Blind Low Vision NZ is a member-led organisation governed by our members. These are people who are blind or have low vision who have chosen to be part of the governance of the organisation.
We were established under the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002. In January 2012, Blind Low Vision NZ registered as an incorporated society under section 8 of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and the name of the society became ‘The Royal New Zealand Foundation of Blind Incorporated’.
When the RNZFB became an Incorporated Society in 2012 fulfilling the requirements of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002, that Act became redundant. On 25 August 2016, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Repeal Bill was passed in the House of Representatives. The Bill received royal assent on 29 August 2016 and has become the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act Repeal Act 2016.
Our voting members elect our Board of Directors.
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Inc’s Constitution explains what it means to be a Blind Low Vision NZ client or voting member, and the role and duties of our Board. Read the RNZFB Constitution (.doc).
The Blind Low Vision NZ Board and Leadership Team meet regularly to discuss items and action points on the Business Plan and the strategic direction of the organisation.
Strategic Plan Consultation Feedback Report
Strategic Plan Consultation Feedback Report
As part of Blind Low Vision NZ’s planned strategic consultation, invitations to answer a survey were sent out to stakeholders including clients, members, employees, volunteers, donors, consumer organisations and government agencies. A total of 323 individual invitees responded to the survey. When factoring in a variety of group consultations these responses are representative of 527 total submissions. All noted stakeholders contributed to the total numbers received.
On the whole respondents seemed satisfied about the current direction of Blind Low Vision NZ. There was widespread agreement that the nature of how we provide employment services could be improved and respondents see us playing more of a role in preparing clients to enter the workforce.
The notion of further extending group work seems fairly uncontroversial based on the responses to this survey, and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of technology. Although there are some clients who consider themselves ‘luddites’ or ‘technophobes’, most appear to see the benefit of technology, with many seeing it as a game-changer for vision loss.
Our library services received general acclaim – there was already good anecdotal reason to suspect that they are one of our most prized services, and the responses to this survey offer further corroboration.
Some consumer groups may oppose the advocacy role we have assumed. However responses from clients seem to appreciate the work we do, and the most popular subject for our advocacy efforts seems to be keeping footpaths clear of fast-moving vehicles and obstacles.
2.1 Purpose, Vision, and Values
There was overwhelming support for our current purpose among respondents. There was also (though not overwhelming) support for our current vision, values and priorities. However, there were dissenting voices in all four areas.
On the subject of our purpose, a minority of respondents questioned the appropriateness of the term ‘self-reliant’ on the grounds that for many of our members and clients self-reliance is not a realistic prospect, or that the idealisation of self-reliance has the effect of stigmatising those who either cannot be or do not wish to be self-reliant. Some suggested self-determination or interdependence instead. Questions were also raised around whether the word ‘enable’ in our purpose statement should be replaced with ‘empower’, and whether it should say something about deaf blindness given that 3-4% of our membership is deafblind.
In a similar vein, some respondents expressed the view that the vision of a life without limits is unrealistic, and possibly even disingenuous. Opinion is split between those who think our vision is glib or meretricious and those who find its positivity inspiring. Generally respondents did support our existing vision though.
Our values also received widespread support, but some respondents believed that including both optimistic and aspirational amounts to a tautology. There were also several respondents who approved of the values, but believed we were not really practising them.
Objections to our current priorities were that ‘Building a Foundation for the Future’ is vague, meaningless or evasive, and that employment and education should be included as strategic priorities. There was also a notable minority that opposed our plans to reach more people, on the basis that doing so has the potential to compromise the level of care BLVNZ’s existing clientele receives. There was also support for including raising public awareness of blindness and low vision as a key priority, and for promoting eye health.
2.2 Service delivery options that would promote self-reliance/independence
Services mentioned in significant numbers are:
- More group work/classes (with clients in similar circumstances)
- More recreational activities
- More extensive and better education in adaptive technologies
- More employment support
- Improved transport provision
With regard to where service should be delivered, a lot of respondents just said that service should be delivered ‘everywhere’ – wherever it is most appropriate or wherever the client would like it. Some respondents were more specific though. Conversely, multiple respondents pointed out that home (or home environment) service delivery seems like the only option, as clients may not have access to transport to take them elsewhere, or that it is important that the service delivery environment corresponds with the practical environment. There was also considerable support for group service delivery, with some respondents citing social advantages and others citing the pedagogical advantages conferred by learning in group environments.
2.3 Employment services
One theme that emerged was that we could potentially add more value in this area by building networks of supportive employers, and educating employers and society more generally about the value people with vison loss can add in the workplace. Indeed, on this theme it was suggested that Blind Low Vision NZ itself could lead by example better by employing more visually impaired people in senior management positions.
Opinion was split on whether we should actually be finding our clients work – some respondents said we should, whereas others felt that to do so is disempowering and tokenistic. There was overwhelming support for our taking a role in getting clients ‘employment-ready’. Respondents also suggested the extension of internships for this purpose. Another point raised was that we could be working with future members of the workforce from a younger age (i.e. while at school) to help them determine suitable career paths.
2.4 Most useful technology
The question asked was ‘What technologies, if they could be acquired, would have the most meaningful impact, or be the most life-changing? Please list:’. Here are some popular answers:
- Smartphones/tablets (especially Apple devices)
- Alexa/audiobooks generally
- Computers/adaptations to facilitate use
- A better range of the sort of equipment we already offer
- A means of optically identifying written or typed words
2.5 Our role in technology
A diverse range of views were represented in answers to this question, some of them partly or wholly contradictive of each other. For example, some respondents replied that Blind Low Vision NZ should both acquire and train clients in the use of technology, while others said that we should only be providing training (possibly in a classroom setting), and that members could purchase their own tech (but we could advise them as to what tech they ought to buy). Still others said that Blind Low Vision NZ should supply tech to members, but on a means-tested basis. Several people also believed that technology advances so quickly that it would be impractical for Blind Low Vision NZ to acquire tech, as it would soon become obsolete (this point also seems to imply that we shouldn’t be advising our clients to buy tech, as it too would presumably reach obsolescence quickly). An interesting suggestion for helping our members acquire technology without us having to pay for it was that we could use our bargaining position to our advantage to negotiate favorable bulk-buying discounts on behalf of members.
2.6 Issues we should advocate for
Popular suggestions for issues for which we should advocate were:
- E-scooters on footpaths, and the condition of footpaths more generally (obstructions, cracks, etc.)
- More comprehensive, more accessible, and more affordable public transport
- Public education and awareness about blindness and low vision (e.g. white canes)
A significant minority of respondents expressed the view that we shouldn’t be advocating on behalf of the blindness and low vision community – rather we should be supporting consumer groups to advocate instead.
2.7 Most pressing access issues in the house or in public places
The answers to this question mostly focused on public spaces rather than private dwellings. Respondents referred to the following issues:
- Inaccessible or insufficient public transport
- Sparse/illegible signage
- Inaccessible or hazardous footpaths
- Information or other material presented in accessible formats
- Poor lighting (both at home and in public spaces)
- Unnavigable or unindicated steps
2.8 Reading material that clients would like
On the whole, clients were happy with the selection of reading material they have access to. However, some did mention areas where they feel availability of literature could be improved:
- Non-fiction/factual books
- Contemporary/recently published books
- The Plunket pregnancy book
2.9 Spreading the word
The question was around whether we should be encouraging more people who fit our qualifying criteria to apply for our support. In practice, many respondents interpreted it as whether we should continue to relax our qualifying criteria such that more people qualify. Opinion was split between views approximated by the following descriptions:
- Yes, supporting those affected by blindness and low vision is the purpose of the organisation, so it should set out to reach as many such people as possible.
- No, Blind Low Vision NZ should not be extending its franchise until the needs of clientele who qualify under the 6/24 criterion are being fully met. There was, though, considerable support for bringing in members who may not qualify on the condition that they bring in extra funding (either privately or by attracting funding from elsewhere).
There appeared to be more support for the first of these positions.
2.10 Our role in public health
This question asked whether we should be helping to raise awareness and minimise the incidence of preventable blindness among people not affected by sight loss. The responses can again be summarised in two statements expressing opposing viewpoints – this time there was significantly more support for the first view than the second:
- Most respondents answered with an unequivocal ‘yes’ – some suggested we ought to be promoting public health in partnership with other non-profits or government departments with an interest in eye health.
- The minority view was that we should not play a role in promoting public eye health, because it does not fall within our remit. Rather, it is the job of the Ministry of Health to fund efforts to avert preventable sight loss. Someone also made the point that engaging in this sort of public health activity risks sending mixed messages – it is hard to defend the claim that a life with vision loss can be lived without limits at the same time as motivating people to take action to avoid vision loss.
2.11 General feedback about Blind Low Vision NZ now, and in the future
- Blind Low Vision NZ needs to be pro-active in the area of personnel. It needs to procure suitably qualified staff, retain more of the staff already working for it, recruit more staff to redress capacity shortfalls impacting service delivery, and seek to improve and foster staff morale.
- Blind Low Vision NZ ought to keep up with technology in an ever-developing landscape.
- Blind Low Vision NZ should invest more in raising awareness, both of the organisation itself and of the realities of sight loss and the issues surrounding it.
3.1 Concluding remarks
Stakeholder questionnaires of this nature can often throw up challenging results to interpret, because there may be a tendency for stakeholders to demand everything without really giving much of an indication as to what they consider to be priorities (which is what the exercise is all about). While there was some evidence of wishful thinking in the responses to this survey, themes did emerge as representing some form of majority (whether slim or vast) opinion addressing several questions.
It is duly noted that the next time an exercise of this nature is undertaken, some changes be made to the questionnaire design. In particular, if the number of open-ended questions were dramatically reduced to no more than one or two, the survey would be considerably less onerous and likely to yield more responses.
2020 Annual General Meeting
The 2020 Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 14 November 2020.
Board meeting dates
The dates of the 2020 RNZFB Board meetings are:
- Saturday 29 February 2020
- Saturday 2 May 2020
- Saturday 4 July 2020
- Saturday 5 September 2020
- Friday 13 November 2020
- Friday 27 November 2020 – Meeting to make Board appointments for 2021.
The Annual General Meeting for 2020 will be held in Kapiti on Saturday 14 November.
In accordance with the RNZFB Constitution, members are welcome to observe at RNZFB Board Meetings in person or via teleconferencing (or online when this option becomes available). If you wish to observe at a RNZFB Board Meeting, please ensure you email the Board Secretary at least five days before the date of the meeting.
RNZFB Act 2002
Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 Repeal
On 25 August 2016, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Repeal Bill was passed in the House of Representatives. The Bill received royal assent on 29 August 2016 and has become the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act Repeal Act 2016.
This is an important milestone in our history. When the RNZFB became an Incorporated Society in 2012 fulfilling the requirements of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002, that Act became redundant. The Honourable Nicky Wagner supported a Private Members’ Bill to take the repeal through the parliamentary process.
The Sovereign (The Queen, represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General) forms part of Parliament but is separate from the House. It is the Sovereign’s role to sign a bill into law by giving it the Royal Assent. Assent is given on the advice of the Prime Minister (or the most senior Minister available) and the Attorney-General. Thus, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act Repeal Act 2016 came into being on 29 August 2016.