Blind Foundation members break down barriers in the newsroom

Blind Foundation members have taken a rare opportunity in front of the TV3 camera to highlight that, with the right support, they can live a life without limits.

Newshub have partnered with the Blind Foundation to put a different lens on blindness and low vision, by demonstrating what Blind Foundation members are capable of and how the organisation has enriched their lives.

I happen to be a Blind Foundation member, and also a digital producer with Newshub, and thus get the honour of putting together this story.

Daniel Holt, Digital Services Advisor at the University of Auckland, and Trevor Plumbly, a retired auctioneer who experienced vision loss later in life, have also been contributing to the newsroom for the project.

Mr Holt has produced the graphics featuring on the October 29's screening of Newshub Live at 6, and Mr Plumbly spent two days on the news assignments desk.

In building this online and TV story, we as Blind Foundation members are actively contributing to a project aiming to empower those in the blind and low vision community in the workplace, explain how the Blind Foundation has enriched our lives, and encourage people losing their sight to reach out to the organisation for support.

Louise von Sierakowski, General Manager Marketing, told Newshub that Blind Foundation marketing staff realised they needed to get more creative about how they reached out to people who could benefit from Blind Foundation services.

"We keep hearing that people [experiencing vision loss] didn't know that the Blind Foundation was there to offer the support they might need, so they've been getting by, making do, and often feeling quite isolated," she said.

"For someone who's lost their sight, there's quite an emotional journey around adapting to the idea that they're losing their sight. They're paving their way without being able to learn from others who can provide some expert support.

"We wanted to share that the Blind Foundation is here to help anyone whose sight cannot be corrected by glasses, and that support is on hand to enable people who are blind or have low vision to live confidently and with self-reliance."

June Hieatt is a Blind Foundation client who says the Blind Foundation's support helped to "bring [her] back to life" after she lost her sight to Macular degeneration at 74.

"I used to feel so inadequate, but experiences like going on the Outward Bound eight-day adventure and personal development course where I can overcome challenges and meet interesting people gives me the strength to be grateful for what I have, instead of focusing on what I don't have," Mrs Hieatt wrote for the Blind Foundation website.

Ms von Sierakowski says the Foundation offers a "wide range of tailorable services", enabling people to live the life they choose and do the things they need and want to do."

Those services include counselling, adaptive daily living techniques, orientation and mobility to help with getting around, adaptive communication and technology support, library services, and work and study support.

Mr Plumbly said in an interview for the Blind Foundation's awareness project that he has appreciated the tailored support he has received over the years from the organisation.

"The cane training was very, very good, and the library services are fabulous," he said.

"It's up to me how fast and how far I want to go... They don't foist stuff onto you - you set the pace."

The Blind Foundation also run outdoor recreation camps for young Blind Foundation members, and Mr Holt said in an interview much of the camps' value comes from the connections people build within the blind and low vision community.

Talking to his peers, "a bunch of life hacks come up," Mr Holt says.

The 26-year-old said he enjoyed challenging employers' perceptions about the potential of visioned impaired people in visual fields when he became a graphic designer at the University of Auckland.

"Because I have vision loss, I'm always problem-solving and looking for new ways to do stuff, so I've brought in a number of innovations at the University," Mr Holt says.

Áine Kelly-Costello is a Blind Foundation member and a digital news producer intern at Newshub.


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