against your face.
  7. Once the mask is in place, clean your hands again and try to avoid touching or adjusting it. If you do, clean your hands.
  8. When you need to remove the mask, clean your hands. Unloop the elastic from one ear and move your hand across your face so that it can unloop from the other. If your mask is disposable, place it in the garbage and try not to touch the fabric part. Clean your hands thoroughly after removal.

If you are wearing a reusable mask, you can store it in a clean plastic bag. It is important to clean your hands thoroughly before and after putting your mask on or taking it off.  Reusable masks should be washed at the end of each day or, when they become damp or dirty. They can be washed in the washing machine with your regular laundry.

Try practicing putting your mask on and taking it off at home a few times to ensure you are comfortable with it. You may even want to video-call someone so they can confirm you’ve got it on right.

If you are still unsure, approach a healthcare professional such as your GP or a pharmacist for further advice.

This information has been adapted from the World Health Organisation.

There is some additional information for Victorian residents from the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

Further information for Victorians

The Department of Health and Human Services have updated their website. They have provided more information about exemptions from the order to wear a face mask in public if you live in metro Melbourne (or Mitchell Shire).

You don’t have to wear a mask if:

  • You have a disability or medical condition where you cannot wear a mask, including problems with your breathing, or a serious skin condition on the face.
  • You have a mental health condition which means you cannot wear a mask.
  • Or if you are communicating with a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing where they need to see your mouth to communicate.

The website says:

“Do people with a disability have to wear a face covering?

Yes, people with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is impractical or unsafe to do so for medical, communication or other individual risk factors. ”

You can find more information on the department’s website: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-coverings-1159pm-wednesday-22-july

Please be aware that this is a scary and worrying time for many people with disability and their families in our community. Many people with disability are at significant increased risk from the virus. We ask everyone who visits our Facebook page to understand this and please keep their comments respectful. Any inappropriate or rude comments towards people with disability on this page will be removed.

Personal protective equipment for NDIS participants in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland

The National Disability Insurance Scheme has announced temporary changes to funding arrangements to allow NDIS participants in Victoria, New South Wales, and now Queensland to claim the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks.
Participants who rely on face-to-face supports and assistance with their daily living will be able to use an existing support item (Low Cost Disability-Related Health Consumables) to claim the cost of PPE for the times their worker is with them.
Participants and providers can also access additional cleaning supports if required to self-isolate or quarantine, and provider specific measures were announced to ensure support workers have appropriate PPE when delivering NDIS services.
For more information visit the NDIS website.

Handwashing Advice

A description of current handwashing advice has been created for people who are blind or vision impaired by Audio Described Aotearoa with assistance from the Auckland branch of Blind Citizens New Zealand and individual blind contributors.

Written by Kevin Keys, Nicola Owen and Paul Brown with assistance from lots of blind people who now have lovely clean hands!

There’s been lots of advice recently reminding people to wash their hands properly. The internet is full of videos showing you how to do it. We’ve struggled to find one that is audio described, so we’ve put together these guidelines based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) information and a video made by NZ’s Dr Michelle Dickinson AKA Nanogirl that shows you how to do it. Please note that we are not medical professionals so this information should be used in conjunction with the official advice available from the World Health Organisation and relevant country authorities.

You should wash your hands after going to the toilet, before preparing food and before and after eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after touching animals, before touching your face, and when you return home after being out.

Basically, you want to wash your hands thoroughly using either liquid or bar soap – they both work just as well – for around 20 seconds or as long as it would take to sing Happy Birthday through twice (other songs are available!).

Here are the ten steps to follow:

  • Turn on the tap and wet your hands. Turn off the tap.
  • Apply enough soap to cover your hands.
  • Rub your hands together lengthways palm to palm.
  • Interlace your fingers and rub your palms together from side to side.
  • Place your right palm on the back of your left hand, interlacing your fingers and rub your hands up and down against each other lengthways. Repeat with your left palm on the back of your right hand.
  • To clean your fingertips and nails: point your elbows out to the sides. Hold your left hand in front of you across your body with the palm facing up. Place your right hand palm down on top of your left in the opposite direction. With palms together, slide your hands slowly apart until the tips of your fingers touch the bottom finger joints on the other hand. Roll your fingers in together to make opposite facing interlocking fists, knuckles fitting snugly into the palm of the other hand. Rub the tips and nails of your fingers firmly into the palm and fingers of the other hand.
  • Clasp your left thumb in your right fist and rotate to clean the thumb including the nail. Repeat with the other thumb.
  • Clasp your left wrist in your right hand and rotate to wash the whole wrist. Repeat with the other wrist.
  • Turn the tap back on and rub your hands together firmly under the running water. The friction helps to remove oils and therefore viruses and bacteria.
  • Shake off excess water and dry your hands on a clean single use towel using firm lengthwise towel strokes. Use the towel to turn off the tap.

We hope that you will share this information freely with your family and friends and welcome your feedback. Email: audiodescribedaotearoa@gmail.com

Link to World Health Organisation information on Covid-19: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Link to Nanogirl video on Youtube (handwashing at 2:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=100&v=2eqhw6yZk-c&feature=emb_logo