By Andrew Webster
The launch of the NSW/ACT State Division in July 2018 was the first large scale BCA event I attended. At the time, I was the newly-minted ACT representative on the National Policy Council. One strong impression I took back from Newcastle, along with the warm glow of meeting many wonderful people, was the way many of those I met were using technology, especially mobile phones and electronic braille devices, so effectively. That is, so much more effectively than I was. I returned to Canberra on a mission – determined to skill up. I’ve been on that mission, or perhaps journey, ever since, assisted through training from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Vision Australia and regular computer support through Hire-Up. And yes, just as I come to grips with the latest assistive technology the underlying mainstream technology surges ahead and the cycle begins all over again.
Information and communication technology certainly offers many benefits for people with disability. Among other things, BCA’s election platform for 2022 asked politicians to make technology work for everyone, especially people who are blind or vision impaired. We called on all parties to implement a nationally consistent program so that all people who need assistive technology can access it. We asked for technology to be used to achieve equal access to voting, banking, government services and products and much more.
We are a community with varying levels of competence with technology. This arises due to external barriers that can be influenced by government, such as cost, training availability and the limited scope of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There are also personal challenges that we carry around inside, such as varying levels of comfort – it’s just too scary; self-belief – I’m too old to learn new tricks; or ignorance – I just didn’t know that was possible.
We don’t all need to be experts. BCA believes in a future in which our trusted leadership and positive influence achieve equity for people who are blind or vision impaired, where we can live our lives in any way we choose, in a place that respects, recognises and responds to our uniqueness and diversity (BCA Strategic Plan 2022–2025). To that end, BCA is and always will be committed to ensuring that people who are blind or vision impaired can access information about ours and other services in many ways. In addition to our frequent emails and social media posts, we regularly add recorded content to our telephone service at 1800 033 660, we publish a brief update with this magazine, in members’ preferred format and, for the latest news, you can tune in each week to our radio program, New Horizons.
The challenge rests with each of us. While BCA will always advocate for alternative services for people who are unable to use digital technology, irrespective of our stridency, a whole range of services can now only be used with a mobile phone or computer. Remaining phone-based services are often poorly funded and insufficiently staffed.
In this issue of BC News, Fiona Woods explores the theme of self-imposed barriers to technology and share some of her discomfort that may ring true for you as well and even help you to take the next steps towards a new approach.
In addition, Chire Fulford muses on Cyclone Larry – lessons learned in 2006 that are equally applicable today. Bethany Cody describes the challenges of progressive sight loss and puts out a call to action for flexibility and further reform to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Bill Jolley says farewell to Peter Goebel, physiotherapist and founding member of BCA, who passed away in April, aged 70. And John Simpson pens a tribute to long-serving member and mentor to many, Ivan Molloy, who passed away in July, aged 95. In her regular update, Fiona Woods writes as President about some of the activities she and the BCA Board have been up to on our behalf, including as it turns out, policy development on emergency preparedness and disaster response. CEO Sally Aurisch steps through BCA’s new strategic plan, quoted above and which sets our agenda as an organisation from 2022 to 2025.
Feeling creative? Have something to say? We’d love to hear from you. Articles for the Autumn 2023 edition of BC News can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th January 2023. We’re still looking for someone to fill the role of editor of this magazine. If you’d like to talk about either writing an article or being considered for editor, please contact BCA on BCNews@bca.org.au or call 1800 033 660.