Media Release: Airlines Not Listening to the Needs of Deafblind Australians

Peak bodies Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) and Deafblind Australia (DBA) have called on all airlines to implement policies to make their practices fully inclusive and respectful towards all passengers, irrespective of their impairment.   Last week, twenty-one-year-old Vanessa Vlajkovic was prevented from boarding the Jetstar flight she had booked from Perth to Adelaide because she is deafblind. Ms Vlajkovic requested assistance when she booked the flight and stated she was deafblind, but her loss of both sight and hearing was not recorded by the airline in its entirety. The notes only mentioned her hearing loss.

Jetstar apologised and said that if they had been aware that Ms Vlajkovic is deafblind, the airline would have advised her that she would not be permitted to fly without a carer being with her.

Jetstar’s treatment of Ms Vlajkovic last week was disgraceful according to BCA and DBA. Jetstar’s failure to accommodate Ms Vlajkovic’s needs was discriminatory and presents limitations for people who are deafblind that other passengers are not subjected to.

“I am more familiar with my limitations than ANYONE else, I will not willingly put myself in harm’s way. If I thought I couldn’t fly alone I wouldn’t,” said Ms Vlajkovic. “It isn’t the administration error itself of not entering my disability that is the issue. The ignorance is the worst bit, and I hope to see that change soon. The airline’s job is to accommodate my needs, not kick me off a flight simply because they see fit.”

“The claim that Jetstar made saying that Ms Vlajkovic’s safety would be at risk if she did not travel without a carer is baseless,” said David Murray, CEO of DBA. “Technology is readily available which enables the communication gap that once existed between people who are deafblind and their non-disabled peers to be easily overcome.” Ms Vlajkovic uses an iPhone combined with a braille display. This technology enables her to both read incoming communication which she can receive via text, and to send her responses via text also.

“People who are deafblind use a wide variety of methods to communicate depending on what situation they are in,” said Rikki Chaplin, President of DBA. “This does not mean that people who use their sight and hearing to communicate are prevented from interacting with people who are deafblind. That’s why it’s so important for airlines to develop policies based on demonstrated evidence, rather than ill-informed perceptions of how people with disabilities interact with others.”

It is this message which Deafblind Australia and Blind Citizens Australia wish to convey to all airlines.

“At a time when society is working towards becoming more inclusive of people with disabilities, it is disgraceful for any airline to think that they are exempt,” said Emma Bennison, CEO of BCA.

“We live in a time when technology has the potential to make genuine inclusivity a reality for people who are deafblind, and we fully support DBA and Ms Vlajkovic in holding Jetstar accountable.”

BCA has been working closely with airlines to ensure that their practices are fully inclusive. BCA and DBA call on Jetstar to join other airlines in collaborating with people who are deafblind to ensure that their policies and procedures are truly inclusive.

View the full media release here.

Media Release: Four Lucky Aussie Teens to Experience Summer Camp in the States


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Blind Citizens Australia, as part of their commitment to providing opportunities for young people who are blind or vision impaired, has selected four teenagers this July to attend Enchanted Hills Summer Camp in California, USA.

Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat (EHC) provides programs for blind children, teens, adults, deaf-blind, seniors, as well as families of the blind. Since 1950, Enchanted Hills has delivered valuable opportunities for recreation in a fun, challenging and accessible way. Located on 311 acres on scenic Mt. Veeder, Enchanted Hills is just 10 miles west of Napa, California.

This year’s Teen Session runs from 19 – 27 July and is attended by 60 campers aged between 15 – 20 who are all blind or vision impaired. Campers participate in outdoor recreational activities, art and craft, music and drama, swimming, horse riding, cooking, hiking and a variety of other activities.

Many of the staff are blind and vision impaired and work closely with the campers to facilitate their time there as well as acting as role models.

Tyan Taylor, 28 from Berowra and Tess Whelan, 21 from Melbourne will be mentoring the teens during their trip to the States and will also work as the Recreation Area Leader and Dinner Cook respectively.

Tyan believes it is important for teenagers to experience something like the Enchanted Hills Camp and is returning this year to not only work in the camp but also support the young Australian’s attending for the first time.

“With such a strong mentoring staff at EHC it allows campers to not only build on existing skills but challenges campers to help encourage the development of problem solving skills and team work through a range of different activities and experiences all within a nurturing environment,” said Ms Taylor.

“EHC offers a chance to share experiences and skills with others in a fun and relaxed environment. This allows campers to gain better insight into not seeing their impairment or disability as a negative but to see the potential and to chase their dreams.”

Anthony Fletcher, Director of Enchanted Hills Camp also believes that meeting other mentors who are blind or vision impaired from different backgrounds can empower ideas about blindness, develop confidence and a positive philosophy.

“One of the best features of a cultural exchange program is the chance to make new friends for a lifetime, both inside and outside the camp environment,” said Mr Fletcher.

“Whether you are sharing a cabin or participating in the same activities, these programs allow campers to make friendships that could last a lifetime.”

Blind Citizens Australia CEO, Emma Bennison, is thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity to the four young people chosen to attend EHC.

“Part of our strategic plan moving forward is to continue to look for ways to develop future young leaders from within the blind and vision impaired community,” she said.

“I am sure these four teenagers will have a life changing experience and BCA is excited to be able to facilitate this. It is our hope that in the future we can deliver a similar camp experience here in Australia and allow more young Australians who are blind or vision impaired these opportunities to interact with each other and build on their leadership and life skills.”

The four Australians who will be attending EHC are Zaheera Casoojee,18 from Springwood, Queensland, Griffith D’Souze, 18 from Rooty Hill, New South Wales, Jess Clark 19 from Sydney, New South Wales and Alayna Campbell 20 from Bendigo, Victoria.

For more information please contact:

Kathie Kelly
Fundraising and Social Media Consultant
Blind Citizens Australia
Phone: 0439 724304


Background Info

Who is Blind Citizens Australia?

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the national organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired and is recognised as the major peak representative body for this constituency. Since 1975, BCA has provided information, peer support, individual and systemic advocacy, and consultancy services to its members and the wider community.

BCA Branches act as local representative groups and provide opportunities for social interaction for members. It has grown to an organisation of 3000 individual members and seven affiliated organisations.

Our mission is “to achieve equity and equality by our empowerment, by promoting positive community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and accessible services which meet our needs”.

With over forty years of history, BCA has worked tirelessly “To Change What it Means to be Blind” both for Australians who experience vision loss and for blind and vision impaired people throughout the world.

Specifically this has included:

  • providing peer support
  • providing individual and systemic advocacy
  • facilitating information exchange
  • empowering its members
  • promoting positive community attitudes
  • striving for high quality and accessible services which meet individual needs
  • promoting research into the causes and amelioration of the impact of blindness and vision impairment

As the national voice of people who are blind or vision impaired BCA has a seat on many Government, commercial and community sector advisory bodies. BCA’s individual advocacy service is available to all Australians who experience vision loss. With a focus on issues that impact on the individual because of their blindness/vision impairment, BCA works both directly and through specialist community advocates, to resolve issues in a constructive and educative manner and draws on more formal processes where a mutually agreeable solution cannot be found.

BCA has been an active member of the World Blind Union at both the World and Regional levels since its creation in 1984. Over that period two of the senior members have held office as World President and several more have served on the World and Regional Executives and various standing committees. In November 2000 BCA was the lead organisation for the hosting in Melbourne of the WBU 5th General Assembly. BCA has also lead capacity building projects in Fiji and Vietnam and has participated in many international conferences and forums.

In association with its policy development and advocacy work, BCA has undertaken a range of blindness related research projects. Several of these resulted in published papers.

For further information about Enchanted Hills Camp visit:

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