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- Robyn lost most of her vision suddenly. But thanks to kind Kiwis like you she feels she’s had wonderful support
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Community Impact Report 2021
Blind Low Vision. NZ
Produced 2021 by Accessible Formats Service, Blind Low Vision NZ, Auckland.
This edition is a transcription of the following print edition:
Images have been omitted in this e-text edition. Where captions are present they have been retained.
If reading this etext on a portable braille device, please note that it is unproofed by touch.
A note from our CEO and Board Chair
It has been another big year for Blind Low Vision NZ as we continue to empower New Zealanders who are blind, deafblind or have low vision to live the life they choose. We used the lessons we learned last year in lockdown and changed the way we work. This meant we were able to lower waiting times and help more people live the life they choose.
We spent this year working on the four key priorities we laid out in our 2020-2024 Strategic direction, Our Vision, Your Future:
People who are blind, deafblind or have low vision have choices about how they live their lives as independent citizens in their communities.
Educate and Equip
Empower people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision with the information, advice and tools to thrive through lifelong learning opportunities.
People who are blind, deafblind or have low vision are included in society and have choices as to how to actively participate.
For Purpose Organisation
People centred, knowledge based, adaptable and drives change.
Earlier this year, Blind Low Vision NZ was selected as the winner of the New Zealand Primary Healthcare Award for Innovation in Service Delivery for our response during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award recognises a forward-thinking person
or people who have made primary healthcare services significantly better through new ideas and initiatives. Their innovation might have enabled healthcare to continue during a period of uncertainty or significantly improved patient experiences, access and equity. We were nominated for the development of our remote consultation process during COVID-19. Our service delivery staff were redeployed to call our entire client base (14,500 people) to assess their needs. This resulted in a 19% increase in requests for services, and greater support was needed to deliver rehabilitation services quickly.
COVID-19 not only changed the way we work but also, what people have come to expect of organisations such as ours. Preceding this, our counselling service was almost exclusively a face-to-face model and the limitations of that approach meant that we were simply unable to provide equity of service across the country. Moving forward we will be partnering on the delivery of our emotional support services with Habit Rehabilitation, which will allow us to meet our objective of delivery in a timely, consistent and person centred manner.
We have also made improvements to our Employment Service Provision. To date, the employment service for clients has had a very broad remit including working with clients who are transitioning from education into work, with clients who are in work but requiring technical support within their work environment through to providing assistance to a client where they are at risk of losing their employment. Our new model is titled Work Readi and we will continue to work with our community partners to ensure those critical elements listed are still addressed. Work Readi will also include a comprehensive online vocational support platform/information hub that empowers clients by providing them with tools they can access as needed in pursuit of their pre-employment endeavours. Work Readi will also facilitate connections with external providers for internships, work experience, community service and volunteering.
To replace CDs, we have put in place new ways for people to get their library books and magazines. Now people can get their talking books right from their armchair in the living room. With a smart speaker on the table, they can ask Alexa to play any one of our 36,000 talking books. Books can also be accessed through the Daisy reader and a range of accessible formats such as braille and large print.
4,350 clients are using an Alexa, thanks to funding from the Ministry of Social Development. This means, compared to last year, the number of clients utilising the helpful Alexa skills has increased by 23%. Beyond
reading books, they can search the internet, hear the latest news and write a list by using their voice. Many have said that once they get used to talking to Alexa, they wouldn’t be without it.
We continue to advocate for better eye health services in Aotearoa, and support those groups who are contributing to this goal through their work and research.
Out at Guide Dogs we are building a new mobility training centre. This will help us get more guide dogs trained up and out to waiting clients. We have formerly commenced the construction of our joint venture retirement project in Parnell, which will provide a sustainable revenue stream for the organisation well into the future.
In the last year, we have increased the number of registered members by 546, seen a 30% increase in the number of unique clients per month and reduced wait times from first contact until first service. Additionally, we are delighted that the Government and all the Parliamentary parties are committed to accelerating accessibility through new legislation and regulations within the next two years.
We’ve got a big year ahead and look forward to sharing this journey with you all.
Me mahi tahi tātau hei whakapakari te hunga kāpō
Work together to give strength to people who are blind or have low vision.
Blind Low Vision NZ
Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB)
Who we help and how
Our dedicated staff and volunteers help people from Cape Reinga to Bluff—we have 19 offices, and no location is off-limits.
Upper North Island (excl Auckland): 3,175 clients
Auckland: 2,456 clients
Lower North Island: (excl Wellington) 3,790 clients
Wellington: 1,238 clients
South Island (excl Christchurch): 2,481 clients
Christchurch: 1,427 clients
This year our contact centre staff received 39,674 calls
We received 317,500 requests from the library (total number of loans in the last 12 months)
We have clients of all ages, though the majority are over 65, due to the correlation of aging and vision loss.
130 years Blind Low Vision NZ has been supporting Kiwis whose sight cannot be improved with lenses.
This year we supported 6,237clients
We tailor our services, events, and activities to cater for different age groups, needs and interests.
A snapshot of blindness, deafblindness and low vision in New Zealand
Some people assume that blindness, deafblindness or low vision is rare and that it could never happen to them or someone they love. But it’s more common than you might think.
4% of Kiwis are currently living with blindness or low vision.
Every 2.5 hours, someone in NZ develops blindness.
1 in 5 people will experience blindness or low vision in their lifetime.
And it will be more common in the future because of our ageing population.
By 2030, the number of Kiwis with blindness, deafblindness or low vision is likely to increase by over 25%.
The number of Kiwis with age-related macular degeneration is projected to increase by 70%.
There are also many people in NZ who (sometimes unknowingly) have diseases that may lead to blindness or low vision. These diseases are often treatable if diagnosed in time, which is why raising awareness is an important part of what we do at Blind Low Vision NZ.
50% of sight loss is preventable, 25% of sight loss is treatable.
Cataract surgery has good success rates, but leads to sight loss in 5% of cases.
An estimated 2% of Kiwis over 40 have glaucoma. Half of them are unaware of this.
Over 70% of Kiwis aged 40-49 do not have a regular eye examination.
With the right training, assistive technology, and mindset, most people with blindness or low vision can live the life they choose.
74% of Blind Low Vision NZ clients live in their own homes, either alone or with a partner and/or children.
57% of working age people who are blind or have low vision are currently in work compared to 77% of the NZ working age population.
Six-year-old Lottie did not have the easiest start to life. With the support of family, specialists and Blind Low Vision NZ, she has grown into a young girl who lights up every room.
Nelson based couple Hayley and Sam were 36 weeks pregnant when they experienced what they described as the hardest moment of their lives. During a conversation with the doctor, the expectant parents received the news that Lottie had suffered a brain haemorrhage.
Little Lottie spent 10 days in intensive care following her birth. On the ninth day, Sam and Hayley’s paediatric neurologist explained that extensive brain damage meant she was likely to have severe loss of vision and other disabilities.
Lottie started working with a visual therapist at around the age of 9 months, where she was formally diagnosed with cortical visual impairment. This is an eye condition that makes it very hard for her to both see and process what she’s looking at.
Lottie can see to about an arm’s length and a bit better on the left than the right. Things further away are a blur. Her specialist attaches tinsel to her belongings, as things that sparkle are the easiest for Lottie to see. This is why, of the things she can see, she likes sparkly things the most.
Having access to Blind Low Vision NZ specialist support makes all the difference, and it’s setting her up for life. Lottie’s family initially received support from one of Blind Low Vision NZ’s child and family social workers.
“You don’t realise you’re going to be a mum that’s going to need these services behind you, but as a recipient of Blind Low Vision NZ services, you come to understand how important they are for families like us,” stated Hayley.
“Blind Low Vision NZ counsellors are there providing support through this often frightening time.”
Alana, an Independent Living Skills Specialist at Blind Low Vision NZ, has been visiting Lottie since she was a baby. She also helped make Lottie’s kindie and primary school more accessible, ensuring she has everything needed to properly access her education.
Lottie loves learning and enjoys listening to her favourite stories using the Blind Low Vision NZ Talking Book library.
When Holly was only 10 years old, her family discovered that she had a brain tumor. She then received the news that she may never recover her sight. After a year or so, Holly regained a small amount of tunnel vision in one eye, which allowed her to make out things about a metre away.
Right from the very beginning, Blind Low Vision NZ was there to support Holly. From helping her to work through the shock of sight loss to providing support with adaptive technology and daily activities, Blind Low Vision NZ has helped Holly to live with the same hope and ambition as any other kiwi.
“Blind Low Vision NZ helped me use my laptop,” she said. “They put JAWS on it, which stands for Job Access With Speech. JAWS is a screen reader. So, it reads anything that’s on the screen and also if you are writing notes or anything like that it has a little speech thing and it echoes what letters and words you are writing.”
Equipped with speech to text technology, and help from
Blind Low Vision NZ to learn braille, Holly was ready to shine in education. As she moved from school to university, Holly
developed an ambition to study social work. Whilst pursuing her dream career, she also ran a music group volunteering with people with disabilities.
Her trusty guide dog Laura, a lovable black lab, guided her through her years of study. Laura was popular on campus and made it much easier for Holly to get around.
Prior to University, Holly had learnt to use a white cane to navigate her world; a skill she learnt through orientation and mobility training. When Laura retired, she decided to return to her white cane.
Blind Low Vision NZ will continue to walk alongside Holly as she undertakes big challenges, like recently moving to a new town. Several refresher sessions of orientation and mobility training are helping Holly to become familiar with her new location, so she can continue to live an independent and successful life.
All about Alexa
All Blind Low Vision NZ clients are offered an Echo Dot Speaker, which not only includes the regular Alexa functionality but also access to a bespoke Blind Low Vision NZ Skill.
Our skill includes information about the range of services available from Blind Low Vision NZ, including priority news and upcoming member events across the country. You can also find out about our office locations, or request a call back for assistance.
The Library service in our skill lets you now read audio books, magazines, and newspapers from Blind Low Vision NZ with your Alexa, using voice control.
With more than 36,000 book titles in our collection, Blind Low Vision NZ’s Library features New Zealand and international audio books, and selected magazines produced in studio. Just ask Alexa to find a book or magazine, and you can listen directly online. You can search by author, title, or just ask for a random book to start reading. We also have daily newspaper articles available from more than 60 local newspapers, provided by kind permission of their publishers.
When you start the skill for the first time, Alexa will start by offering you a tutorial in basic operations. In the tutorial, you can practice interacting with Alexa, asking for help, looking for books, and choosing books from a menu. You can then get started requesting your own books, magazines, and newspapers to read. The next time you start the skill, Alexa will ask whether you would like to carry on with the last title you were reading. While you are reading a title, you can increase or decrease the volume, and skip between chapters. When you go back to a book you have started reading, Alexa will take you back to the place you left off.
“Going well and we talk to each other! I read the books and she is wonderful for appointment reminders. She has also told me some funny jokes (and terrible ones) and keeps me up with the news.”
A Blind Low Vision NZ Client
Personalised rehabilitation services
We provide specialised training that gives children and adults who are blind or have low vision the practical skills they need to live safely and independently. This may include learning how to get around independently using a white cane or a guide dog or accomplishing tasks at home. We can also advise on home and kitchen modifications and household organisation.
We advise clients about relevant new devices and apps that may transform their lives. Our adaptive technology courses cover topics such as accessible computer functions, word processing, spreadsheets, email, using the internet, reading the news, social networking, shopping, travelling, and accessing our books.
Community & support
We organise social, recreational, and cultural activities to enable people to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle and connect with others. Our support groups, peer mentoring programme and phone peer support service allow clients to talk to others with similar sight loss experiences. We also offer one-on-one emotional support services through vision loss counselling.
Our Employment Service, (known as Work Readi), consists of:
A comprehensive on-line vocational support platform / information hub that empowers clients by providing them with comprehensive tools they can access as needed in pursuit of all their pre-employment endeavours.
BLVNZ and key partners providing Specialist services as and when required, driven by the client, such as O&M and ACATS.
Facilitation of connections with external providers for internships, work experience, community service and volunteering.
Library services & accessible formats
We make it possible for people who are blind or have low vision to access books, newspapers, and magazines in the format they prefer, whether that’s braille, audio, large print or digital.
The newest way to access our library is through a “skill” (similar to an app) on a voice-activated Alexa smart speaker. We can also convert personal printed materials into any accessible format.
“Blind Low Vision NZ supporters may have saved my life …”
Sue, a Blind Low Vision NZ Client
We have several funds that provide financial assistance to clients who cannot meet the costs of vision rehabilitation, equipment, or tertiary education.
We provide cultural support for Pasifika clients, a specialist team for Deafblind clients, and a Parent and Child Enrichment (PACE) programme to help families who have a child with visual impairment.
A small taster of how our work made an impact this year
10,000 votes were received for Access Alliance 2021 People’s Choice Accessible Business Awards. Blind Low Vision NZ is a driving member of the Access Alliance and we have worked together to demand the implementation of accessibility legislation in Aotearoa, which has been confirmed, will progress in the coming year. Watch this space.
4,530 clients now have an Alexa, that is about 33% of our clients. With Alexa, they can instantly find out the time or the weather, or what’s on TV. Or play music, make to-do lists and set alarms. All by using their voice.
1,293 clients have completed 4,627 hours of mobility training this year, gaining the skills and confidence to travel independently using a white cane.
215,927 est. audio books were loaned. Over the last year we have continued to add audiobooks to our collection and now have available 355,061 hours of reading time. This includes an addition of 6,391 hours of audiobooks and 881 hours of magazines. Many people have enjoyed the library and have spent 2,123,282 hours of reading, which equates to 215,927 loans!
“Tallulah is an intelligent, energetic, determined child who pushes herself to keep up with her older, fully sighted brothers. She is literally without fear—and never, ever stops talking.”
“I don’t know where she gets the energy to talk so much, but that’s how she learns. And it’s how she finds out about the world around her.”
Jess, whose daughter Tallulah is a Blind Low Vision NZ Client.
Getting together to support Blind Low Vision NZ
Blind Low Vision NZ couldn’t exist without our family of volunteers. We are grateful for the diverse group of 12,000 registered volunteers that share their unique skills to a variety of roles within our organisation.
Our tūao support Blind Low Vision NZ by assisting with client engagement activities, technology support, library assistance, guide dogs services, fundraising, policy & advocacy and general business. Our accessible formats volunteers collaborate with our Blind Low Vision NZ team to create tactile books for children, proof reading and copy holding to enable our clients to easily access reading material in a variety of formats. Our Guide Dog volunteers not only dedicate their time, but they also open up their homes to our Guide Dogs from puppy raisers, breeding stock carers and volunteering within our Guide Dog Centre to ensure our Guide Dogs are ready when paired with our clients, our guide dog volunteers are the kaitiakitanga of a most precious resource offered to our clients.
Blind Low Vision NZ is proud to collaborate with our 35 Community Groups nationally.
Community groups provide a valuable connection and support to our local Blind Low Vision communities. And of course, many people dedicate their time to fundraising. Whichever way people choose to get involved, it’s always a lot of fun.
In March, more than 1,900 people grabbed a bucket and collected money on the streets for our Puppy Appeal. Passers by donated $274,000 towards Blind Low Vision NZ Services. Our cute guide dog puppies often come along to these events.
Photograph: Ivan hard at work in our contact centre
Blind Low Vision NZ engages with our tertiary and youth volunteers, we were fortunate to host a group of University of Auckland students who participated in a range of voluntary activities in preparation for Blind Low Vision Week 2021. The street appeal couldn’t go ahead in some parts of NZ due to the lockdown restrictions, but the buckets are now ready for 2022. In the last year Blind Low Vision NZ client engagement volunteers have generously given over 19,000 hours across Aotearoa. At Blind Low Vision NZ our volunteers are a part of our fabric and our organisations whanau.
“A lot of the time people need someone to lend an ear in their time of need. It’s a very rewarding job when you are able to help someone through a difficult time.”
Blind Low Vision NZ Financials
Three-quarters of the income we receive is from the generous support of New Zealanders. Without donations and gifts in Wills, we would not be able to do our important work.
We would particularly like to acknowledge the thoughtful people who have left money to us in their will. We are always touched when we receive these gifts. We take care to honour the memory of our benefactors by using their gifts in ways that create the most impact and build a sustainable future for blind, deaf blind and low vision New Zealanders.
To support our clients to live the life they choose, we align our spending to our four strategic priorities—supporting independence, educate and equip providing ongoing learning opportunities, promoting social inclusion, and becoming a best practice for purpose organisation.
As we consulted with our clients to develop these priorities, we can be sure our income is spent in ways that genuinely benefit them and the things they care about.
And our focus on innovation ensures our services will continue to be relevant into the future.
Where our income comes from
Charitable gifts: 41%
Gifts in Wills 33%
Property and rental income 1%
Where our income goes
Personalised rehabilitation & support services 48%
Awareness raising and advocacy 15%
Innovation and adaptation for client services 14%
Grants to client peer support groups 3%
We are extremely grateful to all our generous supporters. Your kindness helps empower New Zealanders who are blind, deafblind, or low vision to live the life they choose.
Thank you so much for the difference you have made. From our street collection volunteers to the avid readers who made our inaugural Great Kiwi Book-a-thon so successful, to our puppy sponsors and all our wonderful supporters, we could not do it without you.
We would like to say a special thank you to some of our key supporters in financial year 2021.
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Aylene Hobson Memorial Trust
Barbara Theresa Lipanovich and Robert Covich Charitable Trust
Beatrice Georgeson Trust
Betty Baynton Stoker Charitable Trust
Central Lakes Trust
Colin Spratt Charitable Trust
Community Trust of Mid & South Canterbury Inc
Community Trust South
Dawn Lay Charitable Trust
Eastern & Central Community Trust
Emeric Erdei Trust Fund
Alan & Fey Frewer Charitable Trust
Florence and George Chamberlain Charitable Trust
Florence Smaill Charitable Trust
Four Winds Foundation Limited
Frizelle Charitable Trust
Geraldine Glanville Charitable Trust
Geyser Community Foundation—Wallace Trust Fund
Glyn Harvard Evans Charitable Trust
Grumitt Sisters Charitable Trust
H & K Reynolds Charitable Trust
Irene and Stanley Sawtell Charitable Trust
Ivan & Nancye Davis Charitable Trust
Jack and Enid Hutt Blind Trust
James Smaill Charitable Trust
John Beresford Swan Dudding Trust
Joyce Mary Shanley Trust
Julia Choyce Memorial Charitable Trust
Kelleher Charitable Trust
Kelliher Charitable Trust
Kiwi Gaming Foundation
Lottery Grants Board
Mac and Tui Chapman Charitable Trust
Mae and Betty Sherratt Charitable Trust
Manchester Unity Welfare Trust Board
Margaret Tudor South Charitable Trust
Marion Aitchinson Charitable Trust
Maurice Paykel Charitable Trust
Mt Wellington Foundation Ltd
N H Taylor Charitable Trust
New Plymouth District Council
New Zealand Community Trust
Oxford Sports Trust
P H Vickery Charitable Trust
Ray Watts Charitable Trust
Reed Charitable Trust
Room-Simmonds Charitable Trust
Ruth Petty Trust
Sir George Elliot Charitable Trust
Stanley V. Ratley Trust
Tennyson Charitable Trust
The David Ellison Charitable Trust
The Lion Foundation
The Timothy Blair Trust
The Trusts Community Foundation Inc
Timaru District Council
Trust House Charitable Trust
Van Teefflelen Charitable Trust
W A & E M Anderson Memorial Trust
Wellington Community Trust
William Anderson Dutch Charitable Trust
Zena & Jack Peat Charitable Trust
Gifts in Wills
Gifts in Wills support in 3 services at Blind Low Vision NZ. A gift in a Will of as little as 1% makes a tremendous difference. Last year, many of our services would not have been possible without the kind support of the following people who left a gift in their Will.
The Estate of Graham Rowles
The Estate of Donald Banks Laxon
The Estate of Robert Bernard Malone
The Estate of Jean-Clare Harper
The Estate of Edna Jessie Adie
The Estate of Annie Gweneth Ross
The Estate of Margaret Jill Caldwell
The Estate of Miriam Frances Wright
The Estate of Jillian Clare Pitu
The Estate of Peter David Arthur
The Estate of Barbara Holthouse
The Estate of Betty Minniss
The Estate of Thoamsina Kennedy
The Estate of Elizabeth Catherine Loxton
The Estate of Margaret Bruss
The Estate of George Henry Dear
The Estate of Suzanne Dickens
The Estate of Gilbert Anthony Hay
The Estate of Kay Rouse
The Estate of Marlaine Heath
The Estate of Myrtle Jean Sallis
The Estate of Anna Irene Ward
The Estate of L A Bravenboer
The Estate of Lyn Goody
The Estate of Janis Marion Bell
The Estate of Emma Jane Price
The Estate of Ray & Eva Shepherd
The Estate of Marlies O’Rielly
The Estate of Patricia Roadley
The Estate of John & Philippa Lang
The Estate of Estate Frederick Percival Adams
The Estate of John Sylvanus Cotterell
The Estate of Ralph Dingle
The Estate of Leslie Charles Doubleday
The Estate of Evelyn Joyce Fawkes
The Estate of Constance Hilda Hodgson
The Estate of Robert Lennard MacGillivray
The Estate of James Chrystal Morton Mallach Bequest Trust
The Estate of Estate of John Edward Millar
The Estate of Agnes Isabella Wood
The Estate of Ernest Stanley & Beryl Beck
The Estate of Fifeshire Trust
The Estate of James Murphy
The Estate of M F Anderson
The Estate of Patricia Aitken Trust
The Estate of Sarah Lily Slack
The Estate of William Herbert Baker
The Estate of The Estate of Kenneth Alexander Roberts
The Estate of Elma Sims
The Estate of Renee Mae Spain
The Estate of Grace Helen Stevenson
Blind Low Vision NZ
Thank you for your support
End of Community Impact Report 2021