Close up of hands reading braille

Our Purpose

To enable people who are blind or have low vision to be self-reliant and live the life they choose.

Our Vision

Kahore e Mutunga ki te Ora – Life without limits

Blind Low Vision NZ Position Statements

Supporting our purpose statement on a fully accessible New Zealand, we also have a number of position statements on specific areas of accessibility, including access to information and communication, access to public transport and access to employment.

Read our position statements below to find out where we stand on this topics.

Access to Equipment and Technology

Issue

Blind people and those with low vision are unable to use much of the equipment and technology that is widely available to perform everyday tasks.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • Equipment and technology in everyday use needs to enable self-reliance for those who are blind or have low vision.
  • Equipment and technology should be affordable and in some circumstances be government funded.

Background

People who are blind or have low vision should be able to use equipment and technology to perform everyday tasks, but the equipment and technology that is widely available may not be usable by people who have vision loss. Adaptive equipment and technology is essential in compensating for sight loss.

Over the past two decades, there has been a growing trend towards the use of visual interfaces such as onscreen menus and touch screens on a wide range of mainstream equipment and technology. A considerable proportion of this equipment is not accessible to people who cannot see the visual display or locate trigger points on the touch screen.

Touch screen-based queuing systems are becoming widespread in government offices and elsewhere, but, without exception, they are inaccessible to blind people.

In addition, the trend to deliver services via automated computer systems for banking transactions and many other routine tasks online can be an added barrier for people who are blind or have low vision. This online system works for those people who are able to use online banking but people that do not have access to a computer and/or the internet are charged extra for transactions over the counter or incur significant inconvenience. More consideration needs to be given to these issues as systems and procedures are designed.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Influence technology design so it is accessible and easy to use.
  • Support organisations seeking to increase the availability of affordable, accessible equipment in New Zealand.
  • Raise awareness among New Zealand exporters about designing for everyone and how to make goods and services “born accessible” to maximise international market potential.
  • Partner with international bodies to promote the commercial benefits to mainstream equipment and technology manufacturers of designing for everyone.
  • Increase public awareness of how making equipment and technology accessible for people who are blind or have low vision benefits everyone.
  • Continue to investigate options to provide a wider range of useful equipment and technology solutions and provide training in their use.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Specify accessibility in procurement of equipment and technology used for public purposes. Accessibility is defined as the “extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use.”
  • Ensure that all government sourced funding for assessment and training services and equipment keeps pace with demand and makes independent living as important as personal safety when assessing funding applications.
  • Ensure there is consistency of funding criteria for technology applied by government and government-funded agencies.
  • Make information about government funding of disability related equipment easy to find and transparent.

Access to Information and Communication

Issue

Less than 10% of published information generally available to the community is available also in a format that blind and low vision people can access.[2]

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • People who are blind or have low vision should have access to all information at the same cost and time as everyone else.
  • It should be mandatory that all organisations in New Zealand ensure that web-based information conforms to the New Zealand Government’s Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 and Web Usability Standard 1.2.
  • Legislated accessibility standards should be enforced in all sectors of the economy and community.

Background

Access to printed information is essential to independent and full participation in the community. Environmental cues such as those in the following list may be difficult or impossible for blind people and those with low vision to access:

  • Street-signs and building numbers.
  • Transport and travel assistance such as bus timetables and city maps.
  • Interfaces for household appliances or community services such as touch screens and onscreen displays at information kiosks.

Lack of access to published information is the single biggest barrier to employment, education and effective participation in many aspects of society for people with sight loss. These days, most published information originates on a computer, so should be developed and produced according to well-accepted accessibility standards and conventions. This will facilitate making information available in alternative formats, including large print, audio, electronic text and braille.

With an ageing and more diverse consumer market, it is important that service organisations ensure all customer-facing staff can provide accessible customer service, including the ability to handle accessible format enquiries. Advice on the best ways to present accessible information is available from competent accessible information suppliers.

The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc. provides guidelines to assist organisations to handle accessible format requirements. See: http://printdisability.org/

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Advise government, business, industry and the community on accessible formats.
  • Encourage people with a print disability to explain when published material is not accessible and request accommodation.
  • Increase public awareness of how making all forms of written communications accessible for people who are blind or have low vision benefits everyone.
  • Join with other disability agencies to advocate for an Accessible New Zealand Act that will enforce mandatory accessibility standards applicable to all sectors of the economy and community.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Expand the coverage of the New Zealand Government’s Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 and Web Usability Standard 1.2 to non-central government entities: schools, local health authorities, social and justice services, local councils and crown entities.
  • Encourage, and, where possible, require businesses to adopt information accessibility practices (web and print).
  • Require government procurement to conform to specified accessibility standards.
  • Accede to the Marrakesh Treaty adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 2013.
  • Ensure every library has a print disability collection.
  • Require public sector agencies to provide accessible formats or have arrangements in place to meet requests from people with print disabilities for accessible formats, including communication and information in Te Reo Māori.

Access to Public Transport

Issue

Blind and low vision public transport users do not have the same access as sighted people do to bus, taxi, train, plane and ferry services.

Statement:

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • All public transport users, including those who are blind or have low vision, have the right to travel independently and safely.

Background

Without safe, accessible public transport, individuals who are blind or have low vision have reduced independence, higher rates of unemployment, limited recreational opportunities, and increased social isolation. The majority of Blind Low Vision NZ clients are not using public transport to get around.

There are many facets to public transport, and each may present accessibility barriers. People with vision loss are disproportionately more reliant on public transport than other New Zealanders. It is essential that they are able to plan journeys, access timetables, locate boarding positions, identify destinations and travel to and from these locations safely and independently.

People who are blind or who have low vision use taxis more than their sighted peers do in order to travel independently. Taxi systems and passenger information are designed for sighted people. This places blind and low vision people at a significant disadvantage in being able to direct the driver, monitor their journey or make complaints. The New Zealand Transport Agency had directed that all taxis must display the name of the company, a number for passengers to call to make complaints and the cab number in braille and large print on the front left-hand passenger door. However, this requirement was rescinded when taxi regulations changed.

Another example and a frequent problem experienced by guide dog handlers is the lack of awareness among taxi operators and drivers of their obligation to carry guide dogs. Some taxi drivers still refuse to take a blind passenger with a guide dog. This is now illegal but is not being monitored by the authorities.

In other cases, audible stopping and destination signals and other passenger information systems are either not installed or not consistently used on buses, trains and at stations when they should be.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Encourage blind people and those with low vision to provide feedback to transport operators on service issues.
  • Develop solutions with the public transport sector to improve the accessibility of the transport journey for blind and low vision users.
  • Work with the pan-disability community to develop a standard for disability awareness training for public transport operators.
  • Advise transport providers and the Human Rights Commission on how to improve complaint resolution and outcomes for blind people and those with low vision relating to public transport.
  • Work with consumer organisations to advocate for accessible public transport.
  • Advise the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Ministry of Transport, the Local Government Association and local territorial authorities on improvements to public transport accessibility.
  • Provide the New Zealand Transport Agency and the taxi industry with information on audio-equipped EFTPOS terminals and taxi meters.
  • Work with the taxi industry to improve awareness that refusal to carry a passenger with a guide dog constitutes an offence under the Transport Act.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Central and Local Government to Do:

  • Commit to accessible public transport around the country.
  • Make appropriate disability awareness training mandatory for public transport operators.
  • Improve complaints handling processes so that issues people who are blind or have low vision might have may be resolved.
  • Make the Total Mobility Scheme nationally consistent.
  • Ensure that all websites and digital applications providing public transport information are accessible.
  • Work with the taxi industry to install meters that have audio output and accessible fare payment information and options.
  • Ensure each bus or train stop is announced in a way that is clearly audible throughout the vehicle and on the platform.
  • Where a transport provider uses a smart fare card system, ensure that commuters who are blind or have low vision are able to independently load, use and monitor the validity of their smart fare card.
  • Require a nationally integrated fare card system for public transport.
  • Require public transport planners to consult Blind Low Vision NZ about the design of the network, infrastructure and information systems to ensure facilities and services are integrated and accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

Access to the Built Environment

Issue

Public spaces and buildings are not fully accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • The needs of all users of public buildings and spaces must be taken into account in developing infrastructure in New Zealand.
  • It is time to develop and legislate for a mandatory standard of access to public spaces and buildings.

Background

For many blind people, the built environment acts as a barrier to their participation in the community. The inability to fully access the facilities that everyone else in the community takes for granted – footpaths, cafes, public buildings, swimming pools, libraries, sporting facilities and movie theatres – limits independence and impacts on quality of life.

Most often access to the built environment is thought of only in terms of wheelchair access within buildings and carparks. Blind or low vision users are often not considered.

Blind people and those with low vision must be able to use footpaths safely and effectively. When cyclists and pedestrians share pathways, there is an increased potential for pedestrians to be injured. Cyclists move more quickly than pedestrians move and blind people and those with low vision often cannot hear them.

There are existing standards that apply to the built environment, such as the New Zealand Standard 4121:2001 Design for access and mobility: Building and associated facilities [by authority of compliance document for clause D1 Access Routes of the New Zealand Building Code].

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Encourage blind people to express their needs and explain when something is not accessible.
  • Work with infrastructure specialists, local authorities, building developers, owners and local and central government to advise how to improve access to public buildings and the built environment, and contribute to accessibility audits.
  • Seek an undertaking from the Property Council of New Zealand to reduce constraints for blind and low vision users of public spaces and buildings.
  • Support efforts to enshrine universal design in the Building Act and the Building Code and establish mandatory access standards for public building and spaces.
  • Increase public awareness of how making the environment accessible for people who are blind or have low vision benefits everyone.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Investigate what comparable countries are doing to create the conditions where building developers, designers and owners design for all users when designing, upgrading, modifying and retrofitting public buildings and spaces.
  • Ensure that public sector procurement practices for public spaces and buildings specify accessibility standards.
  • Support efforts to enshrine Universal Design in the Building Act and the Building Code and establish mandatory access standards for public building and spaces.
  • Amend legislation and regulations to set a clear expectation of what access standards must be.
  • Require access audits to be included in the design process and to be reviewed (as are fire safety standards) and adhered to.
  • Remove shared use paths until minimum safety standards are met.
  • Give priority and sufficient resources to the implementation of the Malatest Report on the revision of the Building Code and NZ Standard 4121.
  • Enact a comprehensive accessibility law that will provide enforceable standards for all aspects of the built environment.

Accessible Elections

Issue

The choice to vote independently and confidentially is not available to blind people and those with low vision.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • The telephone dictation voting trial that enabled blind people and those with low vision to participate in the 2014 general election should be available also for Local Government elections and referenda.
  • Electronic voting in general elections, local government elections and referenda should be available in time for the general election in 2020.

Background

In March 2008, the New Zealand Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 29 of the convention states, in part, that: “Parties will ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected.” This is to be accomplished by, among other things, “ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use” and by “protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation.” (See Note 1.)

Blind people and those with low vision do not have the choice to vote independently and confidentially. They must rely on third parties to mark their ballot. Polling stations are not accessible; officials lack awareness of how to accommodate them. The information about candidates and the policies of their political parties are not available in accessible formats.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Monitor international best practice on accessible election standards and be a conduit for innovation in services for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Advise political parties and candidates on best practice on access to published information.
  • Increase public awareness of how making the democratic process accessible for people who are blind or have low vision benefits everyone.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government, Political Parties and Candidates to Do:

  • Extend the telephone dictation voting to include local government elections and referendums.
  • Continue to develop accessible electronic voting options.
  • Mandate that audio-description be included in all party political and public service announcements where videos or TV information are used to convey information in a non-verbal way.
  • Train election officials on how to assist voters who are blind or have low vision and ensure polling stations and polling booths are accessible to blind and low vision voters. (See Note 1.)
  • Make all election information available in accessible formats such as braille, large print, and audio.
  • Meet the New Zealand Government’s Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 and Web Usability Standard 1.2 and the Round Table Clear Print Guidelines for their web site publications.
  • Include audio description in all party political advertisements and campaign broadcasts, including those via consumer media such as YouTube.

Quiet Vehicles

Issue

The low level of noise of new quiet vehicles presents a significant safety problem for people who are blind or who have low vision.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • All people have the right to cross roads at pedestrian crossings and negotiate carparks and other shared spaces without the hazards presented by quiet vehicles.

Background

Hybrid and electric vehicles – referred to as “quiet vehicles” – offer numerous economic, environmental and social benefits. The low level of noise is beneficial from an environmental and social perspective, but presents a significant safety problem for people who are blind or who have low vision.

People who are blind or have low vision rely on environmental sound as an essential aid to independent mobility and safety when crossing roads and negotiating traffic.

Quiet vehicles will make this much more difficult, and in some cases, impossible. It is worth noting that the widespread introduction of quiet vehicles will have implications for the safety of everyone in the community.

What Blind Low Vision NZWill Do:

  • Contribute data and evidence about the impact of quiet vehicles on the ability of blind people and those with low vision to move around the community.
  • Promote this policy to motor vehicle designers, manufacturers and importers.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Conduct an enquiry into the impact of quiet vehicles on blind people and those with low vision including:
  • The use of appropriate noise-making devices in quiet vehicles. The Blind Low Vision NZ preference is for the alert sound to mimic the noise of a motor vehicle, as it needs to be distinguished from other less threatening sources.
  • The use of in-vehicle, audio-visual signalling systems that would alert drivers to the presence of nearby pedestrians.
  • The use of mobility aids that would alert users who are blind or have low vision to the presence of nearby traffic, and which could be used to signal such traffic to stop.
  • Greater use of audio and/or tactile traffic signals and integration of vehicle signalling with other technically based road safety technologies, such as “blind radar”.
  • Public education campaigns and mandatory driver training on the potential dangers of quiet vehicles for people who are blind or have low vision.

See also: World Blind Union Position Statement on Hybrid-Quiet Vehicles

Access to Employment

Issue

People who are blind or who have low vision want to contribute to the labour market, but there are barriers to them achieving their aspirations. Lower educational achievement for some people and limited pre-employment opportunities restrict their employability. The abilities of people who are blind or have low vision are often underestimated.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • Blind people and those with low vision should have access to job opportunities equal to everyone else. To achieve this, funding and processes for supporting disabled people into work need to be modified to reflect the changing age of the workforce, the need for more flexible working hours and specialised types of support in the workplace.
  • Government needs to regulate to create the conditions for a more inclusive workplace that favours employing blind people and those with low vision. Employing disabled people benefits both disabled people and the economy.

Background

When it comes to employing people who are blind or have low vision, some employers are driven away by fear of the unknown as well as fear of what they know. This can lead to thinking that hiring a person who is blind or has low vision means lowering the bar. Alternatively, employers may fall back on a single negative experience.

Access to reliable adaptive equipment and technology is critical for blind and low vision workers seeking to maintain their employment or self-employment or wishing to join the labour market. New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision want to have the same choices and opportunities as everyone else to earn an income. However, the majority of working age clients are unable to fulfil their goals or contribute in the way they wish.

Blind Low Vision NZ works proactively with clients, employers, the government, disability service providers, and disabled people’s organisations on improving job prospects for blind and low vision job seekers. As a member of the Disability Employment Forum, Blind Low Vision NZ works to address the barriers. We educate employers about the opportunity that exists within this untapped workforce. Now through access advisors, we offer a proactive and detailed programme to help employers utilise disabled workers. There is still a long way to go in getting employers, and particularly HR managers, to have the confidence and the facts to put forward a blind candidate ahead of a sighted one.

Educational Achievement

There is a disparity in the educational achievement of blind and low vision people and the general population. In Blind Low Vision NZ 2014 Client Needs Survey, 33% of clients said that they do not have any formal qualifications, 44% of those surveyed had some secondary school qualification and 22% had a post-secondary education qualification, 7% of respondents were studying and of those studying, 16% were undertaking distance-learning programmes. Nearly 50% of respondents who completed qualifications did so with a degree of vision loss at the time.

In terms of employment, 60% of clients who were employed were in full-time work and 38% worked part time. The remainder were on short-term contract or seasonal work and 23% of clients described their jobs as “permanent.”

There is a need for hard data from a wide range of companies proving that an inclusive workforce not only works, but works well. There is a need to prove the business case that employing people who are blind or have low vision can help business succeed, reduce costs, build morale and position companies in the private and not-for-profit sectors to better access an increasing market opportunity. Blind Low Vision NZ has an important role to play in showcasing the quantifiable benefits of the broad range of skills the blind or low vision employee can contribute.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Focus on ensuring clients are “work ready” so they are able to maximise employment opportunities.
  • Establish a client talent pool, to provide greater opportunities for blind jobseekers and those with low vision to gain Blind Low Vision NZ roles.
  • Ensure that the requirements of blind and low vision job seekers are understood and supported.
  • Promote Blind Low Vision NZ’s affirmative action policy, work experience opportunities and be a model employer.
  • Raise awareness of student, job seeker, and employee and entrepreneur successes within the blindness community.
  • Facilitate seminars and forums, and tap into networks where Blind Low Vision NZ clients can learn job search strategies and share information on employment experiences and successes.
  • Set up a peer mentoring programme to match people in work with those seeking employment.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Examine what can be done to increase the number of internships, trade training opportunities, apprenticeships, and iwi/Pasifika employment initiatives for young blind and low vision workers.
  • Ensure the budget for disability employment funding meets demand.
  • Lead the implementation of accessible systems to remove barriers for employment in the government sector.
  • Ensure that legislation requires employers to make their workplaces and systems accessible and that this is best achieved through a comprehensive accessibility law applicable to public and private sectors.

Access to Braille Literacy and Numeracy

Issue

Some New Zealanders with sight loss may not have the choice to learn braille and develop braille literacy and numeracy skills.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • The teaching and production of braille must comply with the Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust (BANZAT) standards.
  • Access to electronic braille equipment needs to be more readily available and affordable.
  • People who are blind or who have low vision need to have the choice to:
    • develop braille competency,
    • access convenient and affordable equipment for reading and writing braille, and have access in braille to information that is available to the sighted public in electronic and print formats.

Background

Literacy and numeracy are key factors in determining success in life, including employment. The use of braille has declined over the past few decades, but now there is a growing movement to encourage the take-up of braille. American research shows a strong correlation between the ability to read braille and employability.

Braille is one of several formats that support literacy and numeracy skills for people who are blind or have low vision. Hearing about how learning basic braille skills can support many activities of daily living: creating grocery lists, labelling clothing, identifying medications, using household appliances, and so on, is important.

The ability to develop braille skills, access affordable braille reading and writing tools, and have braille material readily available are an important option for children and adults who are blind or have low vision. Students and learners who use braille as their primary literacy medium need to have curriculum material in braille.

Braille users want to have braille books, including magazines, newspapers, and appliance instruction manuals, at the same time and cost as printed versions are made available.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:

  • Encourage everyone to learn braille and promote its use for day-to-day activities.
  • Urge braille users to let organisations know when something requires transcription into braille.
  • Provide organisations with a braille transcription and production service that complies with standards set by BANZAT.
  • Encourage people who produce or teach braille to complete the Trans-Tasman Certificate of Proficiency in Unified English Braille (UEB).
  • Work with kindred organisations, including Māori and iwi organisations, Blind Citizens New Zealand Inc. on braille production and training.
  • Assist people who are blind or have low vision to obtain funding for braille-related equipment and materials.
  • Advise on designing and placing braille in the built environment.
  • Increase the availability of braille for recreational reading.

What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:

  • Include braille in legislation on the built environment, public transport, compulsory education, tertiary education, and in public service information.
  • Ensure that all government-generated information produced in print is available in braille at the same time the printed version becomes available.
  • Fully fund the teaching of braille and training in the use of braille-related equipment.

Foot paths and Shared Spaces

Issue

Public spaces that are inaccessible cannot accurately be described as ‘public’. More and more obstacles are appearing on our shared spaces and public footpaths, without any warning or consultation with people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision.

Increasingly, riders of e-scooters, bicycles and other micro-mobility devices use footpaths and compete for limited space with pedestrians. Discarded scooters are being left in shared spaces and footpaths. Street furniture is incorrectly placed on or near footpaths. Councils are also installing coloured artwork on shared spaces and footpaths. Together, these new obstacles make it very difficult for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision to independently and safely navigate around these additional hazards. It’s not fair that pedestrians with vision loss are forced to avoid shared spaces and footpaths due to concern about their personal health and safety.

New Zealand’s 77 local, regional and unitary councils do not consistently apply the guidance from Waka Kotahi – The New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) when designing shared spaces and footpaths.

Statement

The RNZFB Board believes that:

  • Pedestrians who are blind or have low vision must have safe access to shared spaces.
  • The guideline for shared space design should always be followed when planning these spaces.
  • Signage around shared spaces should clearly indicate correct behaviour for motorists and pedestrians.

Shared Spaces

The World Blind Union defines a shared space as:

“A street or place designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles and enabling all users to share the space rather than follow the clearly defined rules implied by more conventional designs” (Local Transport Note 1/11 October 2011, Department for Transport, London).

The World Blind Union adds that:

“A Shared Space can also be described as a low speed residential or retail street where the usual kerb that distinguishes the footpath as pedestrian priority space and the roadway as traffic priority space is removed. The ambiguity of a common level and surfacing material leads to caution and lower speeds by vehicles. While this is generally beneficial to most road users, it creates difficulties for pedestrians who are blind or partially sighted as the usual orientation cues are often absent and it is difficult for them to sense the subtle cues on the location of the continuous accessible path of travel (CAPT). The Pedestrian Planning and Design Guide section 5.3.3 discusses shared zones: Click here to access NZTA pedestrian planning guide.”

For more information refer to the World Blind Union Position Statement on “Shared Spaces”.

Waka Kotahi uses the following definitions in the Pedestrian Planning Guide.

Shared zone: “A residential street that has been designed to slow traffic and signed to give priority to pedestrians. The shared zone sign means that traffic is required to give way to pedestrians but pedestrians must not unreasonably impede traffic.”

Segregated shared-use path: A route shared by pedestrians and cyclists where both groups use separate, designated areas of the path.

Unsegregated shared-use path: A path shared by pedestrians and cyclists where both groups share the same space.

Footpath: The part of road or other public place built and laid out for pedestrian use.

Footpaths

The CAPT defines the area where the pedestrian route is safe and convenient for everyone, especially people who are blind or have low vision and or with impaired mobility. It has even surfaces, gentle slopes and is free of permanent and temporary obstacles at all times. The minimum CAPT width must be 1.8 metres but wider is beneficial on busy footpaths.

Obstacles such as advertising and regulatory signs, seating, rubbish bins, utility poles, post boxes and bus shelters should be kept clear of the CAPT at all times. Advertising signs on the footpath should be avoided if possible. Where advertising is permitted, signs should be located away from the CAPT, i.e., on the kerb edge, and always placed consistently in the same location.

In 2020, 18% of the people that we served were aged between 65 and 79 years, and 46% were aged 80 years or over. This is a significant proportion of the people we serve who are impacted by inaccessible shared spaces and footpaths. The four leading eye conditions that lead to vision loss in New Zealand are age-related. Older and ageing pedestrians with vision impairment are particularly at risk.

We fully support the use of transport devices as active modes of transport. They help people get where they need to quickly and easily. However, for the safety of people with vision loss, they should not be used on footpaths or in shared spaces. This solution can work for all parties.

Our Position

Shared spaces must be prioritised as safe and accessible for all pedestrians, especially pedestrians with vision loss.

Rules that require users to simply exercise courteous behaviour offer no protection or reassurance to our clients. We believe pedestrians cannot depend on other people’s good behaviour when using shared spaces and footpaths.

Pedestrians who are blind, deafblind or have low vision need to be able to identify when they enter a pathway that is designated as a shared path.  Written signage and painted markings alone should not be relied on.

We recommend installing detectable physical barriers between cyclists and pedestrians rather than making paths shared.

We support the World Blind Union (WBU) Position Statement on Electric Scooters (E-scooters) (available to download from the WBU website) which states that “A motorized E-scooter is powered by an electric motor. It is any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, and a floorboard that is designed for someone to stand on when riding.”

E-Scooters are an example of a micro-mobility device. The WBU Position Statement goes on to state that “E-Scooters are an example of new technology that expands “personal” transport options. They provide a relatively cheap mode of transport that is more accessible than walking or cycling for some people and can go where buses don’t.”

Other examples of micro-mobility devices include but aren’t limited to skateboards and electric bikes. To ensure pedestrian safety, these devices should not be permitted under any circumstances to be used on footpaths.

We support rules that ensure micro-mobility devices, like e-scooters or skateboards, move off the footpath where they’re less likely to come into conflict with pedestrians.

We support the installation of segregated cycle paths.  Segregated cycle paths physically separate fast moving micro-mobility devices and pedestrians which prevents pedestrians from unknowingly veering into the cycle lanes. Signage or road markings are insufficient to enable people who are blind or have low vision to identify changes in space designation.

What Blind Low Vision NZ will do:

  • Continue to campaign for the introduction of accessibility legislation to set the framework to develop consistent New Zealand standards across all domains of life. This includes the built environment domain, which covers shared spaces and footpaths. This will ensure consistent rules across the country.
  • Promote safe and accessible shared spaces and footpaths as a member of the Living Streets Aotearoa Coalition.
  • Continue to seek feedback from people who are blind, deafblind and who have low vision on their experiences of navigating shared spaces and footpaths, to ensure safe and accessible travel.
  • Review the experiences in Europe, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada on accessible design of shared spaces and footpaths.
  • Work proactively with Government from the concept and design stage, to ensure shared spaces and footpaths, are accessible, and reduce public money being wasted and creating new barriers for people with vision loss.
  • Continue to collaborate with central and local government authorities to put safety of pedestrians who are blind, deafblind or have low vision first. This includes advising road engineers, transport planners, environmental planners, local authorities, building developers and property owners of the importance of accounting for the needs of people with vision loss.

What Blind Low Vision NZ wants Government, Political Parties and Candidates to do:

  • Campaign for Government to enact comprehensive accessibility legislation. The legislation must include a mandatory and enforceable built environment standard. We want RTS 14, and other currently non-enforceable best practice to be included in a national accessible built environment standard. This standard will ensure nationally consistent accessible shared spaces and footpaths.
  • Advocate for blind, deafblind and low vision pedestrians to be involved at the design stage of shared space schemes.
  • Monitor shared spaces and footpaths to determine both vehicle speeds and driver behaviours, and prioritise the safety and ease of use for pedestrians.

Coloured Footpath and Roadway Art

Issue

The use of coloured footpath and roadway art is an increasing trend in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Waka Kotahi – The New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) has recently released its Draft Handbook for Tactical Urbanism in Aotearoa – Guidance: Roadway Art (September 2020).  This guidance forms part of the Waka Kotahi Innovating Streets Project, which includes a number of “pilots” funded by the NZTA and the local territorial authorities.

Waka Kotahi consulted an external accessibility consultant on the impact of footpath and roadway art for travellers with access needs.  However, the draft guideline doesn’t consider the health and safety issues for pedestrians with vision loss.  Pedestrians with low vision may view the art as an obstacle such as a hole in the ground. There is a risk of causing distress, disorientation and potential injury as a result.

Background

Coloured footpath and roadway art is a subset of street art. It is not considered a “traffic control device”. However, Waka Kotahi seems to be using coloured footpaths and roadway art as a traffic calming tactic.  For the estimated 228,000 New Zealanders living with significant vision loss coloured footpath and roadway art is an additional barrier and hazard to safely and independently navigating the streetscape.

Our Position

Blind Low Vision NZ (BLVNZ) does not support the use of coloured footpath and roadway art as it can potentially create confusion and or disorientation for travellers with vision loss. This is an added barrier for this group of people in travelling safety and independently. A number of eye conditions result in the loss of colour vision, especially the ability to see red and green colours.  Coloured footpath and roadway art is another barrier to the low vision traveller in their path of travel. We fully support Waka Kotahi’s position of not permitting coloured art on zebra crossings.  We strongly advocate that there be no coloured art on pedestrian crossings. The Continuous Accessible Path of Travel (CAPT) must be kept completely clear of coloured art works at all times.

What Blind Low Vision NZ will do

  • Work proactively with Waka Kotahi to upgrade the Waka Kotahi draft guidelines for the use of coloured art work on footpaths and roadways.
  • Continue to work with the leaders of similar projects to ensure that art does not impact the ability of travellers with low vision to navigate the streetscapes in New Zealand independently and safely.
  • Continue to seek feedback from people who are blind, deafblind and who have low vision on their experiences of navigating streetscapes to ensure safe and accessible travel.
  • Learn from the experiences of our sister organisations in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada about the increasing trend of more footpath and roadway art in streetscapes and solutions to reduce the impact on people with vision loss.

What Blind Vision NZ wants Waka Kotahi to do

  • Amend the September 2020 draft design guidelines for the Innovating Streets Project to reflect best practice design for people with vision loss, to ensure:
    • No coloured footpath and roadway art is used in the CAPT. The minimum CAPT width must be 1.8m.
    • No coloured footpath and roadway art is used near pedestrian crossings or intersections.
    • No reflective paint is used in coloured footpath and roadway art.
  • Collaborate with Blind Low Vision NZ to consult people with vision loss at the design stage of coloured footpath and roadway art projects.

Background

Footpaths

The CAPT defines the area where the pedestrian route is safe and convenient for everyone, especially people who are blind or have low vision and or with impaired mobility. It has even surfaces, gentle slopes and is free of permanent and temporary obstacles at all times. The preferred width is 1.8 metres (minimum width 1.5 metres), but wider is beneficial on busy footpaths.

Obstacles such as advertising and regulatory signs, seating, rubbish bins, utility poles, post boxes and bus shelters should be kept clear of the continuous accessible path of travel at all times. Advertising signs on the footpath should be avoided if possible. Where advertising is permitted, signs shall be located away from the continuous accessible path of travel, i.e., on the kerb edge, and always placed consistently in the same location.

Blind Low Vision NZ fully supports the use of transport devices as active modes of transport. They help people get where they need to quickly and easily. However, for the safety of people with vision loss, they should not be used on footpaths or in shared spaces. This solution can work for all parties.

For more information refer to the World Blind Union Position Statement on “Electric Scooters”

Shared spaces

A shared space occurs when pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have access to the same space, usually in the middle of a city. While the speed of traffic is encouraged to be less than 30kmph, they are difficult places for blind and low vision pedestrians to navigate. This is due to slowly moving quiet traffic, the flatness of the area, and a lack of tactile markings to indicate roads, safe crossing points and footpaths. When cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians use shared spaces or zones, there is an increased potential for conflict between them. The likelihood of injury is increased for blind, deafblind and low vision pedestrians.

Rules that require users to simply exercise courteous behaviour offer no protection or reassurance to our clients. Blind Low Vision NZ believes vulnerable footpath users cannot depend on other people’s good behaviour when using footpaths and roadways.

Pedestrians who are blind, deafblind or have low vision need to be able to identify when they enter a pathway that is designated as a shared path.  Written signage and painted markings alone should not be relied on.

Blind Low Vision NZ recommends installing detectable physical barriers between cyclists and pedestrians rather than making paths shared.

For more information refer to the World Blind Union Position Statement on “Shared Spaces”.

Roadways

The use of coloured footpath and roadway art is an increasing trend in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Waka Kotahi – The New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) has a Draft Handbook for Tactical Urbanism in Aotearoa – Guidance: Roadway Art (September 2020).  This guidance formed part of the Waka Kotahi Innovating Streets Project, which included a number of “pilots” funded by Waka Kotahi and the local territorial authorities.

Coloured footpath and roadway art is a subset of street art. It is not considered a “traffic control device”. However, Waka Kotahi seems to be using coloured footpaths and roadway art as a traffic calming tactic. For the estimated 180,000 New Zealanders living with significant vision loss, coloured footpath and roadway art is an additional barrier and hazard to safely and independently navigating the streetscape.

Blind Low Vision NZ objects to allowing local ruling authorities like local councils to change rules in certain areas, as this affects the safety of New Zealanders who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. New Zealand roads should have consistent standards applied, monitored, and enforced across the country.

Our Position

Footpaths and shared spaces must be prioritised as safe and accessible for all pedestrians, especially pedestrians with vision loss.

Micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters should only be used on cycle paths or the road. To ensure pedestrian safety these devices should not be permitted under any circumstances to be used on footpaths.

We support rules that ensure micro-mobility devices, like e-scooters or skateboards, move off the footpath and onto parts of the road where they’re less likely to come into conflict with pedestrians or fast-moving motor vehicles.

We do not support the use of coloured footpath and roadway art as it can potentially create confusion and or disorientation for travellers with vision loss. Coloured footpath and roadway art is another barrier to the low vision traveller in their path of travel. We strongly advocate that there be no coloured art on pedestrian crossings.

We support the installation of cycle paths which physically separate both motor traffic and the footpath to prevent pedestrians from unknowingly veering into the lanes. Signage or road markings are insufficient to enable people who are blind or have low vision to identify changes in road space designation.

What Blind Low Vision NZ will do:

  • Continue to campaign as a member of the Access Alliance for the introduction of accessibility legislation to set the framework to develop consistent New Zealand standards across all domains of life. This includes the built environment domain which covers footpaths, shared spaces and roadways. This will ensure consistent rules across the country.
  • Promote safe and accessible footpaths as an active member of the Living Streets Aotearoa Coalition.
  • Continue to seek feedback from people who are blind, deafblind and who have low vision on their experiences of navigating footpaths, shared spaces and roadways to ensure safe and accessible travel.
  • Review the experiences in Europe, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada on accessible design of footpaths, shared spaces, and roadways.
  • Work proactively with Government from the concept and design stage, to ensure footpaths, shared spaces, and roadways are accessible, and reduce public money being wasted and creating new barriers for people with vision loss.
  • Continue to collaborate with central and local government authorities to put safety of pedestrians who are blind, deafblind or have low vision first. This includes advising road engineers, transport planners, environmental planners, local authorities, building developers and property owners of the importance of accounting for the needs of people with vision loss.

What Blind Low Vision NZ wants Central and Local Government to do:

  • Monitor and enforce compliance with Road Traffic Standard (RTS) 14 – Guidelines for facilities for blind, deafblind and low vision pedestrians in designing footpaths, shared spaces and roadways.
  • Enact comprehensive accessibility legislation, with enforcement mechanisms that incorporates RTS 14, and other best practice as a mandatory requirement for designing accessible footpaths, shared spaces and roadways.
  • Involve blind, deafblind and low vision pedestrians in designing shared space schemes to ensure the standard is applied consistently throughout New Zealand.
  • Monitor footpaths, shared spaces, and roadways to determine both vehicle speeds and driver behaviours, and prioritise the safety and ease of use for pedestrians.
  • Amend the September 2020 draft design guidelines for the Innovating Streets Project to reflect best practice design for people with vision loss, to ensure:
  1. No coloured footpath and roadway art is used in the Continuous Accessible Path of Travel (CAPT). Note that the Waka Kotahi preferred CAPT width is 1.8m.
  2. No coloured footpath and roadway art is used near pedestrian crossings or intersections.
  3. No reflective paint is used in coloured footpath and roadway art.
  • Collaborate with Blind Low Vision NZ at the design stage of coloured footpath and roadway art projects.

 

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