By Fiona Woods

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The National Policy Council (NPC) has been working to finalise our revised Healthcare Policy. We are preparing materials for training health professionals and others to be used by people who are blind or vision impaired attending hospitals. Resources for use in other contexts will follow and we are devising strategies to improve the accessibility of public screening programs. The knowledge gained through consultation around the Healthcare policy has been invaluable in helping BCA to design and advocate for the resources we all need to keep ourselves safe and get the care we need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you live in Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin or other big cities competing for tourist dollars, you might have heard your city elders promoting the fun and excitement to be enjoyed by hiring an e-scooter or e-bike. If you are a person who is blind or vision impaired, it is likely that your response was one of dismay; yet another threat to the safety of already hyper-vigilant pedestrians.

These vehicles pose obvious risks due to their silent approach, their lack of warning sounds, the fact that they can pass on either side and the likelihood that they are travelling at speed. They can also become hazards when dumped by their users. Perhaps needless to say, they pose as many risks to their riders, due to the frequent irresponsibility of users and the fact that they often travel faster than is apparent.

The NPC has been working on a Position Statement on e-scooters and e-bikes, which can be used to influence State governments and their local authorities to prioritise the safety of all pedestrians. Although such hiring schemes are inactive at present, they are likely to become attractive when our cities are again able to accept interstate and international visitors. The Position Statement will complement our recent Position Statement on Silent Vehicles. BCA has a Pedestrian Safety policy, of which these will form part, and we will look to modernize it in the future.

For the remainder of the year, the NPC will focus on a policy on education for Australians who are blind or vision impaired. This is another huge topic, which will cover a variety of contexts and settings. Recent events have highlighted many difficulties experienced by students and their parents in accessing schools’ online platforms. They’ve also drawn attention to the particular needs of students who are blind or vision impaired, and the importance of their access to methods and materials which enable them to learn. We will be looking for examples of education being delivered well and achieving genuine inclusion.

As always, if you would like to contribute your thoughts on any aspect of the NPC’s work, please contact me or your State or territory representative via the BCA office, or send us an email.

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