Blind foundation services not just for the blind

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Blind Foundation services are not just for the blind, says national manager, customer service and advice, Denise Kitto.
At a “pop-up office” with workshops and advice run by the foundation in Alexandra last week, Ms Kitto said about 75% of the 13,000 members in the foundation were “low vision” rather than completely blind.

She emphasised an ageing population meant there were more people who would be affected by some type of loss of vision.

The foundation was a provider of support and information for thousands of Kiwis who were affected by sight loss.

The pop-up office had a “steady stream” of people visiting over three days, Ms Kitto said.

A large range of items were shown at the pop-up office, including high-contrast keyboards, large size games boards, large print kitchen utensils, large print watches, big size button calculators and keyboards, magnifying mirrors, and sports balls with bells inside, including a cricket ball and basketball.

Alexandra local Pat Smolenski became completely blind in one eye after an operation to remove a tumour in her brain four years ago.

“I’m completely blind in the left eye, and I find working with small cellphones is getting very difficult, and reading small print, so I thought I might see something valuable here that would help me on my way.”

Mrs Smolenski attended a “How do I keep reading?” workshop.

Adaptive Communications and Adaptive Technology Services (ACATS) trainer, Rebecca South, showed how software, apps and accessibility settings on phones, tablets and computers could help people to more easily read.

“I loved the big symbols on the phone,” Mrs Smolenski said.

The advice and information had “definitely been helpful”, she said.

South Island manager, Peter Madden, said the pop-up office was a success, and they would “absolutely look at doing it again”.

The Central Otago team operated from Dunedin, but at any one time, one of the staff was visiting Central Otago, Mr Madden said.

“We provide the whole range of services to Central Otago, including mobility, counselling, deaf/blind, adaptive daily living, adaptive technology and library services,” Mr Madden said.

“There’s always someone in Central Otago from one of those disciplines.

The best way to ask for help was to phone 0800 24-33-33.