Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Morrison,

In your victory speech on Saturday night, you said that you would govern for “all Australians”. That statement gave many people with disability hope that they would have a stronger voice and that their needs would be given higher priority by your Government in this parliamentary term.

Blind Citizens Australia believes there are three opportunities for you to demonstrate, quickly and decisively, your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

  1. End the inequality which sees Australians who are blind or vision impaired denied the right to watch television while people who are deaf or hearing impaired have their right to do so enshrined in legislation;
  2. Appoint a suitably qualified person with disability as CEO of the NDIS to ensure the needs and aspirations of people with disability are central to decision-making; and
  3. Review the appointments of Commissioners to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, to replace those Commissioners with actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Audio Description

For over twenty years now, we have been advocating for Audio Description, an additional audio track which provides us with details of action and scenery so we can enjoy television like other Australians. During the election campaign, Labour committed $4 million in funding to the ABC and SBS for the establishment of an Audio Description service, yet to date, your party has remained silent on the issue.

You got your miracle on Saturday night, now you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” and ensure we have the same access to television as people who are deaf or hearing impaired in this country. That would constitute a miracle for us and would be a visible way to demonstrate your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

A Disability-led NDIS

Blind Citizens Australia works actively and constructively with the NDIA to ensure our NDIS provides choice and control for participants whilst remaining economically sustainable. We are confident that, if led by a skilled and highly qualified executive with disability, the culture of the scheme would better reflect our needs and aspirations. After all, you wouldn’t put a teacher in charge of a bank, and so it is inconceivable that you would put a non-disabled person in charge of a scheme designed to ensure people with disability have the capacity to lead their best life.

What’s more, there is no doubt that leaders with the management experience and business acumen exist. You need only look to the Disability Leadership Institute, or to members of disabled persons organisations like ours for examples of the talent within our community. So, give us a go so that we, the experts, can work with you to get the NDIS working better for us.

Royal Commission

When you announced the Royal Commission into the epidemic of violence and abuse against us over many years, people with disability, our organisations and supporters were relieved and hopeful. Now that the election is over, we trust that you will heed our calls to review the appointment of two Commissioners, whose conflicts of interest threaten the integrity of the Royal Commission process. This is essential if we are to be confident that we can give evidence safely.

Mr Morrison, congratulations to you and your colleagues on your re-election. On behalf of the members of Blind Citizens Australia, and the thousands of people who are blind or vision impaired that we represent, we wish you all the very best for your upcoming term as our Prime Minister.

People with disability, more often than not, are the quiet Australians you spoke of in your campaign. We want nothing more than the right to live, work and play in communities which acknowledge our rights and afford us safety. We’re taking your advice; we’re having a go like most Australians, but we are tired. Tired of having to fight just to be allowed to watch TV with our family and friends, with no indication of when that might change. Tired of not being considered sufficiently talented, economically responsible or experienced to lead our own insurance scheme. Tired of having to fight for the right to give evidence safely in our own Royal Commission.

Despite all our best efforts to work collaboratively with your Ministers and Government agencies, people with disability are not getting a fair go right now. But like you, we believe in miracles, so we look forward to working with you to see ours come to fruition during your first 100 days in Government.

We remain ready, willing, and well able to support you in achieving the next miracle. 

Yours sincerely

Emma Bennison
Chief Executive Officer
Blind Citizens Australia

Ulaanbaatar Statement

 

Participants at the recent World Blind Union – Asia Pacific (WBUAP) Mid-Term General Assembly in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) adopted the following statement:

Posted 14/09/2018 on the WBUAP webpage

“We, the participants at the World Blind Union – Asia Pacific (WBUAP) Mid-Term Regional General Assembly in UlaanBaatar, 12 September, 2018 adopt the following statement and refer it to relevant stakeholders for their consideration and action where appropriate:

1. We request governments to review or enact legislation which ensures that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities constitutes an effective tool for change in the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted; and we urge all WBUAP members to engage with monitoring and implementation processes to the maximum extent possible.

2. We call upon all governments throughout the WBU Asia Pacific region (Region) to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty as soon as practicable, so that persons who are blind or partially sighted or who have other print disabilities, have the fullest possible access to works of literature and to educational materials. We congratulate the five countries in the Region that have already ratified the Treaty.

3. We encourage national and international development organisations to work with governments to develop disability-inclusive policies and to implement programs to progress the action plans for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Incheon Strategy and the Beijing Declaration.

4. We encourage WBUAP members to co-operate with the United Nations Development Program to build capacity across the region so that persons who are blind or partially sighted are able to advocate for greater access to information.

5. We request all WBUAP members to give priority to policies that promote the empowerment of blind and partially sighted women by striving for their equality, safety and economic independence. In particular, members should focus on the themes identified by the 2018 WBU Asia Pacific Women’s Forum: education, employment, leadership opportunities, social participation, technology and the prevention of abuse and exploitation of women.

6. In acknowledging the very successful leadership training course held in December 2017 in Bangkok, under the generous sponsorship of the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), we encourage WBUAP members to actively provide leadership training and mentoring opportunities to facilitate the active participation of young people at the national and regional level. Furthermore, we request all members to pay attention to the needs, opinions and aspirations of young people, as well as nurture their leadership potential.

7. Noting that not all countries in the WBU Asia Pacific region were able to fully participate in this regional assembly, largely due to a lack of resources and/or infrastructure, we encourage WBUAP members to reach out to neighbouring countries to help them build their capacity to ensure improved services and peer support for their blind and partially sighted citizens. In this regard we express our appreciation to those organisations which have sponsored participants at this Assembly.

8. We call upon all governments, corporations and other global partners to take their share of responsibility and consult effectively to ensure that information and communications technologies are available, accessible and affordable to, and useable by, persons who are blind or partially sighted—as it is through such technology that real inclusion can be advanced and social isolation eliminated.

9. We endorse the generous offer of Hong Kong Blind Union to initiate and lead the implementation of a web accessibility campaign at the regional level, with active support from WBUAP members, to promote the adoption of internationally recognised accessibility standards in web design, apps, e-learning and other ICT products and services.

10. Noting the unacceptably high levels of unemployment and under-employment of persons who are blind or partially sighted in many countries, we call on all governments to implement or out-source programs that enable economic empowerment through the full participation in employment including: the promotion and resourcing of occupation-specific programs which promote the economic independence of blind and partially sighted people; awareness-raising programs for public and private employers and the community; transition to employment programs for school-leavers and newly-blinded persons; and the operation of specialist equipment and assistive technology schemes.

11. We support the proposal of the WBU Global Employment committee to request the WBU Officers to give much higher priority to employment issues including a major focus at the 2020 WBU General Assembly in Spain. In addition, noting the success of project Aspiro, we request WBUAP members to find ways to support Project Aspiro such as by providing employment-related information and case studies in their major languages for inclusion on the Project Aspiro website.

12. We call on the WBUAP members to share actively best practice initiatives and programs in areas including employment promotion and entrepreneurship, fundraising and capacity building.

13. We urge WBUAP members and networks to maintain strong communication with each other, using the WBUAP web site, The East Wind newsletter and other communication tools – ensuring that where practicable no person is left behind.

14. We congratulate the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind (MNFB) on the hosting of a very successful regional assembly; and we express our appreciation to the Mongolian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and to the members, staff and volunteers from MNFB whose collective efforts have made our stay in UlaanBaatar so productive and enjoyable.

Welcome To Blind Citizens Australia

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the united voice of Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

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.

Whether you are blind, have a vision impairment , a family member or friend of a person who is blind or vision impaired, BCA is here to assist you.

We provide information, peer support, individual and systemic advocacy, and consultancy services. Our Branches act as local lobby groups and provide opportunities for social interaction for members.

Explore our site. Learn about us. Listen to SoundAbout for profiles of people who are blind or vision impaired and those working with our community. If you are interested in audio-described TV, cinema and DVD content check out It’s Our Turn. Set your dial and tune in to our weekly radio program New Horizons. For the issues and policies that affect you, plus useful information and tips, turn to the pages of BC News or Parent News.

Contact BCA:

Toll Free:
1800 033 660

Phone:
03 9654 1400

Text:
0488 824 623

Email: Blind Citizens Australia

Donate to Blind Citizens Australia

Call to action: Lets shake things up with the Royal Commission

 

Inaccessible EFTPOS machines and ATMs continue to be rolled out across Australia, compromising the dignity, independence and privacy of many people who are blind or vision impaired. You may be aware that a Royal Commission is currently underway to inquire into instances of misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry. This provides us with a unique opportunity to draw attention to this very important issue.

We are asking people to consider lodging a short submission with the Royal Commission every time they encounter an inaccessible EFTPOS machine or ATM that impacts on their ability to access financial services. The squeakiest wheel gets the most attention and by following this call to action, you will be helping to demonstrate how many people are being negatively impacted by the roll out of inaccessible touchscreen devices.

The terms of reference for the Royal Commission state:

“All Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with banking, superannuation and financial service providers. The highest standards of conduct are critical to the good governance and corporate culture of those providers.

And these standards should continue to be complemented by strong regulatory and supervisory frameworks that ensure that all Australian consumers, including business, have confidence and trust in the financial system.”

Clauses B and F of the terms of reference hold the most relevance to the issues that are faced by people who are blind or vision impaired. These clauses require the Commission to investigate:

“B) whether any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activities by financial services entities fall below community standards and expectations.

F) the adequacy of forms of industry self-regulation, including industry codes of conduct; to identify, regulate and address misconduct in the relevant industry, to meet community standards and expectations and to provide appropriate redress to consumers”

The Commission’s preference for receiving submissions is via an online submissions form, but there are also other options available. The online form will ask you to:

  • Describe the misconduct of the relevant financial services entity
  • When this conduct occurred
  • Your views on what contributed to this misconduct, and
  • Any steps you have taken to complain about the conduct and the outcome of your complaint.

The form also enables you to provide the Royal Commission with other comments, including your views on what changes you would like them to recommend.

You can complete the online submission form here.

If you need assistance to complete the form or require the form in another format, you can contact the Commission by phone on 1800 909 826, or by email at FSRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au

Thanks for reading, and please consider taking up this call to action to support the work we are doing at a national level. If we don’t speak out about this issue, no one else will.

 

 

Media Release: Albert Terminal yet another example of Commonwealth Bank’s Complacency

Blind Citizens Australia’s latest media release highlights the recent findings of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority’s enquiry into the CBA’s conduct as they relate to the bank’s failure to prioritise customer privacy, listen to consumer feedback and manage non-financial risk when it comes to the Albert EFTPOS terminal.