Blind Low Vision NZ believes everyone who is blind, deafblind, or has low vision should have the opportunity to be self-reliant and do the things they need and want to in life. As well as supporting individuals, Blind Low Vision NZ seeks to make big-picture change by advocating for inclusive communities and for optimal eye care services for all New Zealanders.
Read on for our purpose statements and supporting positions that share what we believe at Blind Low Vision NZ:
- Living beyond vision loss
- A fully accessible New Zealand
- Eye health in New Zealand
Blind Low Vision NZ believes everyone who is blind, deafblind, or has low vision should have the opportunity to be self-reliant and do the things they need and want to do in life.
For that to be possible, our world needs to be accessible and inclusive, and people who are blind or have low vision need to have the skills and knowledge to make the most of an inclusive world. We need open minds and inclusive attitudes, laws and regulations that support accessibility, and health and disability systems that support good eye health and vision rehabilitation.
We want to change what it means to be blind or have low vision.
Why it matters
Today Blind Low Vision NZ, New Zealand’s main provider of vision rehabilitation services, supports an estimated four out of 10 people living in New Zealand with blindness or low vision to continue to be self-reliant, to stay connected and in work, get around independently and live life with dignity. This means some people miss out on practical and emotional support to live with sight loss. The journey needs to be smoother for people to access support.
Then, there are the many unnecessary barriers imposed by systems, structures and people that make it harder for those who are blind or have low vision to live life how they want to. Indicators in important areas such as education, employment and mental wellbeing tell us there is some way to go in making sure people who are blind or have low vision have the same opportunities available to others in life.
The future we want
We want a future in which people who are blind or have low vision can live their lives without limits; feeling they can do the things they need and want to do with self-reliance, confidence and optimism. We want people who are blind or have low vision to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to have access to the whole world, the same as everyone else.
There won’t be dismal statistics like there are today, pointing to gaps like the rate of unemployment for people with disabilities being 50% higher than the rate for the total workforce, and reports that there is three times as much clinical depression amongst people with blindness or low vision than those without.
We want a future where the shining examples of accessibility and inclusion we find today, go unnoticed, as they become simply the norm. Barriers to education, employment and accessing timely eye health services will not exist. Blind Low Vision NZ’s service will be integrated into New Zealand’s health system and it will be sustainably resourced and easily accessed by those who need it.
Our role is to be a support and enabler for people who are blind or have low vision. We do this by:
- Working one-on-one with individuals and their families to provide personalised vision rehabilitation support to teach new skills for everyday living and at key transitional moments in life.
- Working with like-minded organisations, businesses and government to drive process and systemic change that supports the future we want.
- Building awareness and education that supports changing attitudes and opportunities for people who are blind or have low vision.
Despite the challenges present, today many people who are blind or have low vision are leading full lives. They are beacons that guide others following in their path.
Sources of information
- Thornley SJ, Gordon K, Shelton C, Marshall R. The prevalence of visual impairment: a capture-recapture study in three urban regions of New Zealand.
- ‘Valuing Access to Work’ by New Zealand Institute of Economic Research 2017.
- Rovner B, Ganguli M. Depression and disability associated with impaired vision: the MoVies Project. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 1998;46:617-9.
Blind Low Vision NZ believes every New Zealander should be able to fully participate in society, have the opportunity to learn, to get a job, and to take part in community and social life. We believe open minds and inclusive attitudes, supported by legislation, will help New Zealand create the changes it needs to become fully accessible.
Why it matters
New Zealand signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. Our country has an obligation to implement it, and to do so we need to become as accessible as possible.
Right now, people, including New Zealanders who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, face barriers that exclude them from being able to participate fully and equally in society. Difficulties brought about by unnecessary barriers are in every part of life: from getting around, to accessing information, technology, employment and buildings, to attitudinal challenges, and even the ability to vote independently in all elections.
These barriers create inequities and impact on productivity and participation, and ultimately our nation’s wellbeing. Accessibility matters to everyone, and the one in four New Zealanders who have a disability can speak with experience on what is and isn’t working.
The future we want
We want a future where everyone, including New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision, can participate fully and with dignity, in how they go from place to place, in the facilities and services they interact with, in the education path they choose to follow, and the careers they wish to forge.
We want a future where the examples of accessibility and inclusion we find today, become simply the norm. We want to remove barriers holding us back from flourishing as a fair country, one that recognises all of our fundamental human rights and improves the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
We are actively and passionately driving change that will make New Zealand accessible for all. Over recent years Blind Low Vision NZ, independently and as a member of the Access Alliance, has turned up the dial on advocating for accessible and inclusive communities at both systemic and grass roots levels.
By working together with others who have common goals, we are:
- Working with government through a partnership agreement driving the work programme to accelerate accessibility in New Zealand, and advocating for the essential role of new legislation, as part of the Access Alliance.
- Providing solutions to plug the gaps such as initiating the Access Advisors consultancy and the Accessibility Tick programme[KR1] , our accessible formats production and library services, and accessible signage guidelines.
- Advocating and advising on accessibility best practice working alongside local councils, government and businesses.
- Committing internally to our accessibility goals that support employees and customers, including through the Accessibility Tick programme and other internal initiatives.
- Speaking out about accessibility injustices and creating opportunities to help educate New Zealand about the importance of accessibility alongside the change we are making.
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.
Blind Low Vision NZ believes every New Zealander should be able to access the eye care services they need to support the best outcomes for themselves. This means taking steps to address avoidable blindness, make the most of a person’s remaining vision, and if needed, maximise the ability to live with sight loss.
We believe that a health system that supports good eye health and vision rehabilitation services for people living with blindness or low vision is vital in nurturing the health and wellbeing of our communities.
We believe our current eye health system can do better, and we have a role to play in shaping the solutions alongside others in the sector.
Why it matters
- People are unnecessarily losing their sight every day in New Zealand. The number of people with sight loss is growing exponentially as our aging population presents with the most common eye diseases causing blindness and low vision in New Zealand: age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. While it is estimated 75% of blindness and low vision from eye conditions like these is preventable or curable, it is happening too often for a developed country such as New Zealand.
- Many people do not get their eyes checked until they experience symptoms of vision loss. Over 70% of New Zealanders aged between 40 and 49 do not have a regular eye examination, despite the New Zealand Association of Optometrists recommending one every 2-5 years for healthy adults.
- New Zealand does not have a comprehensive eye health strategy. A lack of concrete data seems to exacerbate the lack of focus on eye health services. People are unnecessarily losing their sight and being denied access to treatment because eye care has been chronically neglected in our health system. The pieces of our eye health system are disparate and difficult for people to navigate between. Vision rehabilitation is somewhat out on a limb, rather than well understood within the system. Gaps also exist in our eye health system, such as adequate support for people with low vision.
Underinvestment in eye health and lack of preventative actions and treatments suggest that eye health has not been enough of a priority to ensure that sight is valued within our health system. The lack of a clear eye health pathway is costly, and it seems it hurts our at-risk communities the most by creating inequities in access to information and services. In a developed country such as New Zealand, it doesn’t have to be like this.
The future we want
We want a future where New Zealanders value and understand the importance of proactive eye care, and where our health system is resourced and integrated to support equitable eye health services.
This includes investment in awareness and education programmes that promote knowledge and preventative action, so people have the opportunity to access services at the earliest time to support the best outcomes. It also includes all Kiwis having access to regular eye checks and eye treatment if needed, especially for our vulnerable communities. And when people do need to learn new skills through low vision support or vision rehabilitation, the eye health system supports this.
Blind Low Vision NZ has a role to play in making this future a reality. We are driving change by:
- Transforming our own operating model to provide the best vision rehabilitation services we can, and to ensure people know about how we can help.
- Advocating for access to quality eye health care for all New Zealanders as a member of the Eye Health Coalition.
- Working collaboratively with the Parliamentary Friends of Eye Health to improve eye health services in New Zealand.
- Educating New Zealanders about what vision rehabilitation is, the importance of valuing eye health, and what is needed to improve access to services especially for underserved populations.
- Contributing efforts to address gaps in data and evidence.
What you can do
- Encourage your friends and family to have regular eye health checks with your local optometrist. It is the best way to make sure that any changes are caught early.
- Contact us, if you or your loved one needs support in living with blindness or low vision.
Sources of information