Welcome to Blind Citizens Australia

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the united voice of Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

Our mission is to achieve equity and equality by our empowerment, by promoting positive community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and accessible services which meet our needs.

Whether you are blind, have a vision impairment yourself, or are the family member or friend of a person who is blind or vision impaired, BCA is here to assist you. We provide information, peer support, individual and systemic advocacy, and consultancy services. Our Branches act as local lobby groups and provide opportunities for social interaction for members.

Explore our site. Learn about us. Listen to SoundAbout for profiles of people who are blind or vision impaired and those working with our community. If you are interested in audio-described TV, cinema and DVD content check out It’s Our Turn. Set your dial and tune in to our weekly radio program New Horizons. For the issues and policies that affect you, plus useful information and tips, turn to the pages of BC News or Parent News.

Welcome to BCA, the national organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired.

contact BCA:

Toll Free:
1800 033 660

(03) 9654 1400

Email: Blind Citizens Australia

Donate to Blind Citizens Australia

World’s first braille mobile phone launches in Australia

Press Release
Thursday 24 July 2014
World’s first braille mobile phone launches in Australia

A suitable mobile phone for people who are blind is now available, with OwnFone launching the world’s first braille mobile phone in Australia today.

“OwnFone is proud to bring the world’s first commercially available braille phone to Australia,” said Brad Scoble, Director of OwnFone Australia.

“There are currently 35,000 people in Australia who are blind. Touchscreen technology is problematic for those Australians. OwnFone UK, in consultation with the blind and low vision community, developed a simple mobile phone without a touchscreen and one that users can personalise with braille buttons.

“The braille buttons are produced using 3D printing and customised for every customer, which makes OwnFone’s braille phone a world-first.”

Tom Sunderland, the UK-based inventor of OwnFone, said, “Incredibly, OwnFone is the first in the world to sell a braille phone which is personalised for every user. In the past, the cost of developing a braille phone versus the market size has been a barrier to entry. 3D printing provides a fast and affordable way to overcome this barrier.”

Users in Australia can design their personalised braille phone on the OwnFone Australia website – www.ownfone.com.au. They will need to provide up to three contact names, which will automatically be converted into braille. These names are then printed on the front of the phone in braille.

Brad said, “OwnFone meets the need for a basic mobile phone to keep in touch. Smartphones are often too complicated, and in the case of people who are blind, not user-friendly.

“OwnFone’s braille phone is very easy to design and easy to use. There is simple one button dialling, and the braille buttons are pre-programmed to call people of the user’s choice, such as family, friends or carers.

“Users can only make and receive phone calls, and Triple Zero (000) is always included as an option, in case of an emergency.”

The braille version of OwnFone adds to OwnFone Australia’s existing range of easy-to-use mobile phones for children and seniors.

Brad said, “The braille phone complements our existing and popular OwnFone for kids and seniors. The only difference is in the design of the phone. Kids and seniors have the option of words or images as buttons, whereas people who are blind have braille.”

To purchase an OwnFone in braille, visit the OwnFone Australia website (www.ownfone.com.au) and select to make a phone for ‘kids’ or ‘seniors’. Prices start at $89 and call plans start at $2.35 a week.

Images: https://kids.ownfone.com.au/about-ownfone/media

Media contacts:
Bernadette Smon: 02 8011 3597; media@ownfone.com.au
Brad Scoble: 0421 629 245; support@ownfone.com.au


About OwnFone:
OwnFone first successfully launched in the UK in 2012 with the aim of creating simple mobile solutions for consumers at every stage of life. Ownfone Limited owns the patented technology behind the OwnFone, which is manufactured using the ‘Seed’, a blank mobile device that can be customised for a range of sectors and purposes. OwnFone’s braille phone launched in the UK in May 2014, patent pending.

Tom Sunderland is the UK-based inventor of the OwnFone. He studied Product Design at Central Saint Martins and Design Products at the Royal College of Art (RCA). For his final project at the RCA, Tom set out to design the world’s simplest mobile phone. His solution was to develop a customisable mobile platform and let people design their own mobile phone with a personalised keypad that calls the people they need.

Brad Scoble is the Director of OwnFone Australia & New Zealand. He comes from a strong telecommunications background following a longstanding career with Optus. Brad launched OwnFone in Australia in April 2014.


Mobile devices and changes to airport security

Source: Flight Center

These days, nearly everyone travels with electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets, e-
book readers, laptops, digital cameras and portable music players. Effective immediately, travellers passing through airport security may be asked to turn on any electronic or battery- powered device to prove its functionality. If the device doesn’t turn on, it may be confiscated or the passenger may be denied boarding.

With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to make sure all electronic devices are fully charged before leaving home and travellers don’t run the battery flat while in transit or onboard the aircraft. All of these items must also be carried in hand-luggage only.

Why are these changes happening?

The extra security measures have been implemented due to concerns about a heightened terrorism threat to aviation, particularly concerning flights to, from or via the United States and United Kingdom. Electronic devices are being targeted by security as they have the potential to be concealed as hidden explosives. At present, the Terrorism Alert Level for Australia remains unchanged.

What destinations will be affected?

Flights to, from and via the United States and United Kingdom will be impacted by these heightened security measures, including stopovers through Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Specific routes have not been announced to maintain security but any airline or destination may be subject to these new security restrictions.

Domestic flights within Australia are not affected at this stage, but there is the potential for these changes to be rolled out to a wider range of destinations, so every traveller should be aware of these new rules.

What airlines will be affected?

For Australian travellers, the main airlines that will be impacted by these new rules include Qantas, Virgin Australia and others such as Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, British Airways, Delta, United Airlines and all other carriers that fly to, from or via the UK and USA.

These extra security procedures should be kept in mind when factoring in travel time, as they may potentially lead to longer queues or delays, especially at major airports such as London Heathrow where these new rules will be focused.

What happens if the device has a flat battery?

If passengers cannot prove that their device functions as normal, there is a strong chance they will not be allowed to fly, the item will be confiscated and/or they will undergo additional screening. Chargers and power adaptors should be kept on hand to avoid this happening.

While most airports and airline lounges have power outlets to charge devices, they can be limited and travellers should not rely on these being available to them.

What about items held in checked luggage?

Another part of these new security measures is requiring travellers to take any items that use lithium batteries in their carry-on luggage. If items such as laptops or cameras are packed in checked luggage, passengers may be called to security at the airport and asked to remove the device, turn it on, and keep it with them in the cabin once they have proven it works as normal.

What devices are impacted by these changes?

All electronic devices (especially those using lithium batteries, as well as mains-powered devices) will be affected, including mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e-book readers, digital cameras and portable music players.

Will people still be able to use these devices onboard?

Yes, everyone should be able to use their devices onboard the aircraft as they normally would and as per the cabin crews’ advice. Travellers should take care to ensure they do not drain the battery power whilst on board or in transit.

What happens if the traveller has just bought a new device at Duty Free?

Most new electronic devices have enough pre-charge on them to be switched on straight away, so it should be easy to prove their functionality. However, the item and its packaging may still require further examination at security checkpoints.

Are these changes permanent?

At this stage, it is uncertain whether the increase security rules will stay in place or if they will only exist temporarily.

What do we need to remember?

• Ensure all mobile / electronic devices have enough battery power to be turned on at security if requested.
• Security may make this request at any airport, not just for those travelling to, from or via the UK or USA.
• Take care to ensure these devices are not drained of power whilst on board the aircraft or while in transit.
• There will be limited opportunities to recharge these devices within airports.
• Devices that cannot be turned on at security may be confiscated or the traveller may be denied boarding.
• Any device that contains a lithium battery must be carried in the traveller’s carry-on luggage


From 1 August 2014, all financial institutions and bank cards will be expanding the use of PIN at point of sale (POS) and phase-out the signature as a form of verification on all Australian credit and debit cards. This move is called the PINWise initiative.

Many consumers have expressed concerns regarding the move to the mandatory use of PIN as it can create barriers to people living with dementia or disability in going about daily activities such as shopping and banking.

Disability advocacy groups have been in contact with the major banks over the last few months in order to ascertain whether they will be offering alternative arrangements for those people with special needs.

A number of the large banks, including ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac are planning to provide a sign only card to those customers with special needs.

It should be noted that the eligibility criteria as well as some differences in how the sign only cards can be used will differ between the banks.

It will therefore be necessary for consumers seeking a sign only card to contact their financial institution via telephone or visit their local branch as soon as possible in order to obtain more information about sign only cards.

For consumers seeking a sign only card, it may be beneficial to ask your financial institution the following questions:

• Do you provide a sign only card option?
• How can I apply for a sign only card?
• Can my sign only card be used at an ATM?
• How long after arranging for a sign only card will I receive my new card?
• Will I need to update my recurring payments from my previous card?
• Is a PIN more secure than signature?

Further information about the move to PIN@POS can be obtained from:

PINWise – http://www.pinwise.com.au/

ANZ – Further information can be obtained by ringing 13 13 14 or visiting a branch. http://www.anz.com.au/personal/credit-cards/security/pen-pin-authorisation/

Commonwealth Bank – Further information can be obtained by ringing 13 2221 or visiting a branch. http://commbank.com.au/pinwise

NAB – Further information can be obtained by ringing 13 37 68 or visiting a branch. http://www.nab.com.au/personal/campaigns/credit-cards/pin/index

Westpac – Further information can be obtained by ringing 1300 651 089 or visiting a branch. http://www.westpac.com.au/content/personal/credit-cards/articles/read-up-on/using-your-pin?wbc-vnty=westpac.com.au/pin

More talking signs for Brisbane CBD

Plans are underway to install additional talking signs in the Brunswick Street Mall Revitalisation Project in Brisbane. This follows an Australian-first trial of the audio signage technology in Queen Street Mall last year.

The solar-powered Step-Hear audio signs works by sending vibrations to the activator device to assist those who are blind or vision impaired to find their way around the mall. Users can check up on their location, find shops or get directions using the remote-activated signage.

Following the trial the talking signs are now a permanent fixture in the Queen Street Mall. And to make use of the new technology, the Brisbane City Council is looking at having activators available for loan to community members and visitors to help them orientate their way around the city. Guide Dogs Queensland have activators for purchase with the added benefit that the activator will work on installed Step-Hear signs anywhere in the world.

For more information visit: Guide Dogs Queensland