Our Vision, Your Impact: Policy & Advocacy
Join Blind Low Vision NZ in breaking down barriers, building fairer laws, and improving eye health for all. We believe that every person deserves the freedom to travel safely, access information, and participate fully in their communities. As a powerful advocate to the government, we use research and people power to drive improvements in technology, building design, public spaces, and transport. We are also working with partners worldwide to increase access to information and learning opportunities for those who are blind or have low vision.
With your support, we can continue to make wonderful progress in shaping a more accessible Aotearoa. However, advocacy and policy change can be a long and complex journey, and we still have many important battles ahead. Your extra support is vital in breaking down the everyday barriers that hold people back and in transforming social and economic policy. Together, we can build a society where every Kiwi counts.
Meet Rhonda Comins
At the age of 13, Rhonda was diagnosed with Rod /Cone Dystrophy, a feature of Usher’s Syndrome.
Rhonda’s journey with Blind Low Vision NZ began when she was around 21 years old. Before that, she had spent time living overseas, and although she had already experienced some vision loss, she was unaware of our existence. Transitioning from the countryside to the bustling city, Rhonda encountered transportation challenges and the difficulties of navigating in darkness. Nevertheless, she managed to adapt and find her way. As her condition progressed, Rhonda developed tunnel vision and night blindness, which brought about a loss of peripheral vision and light reception in her eyes. She underwent cataract surgery in both eyes but is now totally blind in one eye, with pinhole eyesight remaining in her good eye. This rare and slowly progressing eye disease presented its challenges. Despite these obstacles, Rhonda retained some degree of central vision, which varied depending on the lighting conditions around her.
Over the years, Rhonda received invaluable support from our organization. She was taught how to effectively use a white cane for mobility, received instruction on orientation and mobility, and gained assistance with computer software, including audio and screen adaptation. As time went on, Rhonda embraced the wonders of Apple iPhone technology, which provided her with indispensable tools such as screen readers, voiceover features, and various navigation and AI apps. These technological advancements opened Rhonda up to a world of possibilities, enhancing her independence and accessibility.
In later years, Diane of Blind Low Vision NZ’s Policy and Advocacy Team encouraged Rhonda to attend a conference in Australia. Always curious, Rhonda accepted the opportunity. This was where the seeds for the ‘Access Matters’ campaign were sown.
In 2017, ‘Access Matters’ was launched in New Zealand with the support of numerous organizations. One of the notable projects stemming from this campaign is the ‘Clearing the Way’ guide, which was developed our Policy and Advocacy Team, with Rhonda actively contributing to its creation. According to Rhonda, ‘Clearing the Way’ offers real-life examples of the challenges faced by blind or low-vision individuals when navigating their communities independently. Its essence lies in physically designing spaces that catetr o the needs of blind people, envisioning a more inclusive and accessible world.
Prior to her involvement with policy work, Rhonda had limited knowledge of laws and legal protections available to citizens like herself. She initially believed that this realm was beyond her reach. However, with the assistance of our Policy & Advocacy Team, she learned became familiar with the accessibility laws in Canada and how they shaped the physical environment in transportation, education, workplaces, healthcare, and the justice system. The realization was truly exhilarating and forward-thinking. To Rhonda, ‘Clearing the Way’ represents an opportunity to showcase the creation of user-friendly environments that allow individuals like herself to engage fully in life and move around with confidence. By joining Our Vision, Your Impact, you’ll be helping shape a better New Zealand for people like Rhonda.