Advocacy Resources

On this page you will find useful advocacy resource information, The BCA complaints policy, and Our state based advocacy Toolkits and fact sheets should provide you with information that will assist with self advocacy. The Dog Guide Access section has information and a link to legislation covering the access of Dog Guides in all states of Australia. There is also information on Accessible Voting and links to other Documents of Interest

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is about speaking out to make things better for you and for others. You might undertake advocacy on your own or as part of a group, or you might have an advocacy organisation like Blind Citizens Australia help you with advocacy.

to assist people with their self advocacy, Blind Citizens Australia has produced What is Advocacy – How do I advocate for myself? a brochure, in Word format, available for download.

Photo of Braille and Raised Tactile Braille Street Signs - Flinders Street Melbourne (Corner of Swanston Street)

Braille and Raised Tactile Braille Street Signs – Flinders Street Melbourne (Corner of Swanston Street)

What Advocacy can we provide?

If you or someone you know has faced discrimination due to blindness or vision impairment, we may be able to help you. Our Advocacy staff can provide you with specialist information and advice on a wide range of issues, including;

  • Access to information
  • Access to premises and the built environment
  • Public transport
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Blindness related income supports, such as DSP (blind)
  • and Aged Care Pension (blind)

Wherever possible, we will aim to provide you with the necessary advice, tools and strategies to allow you to resolve a problem on your own. If you do require a bit of extra help though, we may be able to provide you with additional support or representation.

What can we not provide?

While we will always do our best to accommodate your request for assistance, there may be times when we might need to refer you to another organisation due to limited staff availability.

Our organisation is only funded to provide advocacy support to people facing discrimination due to blindness or vision impairment. If your complaint is not a direct result of blindness or vision impairment, you will be referred to a service that may be better equipped to assist you.

We are also unable to provide advocacy support on complaints that fall under the following categories;

  • criminal or legal matters, including family law
  • immigration
  • Negligence and malpractice claims
  • Waiting lists, including housing, health and other services

Although we are unable to provide direct support or representation on these matters, we may be able to provide you with a letter of support if this is deemed appropriate. In criminal matters, support can only be provided where a formal request has been received from the relevant body (such as the Department of Public Prosecutions or the Police), to provide advice on issues relating to blindness or vision impairment.

Advocacy services are generally only provided over the phone or via email. If an individual seeking advocacy support would like to call into the office, it is suggested to phone and book a time to speak with an advocacy officer.

Advocates may attend meetings and face-to-face conciliations on a case by case basis depending on availability and resources. If this duty cannot be fulfilled, Advocates reserve the right to refer the individual as necessary.

BCA Complaints Policy

If you would like information on our complaint process , we have a document BCA Complaints Policy (Word doc) that will assist.

Blind Citizens Australia State Based Toolkits

Navigating the maze of services to find what you need, as well as being aware of the benefits you are entitled to as someone who is blind or vision impaired, can be a complex and frustrating process which can go on for months or even years if you do not have access to accurate, accessible and timely information about benefits and services. With its comprehensive toolkits, Blind Citizens Australia has come to your rescue!

Blind Citizens Australia have produced a toolkit for each Australian State and Territory, containing all the information you need about the services, benefits and entitlements available to you no matter where you live, and those which apply to each specific state.

For those who have recently lost their sight, or for those moving from one State or Territory to another, finding which benefits, entitlements and services you may be eligible for can be a daunting process.

Having access to these comprehensive tool kits will enable you to prepare before you move, and provide you with a permanent prompt that reminds you where to go for help and what is available to you. Everything from Centrelink benefits to recreational services is covered in these comprehensive guides for each state.

You can obtain a copy of the toolkit in your preferred format by contacting Blind Citizens Australia’s head office on (03) 9654 1400, or toll free, on 1800 033 660. You can also access or download a copy for your state, in Word format, using the links below.

Knowledge is power, and Blind Citizens Australia seeks to empower all Australians who are blind or vision impaired by making these tool kits available. The world of services and benefits, explained in easy to read language, is now at your fingertips, in your ears, or on a computer screen near you!

Useful Fact Sheets

We have developed a set of fact sheets that you might find useful in creating awareness of the needs of people who are Blind or vision impaired in specific situations. It might be an idea to return to this page from time to time as we plan on adding more of these fact sheets as they are developed.

Health and Hospital

Employment

This series of fact sheets challenge assumptions about what people who are blind or vision impaired can do in regard to employment, bust myths, provide guidance on legal blindness and how people who are blind access information and where you can get more information.

Self Advocacy

tenpin bowling for Centre Managers

Photo of Australian Delegation of 7 young people with disabilities to the Conference of States Parties (COSP) in New York, 10 - 12 June 2014. Past BCA National Policy Officer Lauren Henley is second from the right.

Australian Delegation of 7 young people with disabilities to the Conference of States Parties (COSP) in New York, 10 – 12 June 2014. Past BCA National Policy Officer Lauren Henley is second from the right.


Dog Guide Access:

Under the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Guide and Seeing Eye Dogs are covered by the term ‘assistance animals’.

While the Disability Discrimination Act includes a section on exemptions to access for assistance animals (Section 54A), it does not explicitly state the types of establishments where assistance animals are not permitted. As a result of precedents that have been established through case law, however, it is generally accepted that dog guides are not permitted in operating theatres, hospital burns units, commercial kitchens and some zoos.

When it comes to medical facilities, even solicitors seem to have some confusion in regards to where assistance animals are and are not permitted. This being the case, we have had several members that have been granted access to intensive care units with their dog guides, so this precedent has already been established.

Working dog guide team walking along path.

Working dog guide team walking along path.

In 2012, BCA assisted in a case involving a woman who had been refused access to a dental treatment room with her registered Seeing Eye Dog.

The dentist had stated that his treatment room was comparable to a hospital operating theatre environment in which registered assistance animals were not permitted and, as such, he could not allow the dog to be present in the room.

Both parties had sought legal advice on this matter and were told that the exemptions under the Disability Discrimination Act were very unclear. The case was advanced to the Australian Human Rights Commission on the grounds that a dental treatment room did not require the same level of sterility as an operating theatre. It was resolved through conciliation, with the complainant awarded compensation and the dental practice agreeing to undertake disability awareness training.

In addition to the Federal Disability Discrimination Act, all Australian states and territories also have their own state-based legislation governing access for assistance animals. The name of the relevant act for each state and territory is provided on the following Dog Guide Access Legislation page.

2013 Federal Election Accessible Voting

For many years now BCA has been advocating for accessible voting for Australian’s who are Blind or vision impaired. Using lessons learnt from previous accessible voting trials at the 2007 and 2010 Australian Federal elections, people who were Blind or vision impaired were able to cast their vote via phone at the 2013 Federal election.

Information was made available on how to go about using the accessible voting process. Here is a copy of that Accessible voting information (Word docx) information sheet.

Blind Citizens Australia developed a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, providing input into the Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2013 Federal Election.

This 2013 Election Inquirey submission focuses primarily on the user experience of electors in relation to the Blind and Vision Impaired Telephone-assisted Voting Service, as well as the desired future pathway for accessible voting in Australia.

Breakdown of accommodations for electors who are blind or vision impaired by state and territory

Australian Capitol Territory

Next election to be held on 15 October 2016.

The ACT currently has a computer system in place at some pre-polling centres to allow people who are blind or vision impaired to be able to cast their vote independently. At present, the Act does not allow for the implementation of any sort of system for remote voting.

New South Wales

Next election to be held on Saturday 28 March 2015.

The Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Further Amendment Act 2010 commenced on 7 December 2010. This legislative reform allowed for remote, electronically-assisted voting for people who are blind or vision impaired to be introduced for the 2011 state election. iVote, the name given to the remote voting systems that were implemented for the election, allowed electors to cast their vote over the telephone using voice prompts, or over the internet. Feedback received from BCA members who had used iVote has been extremely positive.

Northern Territory

Next election to be held in August 2016.

Still awaiting further advice regarding current provisions for electors who are blind or vision impaired.

Queensland

Next election to be held on Saturday 20 June 2015

Electoral reforms introduced in Parliament in November 2013 will allow for remote voting for people who are blind or vision impaired during the next state election. Voters will be able to phone in their vote via an electronic assisted voting (EAV) system. Several polling places will also be set up to allow for people who are blind or vision impaired to cast their vote electronically on Election Day.

South Australia/

Next election to be held on Saturday 15 March 2014.

There is currently no system in place in South Australia to enable people who are blind or vision impaired to be able to cast their vote independently. The Electoral Commission has stated that it is investigating options for accessible voting, based on the systems that are in use in other states, but that the implementation of any of these systems would require amendments to the Electoral Act 1985.

Tasmania

Next election to be held on 15 March 2014.

Tasmania currently has a computer system in place at some pre-polling centres to allow people who are blind or vision impaired to be able to cast their vote independently. Tasmania amended its legislation over a decade ago to allow the Electoral Commission the power to make discretionary decisions regarding voting methods to help enable certain groups to be able to cast their vote more easily. People who are interstate are already able to cast their vote online, so no further changes to legislation would be required.

Victoria

Next election to be held on 29 November 2014.

Victoria currently has a computer system in place at some pre-polling centres to allow people who are blind or vision impaired to be able to cast their vote independently. The Electoral Act 2002 does not allow for a remote
voting option to be implemented.

Western Australia

Next election to be held on Saturday 11 March 2017.

Electors who are blind or vision impaired were able to cast their vote independently for the first time during the 2013 state election, using an application that had been produced in-house by the WA Electoral Commission. At present, the Electoral Act 1907 requires that all votes be cast on paper; with the application that was developed allowing electors to print out their ballot paper once complete. Legislative amendments would be required prior to the implementation of a remote voting service.

CRPD and Disability Advocacy

A book on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD) has been published focused on the process of the Convention and how Civil Society including Disability Organizations influenced the process. The preface is written by Professor Ron C. Mc Callum and chapter 9 was contributed by the late president of WFDB, Lex Grandia.

Title “Human Rights & Disability Advocacy. Voices from within“. Editors, Maya Sabatello and Marianne Schulze. Available in print version and e-book 320 pages
Print 2013 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4547-9
Ebook 2013 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0874-0

Here is the link to order this book: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15149.html

Source: World Blind Union E-Bulletin – February 2014.

Open letter to DVD retailers and suppliers about Audio Description on DVD 

Blind Citizens Australia has created an open letter to raise awareness to the general community and DVD suppliers and stores regarding the benefits of Audio Description on DVD. This is available for anyone to download (Word doc) and use!

Image of Audio Description on DVD logl

Audio Description on DVD logl

Open letter to Vision Professionals regarding diagnosing blindness

Blind Citizens Australia has created an open letter to raise awareness to vision professionals regarding how to inform patients about vision loss and the supports available. Download the general letter (Word doc) or the NSW version (Word doc) of the open letter here.

Identifying Australian Banknotes

Australian banknotes can be identified by sight and by touch.

Sight

Australian banknotes can be identified by the bold numbers in the top right hand corner and also by their colour. Make sure that you have enough light to see the numbers and colours properly.

The one hundred-dollar note is predominantly green. The fifty-dollar note is yellow. The twenty-dollar note has reddish tones. The ten-dollar note is blue and the five-dollar note is pinkish/purple.

Touch

In Australia the notes become longer as they increase in value. The five-dollar is the shortest note. The one hundred-dollar note is the longest.

The Cash Test Card

Image of BCA Cash Test opened flat

Image of Blind Citizens Australia Cash Test opened flat

Front of card:
The front of a cash test card has a colour image of the BCA logo at the top. The words “Blind Citizens Australia” are written underneath the logo.
Below this are five horizontal lines of raised dots and alternating on either side of the raised dotted lines are written the numbers five, ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred in Braille.

The fold is at the lower edge of the front of a cash test card.

Back of card

The back side is the shorter side of the cash test card with the fold at the lower edge and a thumb hole for gripping a banknote half way along the fold.

Using the Cash Test Card

Place an Australian banknote in the centre fold and fold it over to the front of the cash test card. Hold the banknote firmly in place by gripping the banknote through the thumb hole at the back of the card.
The note will reach a line of raised dots on the front of the cash test card as described earlier.
The top line of raised dots marks the placement of the edge of the five-dollar note.
The second line of raised dots marks the placement of the edge of the ten-dollar note.
The third line of raised dots marks the placement of the edge of the twenty-dollar note.
The fourth line of raised dots marks the placement of the edge of the fifty-dollar note.
The bottom line of raised dots marks the placement of the edge of the one hundred-dollar note.

Image of BCA Cash Test, testing a 50 dollar note

Blind Citizens Australia Cash Test and $50 note.

The Cash Test Card is provided through Blind Citizens Australia by the Reserve Bank, and is available to people who are blind or vision impaired, at no cost. If you would like a Cash Test, please call the Blind Citizens Australia office on 1800 033 660, or Email Blind citizens Australia and we will post one out to you.