Coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing to spread throughout Australia and the world. It is changing the way we live, and it’s expected those changes will keep coming and be long lasting. These changes can be challenging to us all in differing ways and so we at BCA wanted to provide some additional information to explain what the impact of Covid-19 will be on our organisation, and what it will mean for our members and all Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

We are now offering daily catch ups which you can join online or via phone for people who are blind or vision impaired, regardless of whether you are a BCA member or not. The first two weeks of meetings will focus on hearing from you around how BCA can support you to remain connected during these changing times, as well as provide a social outlet whilst we are all self-isolating. Based on your feedback, we will then provide you with an updated schedule of virtual catch ups and activities.

In the video below, CEO Emma Bennison provides some more information about these catch ups, why they are important, and what you can expect from them as well as an update on relevant issues pertaining to people who are blind or vision impaired during this time. The “BCA Happy Hours” will take place on:

  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:00am – 12:00pm AEDT
  • Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30pm – 8:30pm AEDT

To join the catch ups, use the following details:

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

We encourage you to share this information far and wide as we know that many people are feeling very isolated right now.

To access the transcript of this video in word format, click here

What is staying the same?

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:

What is changing:

Local Branch Meetings

Due to the requirement to reduce face to face social interactions we will temporarily suspend face to face branch meetings. BCA is working with branch presidents to manage these changes, and to transition to virtual meetings wherever possible.

An Eye to the Future of Employment

In the coming weeks we will launch our An Eye to the Future of Employment website, containing a series of resources for those seeking a career and those who are in a position to hire them. We will continue to update the site over the coming months, however our internship program and our plans to host a Symposium on Employment will take a pause for now as many businesses are experiencing significant hardship due to the virus. We will update you again once it is time to recommence these activities.

What else are we doing?

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.

Where to Find Out More

If you have questions about Covid-19, The Growing Space has created some Easy English resources that are available Here. Alternatively, the Department of Health has a number of resources in English and other languages available here.

An info line has also been set up, for information on Coronavirus (Covid-19), you can call 1800 020 080.

BCA has developed a policy around epidemics / pandemics and face to face events which you can download here (Word doc).

Blind Citizens Australia’s Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee (CDAC) has highlighted the dual discrimination that is being experienced by people who are blind or vision impaired and from a culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. While BCA are not able to provide individual advocacy if the case is not directly related to blindness, we do hold great concern for the safety of our members. If you feel you have been treated unfairly because of your culture, race, religion or any other factor and would like to make a complaint we encourage you to contact the Human Rights Commission or, the relevant body in your state.

If you feel you are in immediate danger, please contact 000 for assistance. Or, if you need to report a crime but are not at immediate risk, call 131 444.

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.

Online Delivery Services

The reduction of online delivery services by the major supermarkets has impacted upon our community as we rely heavily on online shopping as an accessible alternative. Our health is at increased risk given we rely on touch to identify products and because many of us shop with the assistance of supermarket staff.

Woolworths has created Priority Assistance to allow access to delivery services for vulnerable customers. They will be providing a Priority Assistance service with dedicated delivery windows. Eligible customers include seniors, people with a disability and those with compromised immunity or who are required to self-isolate. Coles are in the process of rolling out a similar service. It’s worth noting that independent grocers and food hubs are also offering home delivery, so it is worth googling your local area if you are struggling to access what you need from the big supermarkets.

Mental Health and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak

Lifeline has released some important resources for dealing with mental health during this time, visit their page here.

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:

  1. Turn on the tap and wet your hands. Turn off the tap.
  2. Apply enough soap to cover your hands.
  3. Rub your hands together lengthways palm to palm.
  4. Interlace your fingers and rub your palms together from side to side.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Clasp your left thumb in your right fist and rotate to clean the thumb including the nail. Repeat with the other thumb.
  8. Clasp your left wrist in your right hand and rotate to wash the whole wrist. Repeat with the other wrist.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Updated 23 March 2020